The patients we treat in our hospitals face unbelievable trials in life. They often wouldn’t describe it that way, but truthfully, children with disabilities and the families of these children endure suffering on many very real levels. Physically, economically, emotionally – it’s hard for Westerners to truly grasp the challenges that life holds for these precious ones we meet every day.
The truth is, each of us faces pain in life. Pain is part of life. Not to minimize the tragedy of it, but it’s important to realize that pain is common to humanity. We all share the knowledge of this one aspect of life. Each of us has a glimpse of the fact that there is something broken in the world. Something is just wrong. It’s almost as though things are not the way they were intended to be.
So how can a loving God allow such suffering to exist?
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 offers insight into the purpose and hope of the difficult and trying times of this life. It says:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
So in this passage, Paul is telling the church at Corinth to not lose heart when life is painful, hard, or downright crazy, because there is a greater perspective that has, at its core, an understanding of the temporal nature of this life. If, instead, we have an eternal perspective, the suffering of this life, although still painful, can have meaning. Not that it’s not still hard or difficult, but suffering, viewed from an eternal perspective, carries greater purpose and, at the same time, less tragedy.
Paul admonishes us to understand that the unseen benefit of suffering on our eternal spirit far outweighs the temporal anguish we experience now every time. We do not ever fully realize that benefit until this life has passed, but thanks to the revelation of scripture, we at least have a clue of it now.
Drawing near to God
The other great meaning in suffering is that it can push us toward God in a way that few other things can. When we suffer great distress, whether of mind, soul, or body, our faith may grow through our need to seek God. Likewise, even when we experience great victory, our faith can grow by the desire to give God the credit.
Ultimately, as you encounter life’s hills and valleys, may you remember that there is always a greater perspective to the event than the situation itself. May it drive you in all things closer to the One who holds you in His hands. That’s His desire for you: that in both pain and in joy, you would recognize His presence there.