Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12.10
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself in a bunch of conversations in which the unspoken assumption was that the main goal of life is to maximize happiness. — David Brooks
Reflection: Meaning In Suffering
The Park Forum
The scripture’s affirmation of suffering as part of life, and even as a spiritual practice, can be alarming at first. “Consider it pure joy when you face trials,” James challenges. Paul, as usual, takes it farther; “it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” This profound acknowledgment of the reality of suffering, and ultimate purpose in it, stands in contrast to what we hear most often.
In an interview on suffering, Timothy Keller explains,
In secular culture the meaning of life is to be free to choose what makes you happy in this life. Suffering destroys that meaning. And so, in the secular view, suffering can have no meaning at all. It can’t be a chapter in your life story — it is just the interruption or even the end of your life story.
While it is possible to suffer without purpose, something David Brooks acknowledges in his exploration of What Suffering Does, the gospel draws us to the way Christ renews even our deepest pains. Keller continues:
On the one hand, God is absolutely sovereign over suffering. It’s never out of his control. It’s always part of his plan. On the other hand, God has come into the world himself and actually suffered with us.
No other religion says that God is both a sovereign and a suffering God. This is the theological foundation for why Christians can be so realistic and yet so hopeful about suffering at the same time.
Because there is meaning in suffering we can refocus our attention toward the outcome. Brooks concludes,
Notice this phenomenon. When people remember the past, they don’t only talk about happiness. It is often the ordeals that seem most significant. People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.
This is, of course, the joy Paul found in his many sufferings. His heart for the first Christians was that they would experience it, too, “We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.