Many of the world’s religions attest to the reality that something isn’t quite right with humanity. We see suffering and evil in our lives and the lives of others, often conceding to it as some unfortunate aspect of our existence that we can’t seem to do away with. We understand that it doesn’t fit into what life should be like. C.S. Lewis wrote about this in his apologetic work, Mere Christianity. He argued that humanity has always known there is something wrong with the world—the existence of evil and suffering—which clues us into something about the way the world should be. Lewis thought that if a line is crooked, how can we identify that it is indeed crooked unless we have a straight line with which to compare? In his analogy, the straight line reflects goodness and peace, whereas the crooked one, evil and suffering. We can only judge suffering and evil as undesirable if we have a desirable state with which to compare it.
Christians talk often about the value—and unfortunate necessity—of suffering. Suffering is raw, telescoping our consciousness into our present pain, our state of helplessness. The saints suffered, and if we read Scripture, we know that Jesus calls us to hoist up the cross on our shoulder—to trudge after him in a world that persecuted, beat, mocked and killed him. We know we are called to suffer, and to suffer sometimes without a satisfying explanation; but how do we endure? How do we carry the cross that leads to life, not the one that leads to death?
Suffering, in and of itself, is of no value. To suffer for the sake of suffering does not glorify God or bring about our sanctification. In some cases, it manifests a deep, dangerous pride that leaves no room for God’s grace.
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