Chapter 16 of Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? is subtitled What about Suffering? Thielen gives several stories to illustrate both the problem of suffering and the fact that God is with us, in the midst of our suffering.
Our questions of “Why?” do not have a final answer — unless we look at our “crucified God” on the cross. He enters into our suffering. There are various sources of our suffering — human sin, the laws of nature, God’s allowing suffering, the possibility of demonic forces producing pain and suffering.
To the question “Where is God When It Hurts?”, Thielen says He is right smack in the middle of our pain. And Christianity is a religion of the cross. “The cross is the center of our faith.”
MY RESPONSE: C.S. Lewis said that “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world!” As someone who was a cheerleader in college, I learned a very valuable lesson: don’t stand next to the girl with the megaphone! We need the loudness of suffering to wake us up from the myths that life is safe, that good people deserve good things, that all is right with the world. Although there is much to be thankful for in this world (“This is my Father’s world”), much is WRONG with this world. And suffering can fix our eyes on God instead of the goodness we think we deserve.
Thielen is right to point to the Lord Jesus on the cross as proof that God is with us in our suffering. I wish he had said something about WHY Jesus died. But perhaps that will come in a later chapter. Might I suggest that as we listen to the stories of our non-Christian friends and neighbors who tell us of their suffering, we should be ready to pray for them. And when the occasion is right, to point out that suffering has a way of drawing our minds toward God and the things of God.