In our lives we all begin to see the inevitable suffering that is part of the human condition. Suffering humans know when they are suffering and deeply wonder why. In not finding a satisfactory answer one suffers even more acutely.  


The reason for suffering is a difficult question – just as is a question closely related to suffering, the question of evil. Why does evil exist? Why is there evil in the world? 


In the Sacred Word, the question of suffering is most vividly expressed in the book of Job. 


Interestingly, even Jesus – described as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3, NIV) – made clear to his followers that he would suffer and die.  


From a Christian perspective, the terrible question of suffering can be answered in only one way: “Love is also the fullest source of the answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. This answer has been given by God to [us] in the cross of Jesus Christ . . . Suffering love is the answer to the anxiety suffered” (John Paul II, Salvifici doloris n. 13). 


The Cross, though once a form of a horrible execution, has become a powerful symbol in Christian imagination. It points to how death, as the summary of what we most fear, is transformed into what we most hope for – life to the full. The Cross does not deny the reality of evil in any form, even when it means the suffering of the innocent. Yet it stands for a love stronger than death, the love that led Jesus through death to be for us “the resurrection and the life”. 


In the suffering we face, then, we can know that Jesus is one with us. The Scriptures reveal that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are . . . He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray” (Hebrews 4:15; 5:2, NIV). 


The resurrected Christ inaugurates the promised future life. His resurrection becomes the source of a new way of living. Christian hope, based on the resurrection of Jesus, can be exercised in the midst of evil. 


Jesus already embodies what is promised to all in the future. Hope is the firm conviction that the promises we know by faith will be fulfilled. Thus, beyond what we see, in spite of the fears, cynicism, scepticism, and the limitations of human projections, the promises will be kept, of life to the full, of being raised with Christ. 


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors b through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39, NIV). 


Source: I am indebted to David Ranson, Living in the Holy Spirit (Sydney: 2008), for the material in this summary. 



Photo credit: Intellimon Ltd. 



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