The tag line of the blog says “posting about things to wonderful for me” and this time it really applies. Thanks to a comment from Dave X on my post about “Why God Kills Babies”, I’ve been thinking about the nature of suffering. It takes great confidence (or arrogance?) to hold forth on suffering because it is a mystery that God simply has not opened to many (if any) folks. It certainly is still a mystery to me. Even so, I still stated in my back-and-forth with Dave X that suffering is an intruder into God’s good creation. Now, I wonder if that statement is true.
I presupposed (as many do I’m sure) that suffering is inherently evil…but is it? Is suffering something that has a moral property? Or, is suffering morally neutral? Could it be possible that suffering is only as evil (or as good) as its product? Is it possible that there are in fact some kinds of suffering that are completely evil while other kinds of suffering are completely good? Instead of being some sort of “intruder”, is it possible that suffering is the logical consequence of a particular moral choice? (Sounds a bit like karma doesn’t it?) Sadly, all I really have are the questions. There are no answers to come in this post.
And why should there be? Job calls God on the carpet for his own (and representatively all humanity’s) suffering and comes away without an answer. (At least not one that satisfies most folks.) How can I possibly improve upon that Biblical book?
One thing that I can say with certainty is that suffering is temporary, which is not to say that it is unimportant. Neither is it to say that suffering is illusory. I believe that God validates the importance and reality of suffering by alleviating and experiencing it in Jesus. All I mean to say is that the biblical narrative tells us that at “the renewal of all things”, when there is a New Heaven and a New Earth, there will be no more tears, no more pain and no more crying. So, even if there is something inherently good about suffering (and I’m not saying that there is or there isn’t), it is only a limited good. When it has reached its limit, whether it’s the limit of its harm or its benefit, suffering will cease to be.
So, perhaps the human desire to avoid suffering isn’t a sign of moral weakness. Even Jesus asked if it was possible to accomplish God’s will some way other than death on the cross. But saying that the desire to avoid suffering is not a weakness does not and can not mean that it is in fact a moral virtue. We’ve heard of too many cowardly acts which have been committed in order to avoid suffering to believe that. Maybe the human urge to flee from suffering simply rises from an inherited memory of that state of being prior to The Fall when there was no suffering. Perhaps our attempted flights from suffering are also attempted flights back to the garden, only seen from this side of The Fall.
I’m just thinking out loud here.
I don’t know.