A Christian perspective on suffering

painOur national debate about Terri Schiavo has caused us all to think more about the purposes of life, and specifically about how we ought to respond to suffering.

Christians have long wrangled with questions about suffering: why does it exist; what purposes does it serve; what does it tell us about the heart of God?

I thought I’d like to call your attention to a post I wrote more than 18 months ago about Brynleigh and Victoria, conjoined twins born in Texas who struggled for life and ultimately lost that struggle.

Here is a short excerpt from that post:

Dr. Milhoan says that children such as Victoria and Brynleigh teach us to be compassionate, to be selfless, to have servant hearts. C.S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist, was once asked, “What good can come from suffering?”

What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads. –The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis

Suffering breaks our hearts. But the Christian perspective is that suffering is not a thing to be feared. In the midst of our suffering, God comes alongside us. We experience his love more intensely. We experience the humbling privilege of being served by those who love us.

And suffering serves yet another purpose: it strengthens and purifies our faith in God.

To read more about Brynleigh and Victoria and the incredible compassion of their parents, and the doctors who cared for them, go read When Dreams Become Dust.

And for an excellent theological perspective on pain and suffering, you can’t do better than C S Lewis’ classic book The Problem of Pain.

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