My friend Bill says this world is a morally broken pain machine. I’m convinced he’s right. I’ve often wondered what it would be like if God walked around this morally broken pain-machine world collecting all that pain from all of us? What if God decided a world with no more pain. what if he had some kind of giant, brown paper bag and as He passed by us in the midst of our daily challenges, he offered that open bag and said, “Here. If you would like, place your pain and its source in this bag.” I wonder what that would be like?

I know a man who has a bad tooth, and it causes him great pain. If God said, “Here. Put that bad tooth and its pain in this bag,” I’m thinking that guy would jump at the offer. And, last night I talked with a woman whose elderly father died yesterday. She’s very sad. If she could put her sadness in that pretend bag that we’re imagining, she probably would. I have a dear friend who just found out that his grandson has a tumor in his brain the size of a plumb. “How old is your grandson?’ I ask. And the answer: ‘He’s eleven. He’s eleven years old.’

Every day, as we drive to work, or as we walk down grocery aisles picking up something for dinner, the people we pass know nothing about our pain and suffering, and we know nothing about theirs. Prov. 14:10 says, ” Each heart knows its own sadness ….” Our all-knowing God doesn’t say anything about our suffering or sadness in audible words we can hear. We have scriptures that bring us great comfort in the midst of our pain, verses that assure us that God sees our suffering. But, in this life, there are no verses I’m familiar with that give me any indications that God will eradicate pain and suffering. God is not walking around with a big, brown bag for me to throw my suffering into.

Instead, he’s provided a model for understanding and enduring. If anyone knows what it’s like to experience suffering, Jesus knows. If anyone knows what it’s like to navigate this morally broken pain machine called the world … Jesus knows. “In the world,” He said, “you will have tribulation.” (That’s another word for suffering, I think.) “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

C.S. Lewis wrote a book once, identifying the “Problem of Pain.” In that wonderful book, he wrote: “Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.” The God Who Never Wonders is also a God who rarely explains, when it comes to pain, have you noticed? God doesn’t explain how suffering is transformative in our lives. He only assures us in The Book that it is.

Pain in my life has often forced me to confront and endure challenges, adapt to, or overcome obstacles. And, honestly, I don’t think they make a brown bag big enough for the pain and concern of that grandpa … of that 11 year old grandson with a tumor the size of a plum in his brain.

2 thoughts on “Suffering

  1. My brother Kevin was talking about this yesterday, how so many people walk around in public and seem to be fine, and we have no idea the suffering going on in their life. I asked my brother Greg to print this out for Kevin because I think he would enjoy reading it. Thank you for all you do, Ken!

  2. A quote from the movie “The Princess Bride” – “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

    Hebrews 12:7-11 informs me that hardship may be God’s way of training me in righteousness and peace – e.g. “Training for Reigning”.

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