Thursday, October 6, 2016

the value of suffering

Lewis explores the reasons behind suffering today in A Year with C.S. Lewis.

He says that humankind is responsible for 4/5 of the suffering in the world. In my humble opinion, he's grossly underestimating us. But perhaps he is meaning it differently than I am. Maybe he doesn't count the effects that we produce on the world around us, causing starvation and shortages that put people and animals in positions where they then inflict cruelty on other creatures.

Perhaps he's giving diseases like cancer and the plague their due, and not seeing them as resulting from human activity (which, arguably, they are not... depending on your view of how original sin and the fall of man affected all of creation.) And Lewis died in 1963, ten years before Roe v Wade brought about a great genocide of innocents that definitely changes the 4/5 number dramatically.

But it doesn't change the "why?" question. Why does God allow suffering in the world? Why doesn't He just make things so that we (His creatures) don't have to suffer? Why didn't He make us incapable of suffering? Wouldn't that be better?

Well, the question of suffering is not an easy one. But we do have some answers. For one thing, we know that suffering is good for us. It's not pleasant. It's not fun or enjoyable. But it makes us better people. When we suffer, we have a choice to make - we can allow the pain to make us better, or make us bitter. As long as we don't grow bitter, then pain has a wonderful way of making us better people.

If you have met people who have suffered, and then compare them to people you know who have had it easy all of their lives, you can see that there is a distinct difference. Those who have suffered are usually deeper, more patient, kinder, and more caring than those who have had it easy. These are not hard and fast rules, but it plays out more often than it doesn't. The Bible even says that whoever suffers in the body is through with sin. I'm not sure how that works, exactly, but it definitely sounds like suffering has a role to play in our becoming more like Jesus.

Does that mean we should go looking to suffer? Wear hair shirts and whip ourselves? I don't think it does. It's been my observation in this life that pain finds pretty much all of us. And if you decide to LOVE someone... well, you'll definitely find some pain along with that love. When the pain comes, we can lift it up and identify it with Jesus's suffering... and allow it to be redemptive in our lives. If you don't know how to do that... just ask. He'll help you. He's good at that.

Thank You, God, for using suffering in our lives to help us become better people.