Home Voices The Exchange Three Questions Suffering People Ask Jesus and Three Responses Jesus Gives

Three Questions Suffering People Ask Jesus and Three Responses Jesus Gives

suffering

My wife is a nurse, so she has a lot of experience in dealing with those in pain. She told me about the a chart they use in triage to help people gauge their pain. Ranging from 1 to 10, the chart corresponds to faces with an increasingly pained expression with each number. 

Where are you today? What’s your number?

I imagine there are very few, if any, who aren’t dealing with some form of pain or suffering during this COVID-19 pandemic

Before I move on, let me offer a working definition of pain and suffering. While some separate pain and suffering citing nuanced differences — such as pain is what you feel and suffering is how you relate — I believe there is an element where pain and suffering are at least similar, if not synonymous. 

Therefore, pain and suffering can be defined as the light to severe physical, emotional, and phycological discomforts we feel and/or experience when life doesn’t go according to our plans, dreams, intentions, and expectations. 

According to sociologist, Peter Berger, “[Every culture has provided] an explanation of human events that bestows meaning upon the experiences of pain and suffering”

I don’t know about you; Berger definitely describes me. When I encounter some form of pain and suffering, I want to know why this happened? Was it my fault? Could it have been avoided? As human beings, I believe we have the most difficult time understanding the meaning and purpose behind pain and suffering that we can’t (or couldn’t) control.  

Take for instance, the COVID-19 crisis. Because of COVID-19, hundreds of thousands across the globe have been laid to rest. Nations and states have been locked-down leading to the need to bailout businesses and offer stimulus checks. In the midst of shutdown many have been furloughed and laid off, as well as having to make the tough decision to close their small business indefinitely. 

In addition to the physical losses incurred as a result of the spread of the virus, there’s the emotional and physiological toil of being isolated from friends and family, the awkward feeling you have toward a neighbor while passing them on the sidewalk due to virus concerns, or the lack of physical touch (i.e., a hug, handshake, or pat on the back) that leaves you with feelings of loneliness, stress, and depression. 

It’s in seasons of pain and suffering that we can’t control — like the season we are in with COVID-19 — that is the most difficult to understand. Like Berger noted, every culture has wrestled with trying to explain and bring some kind of meaning to pain and suffering. I’ve read how some teach that pain and suffering is karma — that you had it coming because of what you either did earlier in life or earlier in another life. Some teach that pain and suffering is not real, and that to eliminate it you have to get in touch with your inner being. 

While there are other ideas, teachings, and philosophies out there that attempt to give explanation and meaning to our pain and suffering, I do believe the bible has the best framework for understanding (and giving meaning to) pain and suffering. [Noticed I said the best, not perfect, framework.]

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Josh serves as the Co-Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, IL, the Co-Regional Director of Lausanne North America, an Adjunct Faculty at Wheaton College’s Graduate School of Ministry, Mission, and Leadership, as well as a Teaching Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago, IL. He holds a PhD in Missiology and loves mobilizing the church to participate in God’s mission. He and his wife Joannie live in Wheaton, IL with their three kids.