The Art of Suffering
It is important to understand the DIFFERENCE between Pain and Suffering: Pain is the inevitable effect of circumstances both within and outside of my control; Suffering is my reaction to Pain.
At this point in your life you may have reached the conclusion (as do many) that Pain plays an important part in the Purpose of GOD; perhaps…
…but it should be noted that Adam and Eve were given their existence in what may be considered a “pain-free” environment. No doubt they, being innocent, still had to use and develop the muscles of their sinless bodies; this may (or may not, if GOD gave them special Grace) have produced some temporary discomfort, but certainly not the Suffering with which modern human existence is characterized.
My gist is that Adam and Eve CHOSE Pain and Suffering for themselves and their children and their children’s children though, I’m convinced, they had not the slightest inkling what levels of Hell their choices would take us to.
If you even believe that Adam and Eve existed (and modern genetic science points to an original Man and Woman), I counsel you not to judge them too harshly. You may be of the opinion that, not being present when they sinned, you yourself are an innocent victim of their folly; not unlike the Americans of yesteryear foisting the national debt upon their progeny.
I must caution you, however; GOD doesn’t see things that way. As far as GOD is concerned, if the root of a tree is corrupt, so are the branches (Job 18:16; Romans 11:16). Jesus held the Jewish leaders of His time on Earth EQUALLY GUILTY with their ancestors who killed the prophets of the same innocent blood (Matthew 23:29-32). By the same reasoning Paul writes that, being in Adam when he sinned, we ourselves participated in Adam’s decision, making us just as worthy of condemnation as he (Romans 5:12).
(You can see why Christianity is so unpopular in a society such as America, which worships the identity and alleged entitlement of the individual above that of the family and clan and devalues the individual’s accountability, responsibility and loyalty to the former.)
The unavoidable and unpopular conclusion to which Scripture leads us is that IT IS RIGHT FOR SINNERS, BEING REBELS, TRAITORS AND ENEMIES AGAINST THEIR CREATOR, TO SUFFER PAIN…
…to which your knee-jerk reaction may be “Fine, then…GOD, You can kiss my ass!” This makes sense, considering the bent of fallen human nature to return evil for evil (whether truly justified or not); or that even “religious” people struggle with the idea of GOD’s Existence in a world of Pain.
What makes me so excited about The Gospel, though, is that GOD didn’t leave His relationship with Humanity (or the lack thereof) in such a hopeless situation–an EXTREMELY HOPELESS situation. The Point of The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that not only did GOD retain His Affection and Love for us (despite our slights and curses), but He plunged Head-first into the Core of our Pain and Suffering: Sin itself! On the Cross GOD not only restored our value as His Children, but GOD VALIDATED OUR SUFFERING AND GAVE IT MEANING AND PURPOSE BY BECOMING OUR SIN (2nd Corinthians 5:21) AND SUFFERING OUR PAIN (Hebrews 2:18)!!!!
Our Pain of separation from GOD; our Pain of being treated unjustly by those who should’ve protected us; the Pain of being persecuted and murdered FOR NO GOOD REASON; the Pain of torture; the Pain of rape; the Pain of losing an arm, leg or eye; the Pain of unjust taxes and government oppression; the Pain of War and Famine; the Pain of rejection and hatred by those who should’ve accepted and loved us; the Pain of blackmail and exploitation; the Pain of being devalued by being frivolously bought and sold like property.
NO ONE can accuse GOD of not being able to relate. Whatever you’ve gone through, GOD has experienced it twelve billion times more (it is estimated that 12 billion is the number of people who have ever lived on the Earth). The Cross gives Christ the right to judge–better yet: The Cross gives Christ the Right to FORGIVE; for every sin that has ever been committed has been committed against Him (Matthew 25:40).
No human enters Heaven who has never had to be forgiven; therefore every believing human is expected to forgive others just as he/she has been forgiven by GOD. Wherefore the FIRST step towards the relief of your suffering is to forgive the one who has caused you pain. Just as GOD has set before us His Example of Righteousness and Holiness, GOD has set before us His Example for dealing with Pain and Suffering:
“But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” – Luke 23:34, NASB
How do you react to Pain? How adept are you at following GOD’s Example of returning Good for evil, Blessing for cursing and Grace in lieu of judgment?
Suffering is an Art at which GOD desires all of His Children to excel as well as He did.