I hate to suffer in any way, shape, or form

I don’t understand suffering. I doubt anyone thoroughly does. I do know, however, that we have a God who created us (and a bunch of angelic beings) with freewill, and that while God either cannot or chooses not to eliminate all suffering yet, God will do so eventually. And, in the meantime, God suffers with us. All we need to do to see that is look at the cross.


Maybe one way of making sense of suffering is to think of God somehow deciding to carry all of it. Perhaps God is so loving and so strong that God chooses to carry all the suffering of the entire universe.


Etty Hillesum (1914–1943) was a young Jewish woman who was murdered by Nazis at Auschwitz. She believed God suffered with her and expressed a deep desire to “help God” by carrying some of it. When suffering came to her, she saw it as easing a bit of God’s load.[1]


In Colossians 1: 24, the apostle Pauls says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” (ESV[2])


I’m not sure I understand what Paul means when he speaks of “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body.” Perhaps he is expressing a sentiment similar to Ms. Hillesum’s. Paul clearly saw his sufferings (which were many) as participating in Messiah’s suffering.


It’s not that either Paul or Etty went looking for suffering, but when it came, they embraced it (or at least faced it) head on, recognizing that in this world, even God incarnate suffers.


I do not believe God causes or wills suffering. Just the opposite – I think it breaks God’s heart to see his children suffer. But when we do suffer, God goes through it with us, like a loving tender mother at the bedside of her sick child. Somehow, some way, God even goes beyond that and not only empathizes with us, but carries the load for us while walking with us.


Learning to see God in the midst of all circumstances is a worthy goal, and a spiritual companion on the journey can be of great help.

[1] An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941–1943, trans. Arno Pomerans (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983), 151. [2] The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. Quoted by permission.


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