What happens when a society that never wants to talk about suffering, a society that believes all suffering can be cured by therapeutic means or socio-economic reordering, finds itself in a situation of suffering that there is no simple way to avoid?
What happens when the church has largely mirrored society’s avoidance of suffering, and has arrived at a similar dependence on therapeutic or socio-economic means for its comfort, though it has spiritualised baptised that dependence in talk of prosperity and flourishing?
Secular society will keep trying to be its own saviour, which usually involves increasing its intensity in doing what its already been doing.
The Church can look to the Scriptures and realise that the presence of lament in Old and New covenant expressions means that Christians are actually meant to live with suffering, and times of life or history when suffering is absent are exceptions to what can be expected.
From Sam Bush at Mockingbird.
… the Bible encourages us to let it all out. The Apostle Paul describes the Christian response to suffering in his letter to the Romans. “The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains,” he writes. “Not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit.” In other words, everybody hurts. Paul makes clear that catastrophe does not discriminate and that Christians are hardly exempt from suffering.
And yet, he speaks of how hope can be found amidst suffering because Jesus can be found amidst suffering. Jesus knows what it is to suffer. He experienced loss in the death of his friend Lazarus, the rejection of his friends during his arrest and trial, public humiliation and an unjust execution. Worst of all, on the Cross, he felt abandoned by his heavenly Father. And yet, Jesus didn’t scream inside his heart. Rather, he cried aloud for all to hear, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” That gives you permission to do the same.
Rather than removing himself from suffering, Jesus entered into it. Likewise, rather than removing you from your current suffering, Jesus enters into it with you so that one day he may be glorified and that he may glorify you. He didn’t “scream inside his heart,” but shrieked to the heavens in anguish before he died. And because of that death on the Cross, you will never scream in vain. And because he was raised from the dead, you can rest in the hope that your cries will one day turn to singing. That, in itself, is enough to make me want to let out a little shout — this time, however, for joy and gratitude.