Question: Why have I experienced evil and suffering?
Fear: I have been abandoned by God and/or others because I’m unwanted.
We live in a culture that promotes conditional love. Women believe that they have to be young and pretty in order to be wanted. Men believe that they have to be wealthy and successful. And when it comes to our relationship with God, we believe we have to be perfect.
The problem is that we can never be pretty enough. Or successful enough. Or perfect enough.
So when we experience deep suffering in life, the temptation is to believe we have been abandoned because we are unlovable and unwanted and imperfect. She broke up with me because I’m a failure. He wants a divorce because he doesn’t find me attractive anymore. I have this ailment because God is punishing me for not living up to his expectations. Our approach to suffering, then, seeks to answer the “why?”
But rather than giving us answers, God gave us the cross.
The cross is where Christ suffered, and where He invites us to follow Him on a path of passion. In doing so, suffering can be redemptive. It represents the moment where, having identified our baggage in the depths of Hell, we begin to dump it. The things that make us feel insecure and guilty. The critical voices that tell us we are no good, unlovable, unwanted, imperfect, and that we will never amount to anything. It’s the place where we find humility and grace for all the mistakes and sins and weaknesses and wounds that make us feel like we are a big failure, and we finally let go.
Let go of all the baggage. Leave it there at the foot of the cross. Strip naked. And rather than curling up in the fetal position believing that you have been abandoned, take action by abandoning yourself to the Father. Push through the pain, like a marathon runner hitting the proverbial wall and getting through it one step at a time.
In order for this to happen, a value change, or a character change, or a worldview change, or a theological change has to take place within us. And for whatever reason, this too is painful, like a birth. But by moving forward and being redeemed, we can find hope.
Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God
C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed