Heavy Hearts: A Christian Response to Suffering – Part 1

Unexpected events. Unspeakable tragedies. Unimaginable pain. If this past weekend in Orlando, and really this life, has taught us anything it’s that suffering is a part of the human experience. But why? If there’s a God, and if he’s good, why is there so much agony and evil in this world?

Discussions about suffering can often sound trite or overly simplistic, when in reality those who have crawled along the darkened corridor of pain know the messy and jagged path it really is. They know there is no easy answer. They know there is no immediate emotional remedy. And those who do not themselves bear the scars of such a journey will never completely understand the cost of survival.

And yet, there is a truth that offers perspective in the midst of the confusion, anger and doubt that dwell in this questioning place. Knowing the truth may not eliminate all discomfort on the subject, but it does offer a little light by which heavy hearts are guided to and given rest.

This truth is Jesus Christ. That’s the very term he used to identify himself and his word.[1] In light of this, the Christian worldview claims a particular exclusivity. This view cannot be one among many. It is either true, and thus explains all reality, or it is not true. In the words of Augustine, “…all truth is from Him who said, ‘I am the truth.’”[2] Therefore, anything outside of, or contradictory to the Christian message is false. (For a detailed explanation of why a relativistic approach to truth fails, you can check out my previous blog.) Christianity then, because it claims to be the only truth, must correspond to human experience; and since the problem of evil, as it is often called, has plagued all of human history, the Christian worldview must give an answer. And it does. In fact, it takes quite seriously the relationship between God’s existence and the reality of suffering. After all, Jesus’ own scars are at the heart of its message. So, what is the Christian understanding of God and the problem of evil? The next several posts in this series will attempt to consider this complex question by examining the ideas of intention, corruption and redemption. But first…

…It may be beneficial to remember one particular truth. Regardless of potential answers about suffering, God is present in the suffering of his children.[3] He is not a God who remained distant, aloof or uninvolved. Instead, Jesus added to his Divine nature the broken nature of humanity.[4] He knew what it was to feel tired, used, lonely, misunderstood and betrayed.[5] He experienced the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one[6], and even walked his own path of torture and death.[7] And this should cause us to draw closer, in confidence, to our comforter; for when Scripture speaks of the love, hope and comfort found in Christ,[8] it is an expression of love and empathy from a God who truly understands.

[1] John14:6, 17:17
[2] Augustine of Hippo, The Four Books of St. Augustine on Christian Doctrine
[3] Psalm 46:1-3
[4] Philippians 2:6-8
[5] Matthew 8:24, John 6:26, Matthew 26:40, Matthew 27:46, Mark 3:21, Matthew 26:14-16, John 18:15-27
[6] John the Baptist (Matthew 14). Also, many theologians believe Jesus’ father may have passed away since there is no mention of him after Luke 2 and the fact that Jesus entrusts his mother to another disciple when he’s on the cross.
[7] John 18-19
[8] John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-5, 1 John 1:9, Psalm 3:2-6, Psalm 23, Psalm 73:26-28, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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