Wednesday, August 8, 2012


This summer has seen a plague of extreme weather events in the US, from thunderstorms that knocked out power for millions, to the heat wave the produced a crop-destroying drought. And just in the last 30 days, Americans have witnessed 2 violent massacres—in a Colorado theater and a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. How do most people explain such suffering?

Recently I read an article that said Americans, unlike the rest of the citizens of our planet who accept suffering as a normal part of life, see suffering as wrong, something that interferes with the natural flow of life.  Given that, I think many Americans see suffering as something to be tolerated (“This too will pass”).  Is it any wonder the average person seems surprised when disaster strikes (“why is this happening to me?”). To the degree you and I are affected by this cultural view of suffering, we too will ask the “why” question.

Peter says, “Beloved, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice that these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Pet. 4:12-13).  Though many attempts have been made to understand it, there can be no explanation for suffering apart from this eternal perspective.  


  1. Hi Dr. Greg,
    Thoughtful post. Personally, I draw a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is the nerve reaction to unpleasant stimuli. Suffering is the interpretation of that pain and concluding "this ought not be so." Underlying that belief that qualifies pain as suffering is the presupposition that we are not supposed to experience pain, though we see it experienced all around us all the time. To insist on something that is so prevalent and so real is either a walk into fairyland, or a deeply embedded stronghold, maybe at the level of the soul, that we are designed for something different. And the greater the perception of difference between that pain free existence and what we experiencein levels of frequency, depth, and duration determines our interpretation for our level of suffering.
    Praise be to Him who suffered the most in all of those levels that we might someday experience non of those levels!

  2. An interesting distinction, Larry. Everyone accepts pain as inevitable in life, and, yes, it is because something is wrong (physically, mentally or emotionally). Suffering can be because one doesn't have what one wants. To the self-centered person, that is not acceptable! Withholding gratification for a greater gain is a suffering, for example, that few people want to embrace. "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." 1 Peter 4:1