Throughout history, many people, poets, pastors, theologians and even philosophers have tried to do the best that they can to make sense of suffering within the human experience. After all suffering has been with us since the beginning of time and human existence. Even though, I myself have much first hand experience with suffering, there is something inside me that hesitates. Probably because so many other thoughts of wisdom and hope have already been uttered.
Yet, I believe that holy spirit is softly whispering from within, saying “share what I have placed inside you.” So when the holy spirit commands, the obedient son or daughter must follow. One of the most frequent objections to the existence of God or any other divine figure has been the reality of suffering. Cancer, AIDS, rape, murder and suffering in all other forms all stop us in our tracks.
Why would any sort of higher power even allow suffering? That’s a very good question that we all have asked regardless of creed or background. Cerebral Palsy, was the cross I was given when I was born. If you want a full breakdown of my story, you can check out my first book The Emotional Struggle on Amazon.
With having cerebral palsy, my life has been tested with not just physical pain from surgeries and therapy. But emotional and mental pain as well. I’ve had the entire lower half of my body operated on, each other operation taking a year or more to recover from. Doctors and professionals with the realm of education, telling me that I wouldn’t amount to much because I wasn’t smart enough.
To add more to the equation, throughout my 36 of life, there have been battles against depression, anxiety and there was once an attempted suicide. Why? Because I felt so trapped in my own life circumstances, as though nothing could or would ever change. Others in the world have faced suffering far greater than even my own.
Nowhere in my life was I ever starved to death, or tortured by evil and wicked people. Which is another reason why there was a hesitation inside me to share in the first place. And yet the starkest of realities is that some of us never make it out of suffering. Not so much in the reality of suicide, but that some of us never find a way to prevail in spite of it. Some make the choice to let the weight of suffering swallow them up like a tidal wave. As mentioned above, many of us ask of the why of suffering.
The why is important, but dare I suggest that the why is not as important as the how. How are we not going to let suffering swallow us up? How are we going to come out the suffering more brighter and courageous? I will caution you (the reader) in that, if you decide to ask the how. You must also decide to follow through with whatever the how asks of you.
For example, if you discover that your how, is being able to look at years of trauma or destructive habits. Are you willing to face it all? Are you willing to endure the process of what it takes to heal and start new chapters of your life? The consequence of not doing so, means that everything in your life stays the same.
And in choosing to stay in that reality, also then means that you’re fundamentally making a choice to cling to that suffering. Reasons for that might very well be, that it’s all you know. On the other hand, some of us are far too stubborn (such as myself) and know what we should do and end up not do it. Regardless, we both are making a choice.
In processing and embarking on our how, we first need a new perspective on suffering. That may raise some eyebrows, but it’s the only option we have. We can agree that suffering sucks, it hurts and can beat the will out of us. But if we slowly started looking at the suffering in our lives differently, we might very well find that there is more to live for.
The author of the book of James in the Bible, he says to “count it all joy” when trials come our way. As humans, we scoff and even are appalled by such statements. Because there is nothing joyful about suffering on the surface. But as the author continues by saying
“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James says, in other words that suffering we endure, produces something in that. That something is steadfastness. Meaning that we are anchored in something greater than ourselves. We admit that suffering is awful but we are not destroyed by it. When the grace of God allows to become more steadfast with time, we can find that a sense of calmness fills us up. Where we don’t always have to fly off the handle because life is not going how we want it.
This true peace and steadfastness is in divine, because one could not find it anywhere else. As much as I love stoic philosophy and philosophy in general. It does not lead to true peace. In my own life, I have surveyed every world religion and even tried meditation and even believed that I would come back in my next life as some other person. The biggest problem with that rests in the reality that, you can never know if you have done enough good to outweigh the bad.
Biblical writes like James and Paul, their how is Christ himself. Christ for them, is the how to transcending the suffering and not simply running from it. But rather they can stare that suffering in the eye knowing it won’t win in the end. For James and Paul, they know that something far sweeter is at the end of suffering.
So that patiently and even joyfully endure, while living out the mission that God has set before them. Let us not forget Christ himself, Christ was sent by God the father in human likeness. In the Philippians 2:7, it says that Christ “emptied himself” interesting, what on earth might that mean? To empty comes from the Greek word Kenosis, Tony Evans has a very clear and beautiful way of explaining this, when he writes:
What does the self-emptying of Christ mean? The theological doctrine is called the kenosis, from the Greek verb meaning “to empty.” Did He empty Himself of His deity and become merely a man? No, the focus of His self-emptying is not heaven, but earth; that is, what Christ emptied Himself into.
He didn’t empty out God and pour in man. Rather, He emptied all of God into man. In other words, He didn’t stop being God. He didn’t say, “Deity, I’m going to leave You in heaven and go down to become humanity.”
Furthermore he writes: What Jesus did was take all of His deity and pour it into humanity so that He became much more than mere man. He became the God-man-God poured into man.
Let me tell you something impor¬tant. When Jesus Christ did something about your sin and mine, He didn’t give us the leftovers. He poured all that made Him God into man so that man would have all of God. There is nothing that belonged to God that man didn’t have when Jesus emptied Himself into man.
One of the reasons that Christ came to live among us, I believe, was to show us humans that he is the answer to the human condition and suffering. Even when on the cross, Christ took all our suffering on himself. Moreover, the cross shows that even in spite of suffering still present. The cross still shows that Christ is present with us. I don’t believe I’ll ever understand why God chooses to heal some but not others, but I do believe that he has given me the greatest gift ever, himself, his love, his presence and grace. What is more amazing, is that eternity with Christ, means no more suffering and complete joy.
Until then, Christ is my how in my own journey. He is why I can give all my fear and anxiety, and instead breath in his peace. He is why I can have joy and smile in the midst of life not being as desired.