Shunning Suffering

Jaclyn and I had a great chat yesterday about how our culture avoids suffering. One of the reasons that we have so much difficulty understanding the Gospel in our culture is that our comfort-driven society teaches us that suffering is something to be cured, not endured.

Examples abound: have a headache? Take a Tylenol (or Advil, or Aspirin). Have marital issues? Get a divorce (or have an affair). Don’t like the way you look? Plastic surgery, or a whole host of cosmetic and clothing products will make a “new you.” Hungry? Countless options for instant gratification await you. Are you lonely? Well, there’s an internet full of pseudo-community to take the edge off. Advertising and marketing bombards us daily with shallow problems and quick fixes.

These might not even be the best examples, but the basic assumption in all of this is that in our world, we can solve our own problems through a combination of ingenuity, hard work and technology. We find salvation in numbness and deliverance in a bottle.

If we accept that Jesus is Lord, then it is He who saves us. If we are to follow Jesus, we must see that he truly—more truly than any other who has ever lived—had the ability to sidestep the suffering that he encountered. Rather, the Creator came and dwelt amongst his Creation and suffered on a cross to liberate it from evil. Suffering is therefore central to He who is all in all.

This is why I have trouble with theology that teaches that God is our path to a happy-joy life. This is why I don’t understand hyper-spiritual teachings about worship and/or prayer; as if these activities somehow exempt us from a world built on suffering.

And this is why I have trouble with my own heart, because the allure of shunning suffering is all too attractive. Why should I embrace suffering when the world around me presents a whole host of attractive options for avoiding it? There’s probably many things that could be said at this point, but this is surely one:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Rom 8:18-21, TNIV)

6 responses to “Shunning Suffering”

  1. Your words brought back to mind the passage in Acts 5 where the disciples have been brought before the religious rulers who are treating them as criminals for preaching in the name of Jesus. After having the disciples beaten prior to their release Luke writes, “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Those guys were either completely nuts, or there is some element of truth inherent to the gospel to which we are (I am) often blind.

  2. Meeting God in the desert seems to be his preferred venue. If I’m obsessed about getting out of there as quickly as possible, or convincing myself that I don’t live there, then how can God meet me in my need?

    How will I learn to depend when I meet every need myself (placebo’s and numbing agents galore)?

    St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of The Soul needs a reread; I still don’t really get it.

  3. Ahh, Cam my friend

    Great musings: we do try to meet every need ourselves with things that keep us distracted and numbed to the deeper realities of our soul.

    St. John of the Cross… someone I guess I should read.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I think your examples are wonderful. We need to embrace all of life more. Especially Christians, we need to stop thinking like the world in a sustain youthful life at whatever cost, and rather embrace all aspects of it.


WordPress Default is proudly powered by WordPress

Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).