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Why Pain and Suffering Are Essential to Finding True Peace
Posted by Temmy
Fri, July 05, 2024 5:08pm

To be human is to experience pain and suffering. The betrayal of a friend, the loss of a loved one to cancer, the hurtful words of a hot-tempered coworker, the apathy of a spouse—the consequences of sin and brokenness can take various forms. Our sin hurts ourselves and others; even when we are not personally guilty, the world is broken.

It’s tempting to respond by either detaching from the world around us or by indulging it. Advocates of detachment encourage folks not to get too close to people or things in this life. Some suggest that by developing rigorous disciplines—mental, physical, or spiritual—we can remain unaffected by pain and pleasure.

Others tell us to indulge ourselves. In Paul’s day, the message of indulgence was, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). In other words: live for today, maximize pleasure, and don’t think about pain. Today, this message often takes the form of what is falsely named sexual “liberation,” and can be seen in the normalization of pornography, divorce, homosexuality, and gender identities. Or it can take subtler forms of indulgence like gorging on delicious food, impulse buying, or binging Netflix.

Though they seem opposites, detachment, and indulgence are two sides of the same bad coin. Both are, in the end, attempts to escape the pain of what Christianity recognizes as a fallen world. These attempts are, however, futile. In this broken world, death and decay are inevitable. This world created good, suffers under the curse brought by human sin. Through our first parent’s disobedience, sin and its attendant consequences entered the world, and our hearts, and it has been plaguing us ever since.

Rather than ignoring or denying sin or offering an escape from it, God required His people to atone for sin. In the Old Testament, this came via sacrifice. Knowing that we could not bear the weight of endless blood sacrifices and that sacrifices could never heal the human heart of its bent toward destruction, God acted. By taking on flesh and offering up His own Son, the final sacrifice was made.

In Jesus Christ, God took on human flesh, entering fully the muck and the mire of this fallen world and the human heart. Beyond merely acknowledging or affirming sin, He broke its power. In His death and resurrection, sin and death were defeated.

Thus, though the suffering of this fallen world, along with all the pain and grief, is a real part of the world, it is not the end of the Story. Nor is sin a final obstacle to God. Rather, it is through suffering that He draws humanity to Himself. It is in His death and resurrection that we are transformed. Christ thwarts sin by turning it on its head. As one theologian put it, in Christ, “death is not an inexplicable accident that happens to life; it is the very engine by which life runs.”

Contrary to the voices of this cultural moment and of the numerous alternate religions and worldviews that teach us to deny or indulge sin, God asks us to acknowledge it, to repent of it, and to trust the One who has defeated sin through His own suffering. Only when we acknowledge our inability to escape or change the fallen world in our own strength, and turn to Christ, will we find peace and hope in the midst of this broken world.


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