Archive for July 21st, 2008

Is Suffering Necessary?

July 21, 2008

While reading spiritual writings it is possible, on occasion, to draw the conclusion that suffering is necessary. Taken to an extreme it is easy to believe that Christians teach that God demands that we suffer and that we see it as a good thing. These are wrong conclusions based on a wrong presumption.

It is more correct to say that suffering is unavoidable than to say it is necessary. The fundamental story of the Christian faith is not the origin of evil, suffering and death, but rather of the God who was willing to enter into the midst of evil, suffering and death in order to rescue humanity. Suffering is not a necessity – but a fact of our present, fallen existence (indeed we are falling away from existence when we separate ourselves from God). Life in Christ is the way through suffering, but not an escape from suffering.

Thus in Christ each believer is commanded to “take up your cross and follow me.” There is no Christianity that does not entail the cross. But the voluntary act of love that is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the same voluntary act of love to which believers are invited – to make of our suffering an act of self-offering in union with the suffering of Christ (Romans 12:1). We do not seek an increase in our suffering, nor do we shirk the responsibility of aiding others whose suffering may be relieved. But to seek to avoid all legitimate suffering is a sign of sickness, not of health. Suffering is not necessary – but you’ll not get through life without it.