Having suffered myself, and now watching others suffer around me, I am constantly asking, “Why?”
It is a fair question in my opinion. But it is a question that is inherently unique to humanity. Other living beings suffer the same. I had a friend last week who had their dog at the vet for treatment of Melanoma. I guess dog’s get melanoma in the linings of their mouth (learn something new every day). Interestingly enough, the dog did not ask his vet, why he had Melanoma? But for me, I did. I asked why, and still ask why almost daily…
If you are a Christian like me, in the midst of this “Why?” we are called to ‘carry our cross’ with purpose and joy. Big or Small, every single day we are carrying them. Some are seen, others are unseen to the naked eye. But, How is this possible? How can we carry the cross in the midst of such suffering?
If you are anything like me, you run from suffering. It is your instinct to turn away from the pain that accompanies it. We have a natural reaction, a repugnance, for every form of evil and that suffering that accompanies it. Our first reaction is to avoid it at any cost.
We can say that suffering has a purpose. And oftentimes it does. It changes us. Suffering can be in this sense, redemptive. It is the action of being cleansed from something we did not like (making us a different, better person). Suffering can do this.
But when we speak of redemptive suffering, this does not make suffering good. I am not suggesting that suffering in itself is good.
As Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical “On Human Suffering” reminds us that every suffering is an experience of evil (paragraph 7). There is nothing glamorous about evil or it’s effects. The cross of Jesus makes this abundantly clear…His suffering was dreadful to watch (Passion of the Christ – watch the movie). Even Jesus, in the midst of suffering, prayed to let the cup of suffering be taken away from him (Matthew 26:3).
But he entered it, walked right into suffering because he knew by it, he would redeem the world. He entered the battle with the evil of suffering willingly.
If the passion of Jesus were to have ended with the crucifixion, we would have no choice but to resign ourselves to inevitable despair. Spending our lives in misery of the evil of suffering. But the Gospel did not end that way, with endless, meaningless suffering.
Jesus, working redemption through suffering on the cross, provides a pathway to all human redemption from the inherent evil of suffering. Suffering is evil. Jesus conquered evil on the cross by his suffering. Therefore our suffering was co-sacrificed with his on the cross, ultimately being redeemed to new life.
His cross has become the font of our healing and redemption from the evil of suffering.
So Why suffering? Because evil is present in the world.
Why your suffering? I don’t know that answer. It’s not mine to know. I’m reminded of a quote from Chronicles of Narnia (A Horse & His Boy) by CS Lewis.
“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy
It’s your story. It’s your suffering. But it’s also your redemption.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:21
Why me? Why her? Why you? Life is a mystery. It’s your story. It’s your suffering. And it’s your redemption.
Lean into it. Ask Him why? And be open for Jesus to answer.