After praying for my step-mom last night (she’s having another tumor removed today and prayers for her are appreciated) I began to think about our cultural expectations of suffering and pain. For the most part we assume that we are entitled to good health. Our culture is obsessed with looking thin, fit, and in the prime of life between 18 and 30 years old.
When suffering afflicts us or someone we know, we generally act as if this unnatural or even wrong. Some have abandoned God when placed in such a situation. But is suffering unusual? Is it not a normal part of life in a broken world? Can we truly confine pain, suffering, and death within the walls of hospitals and nursing homes?
While reading the prison letters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the other day, I was once again confronted with the place that suffering holds in our lives. It cannot be avoided. Bonhoeffer embraced his sufferings and in that dark place, he found God.
That is where the cross becomes so important. If there wasn’t a God who was willing to suffer with us, to promise his comforting presence, and to offer the hope of resurrection and new life some day, then we would do well to become hedonists and let as many good times roll as we can. The Bible never sugar-coats life. The Psalms, for instance, are full of complaints, laments, and pleas for help.
We create the expectations for smooth sailing. We are the ones who expect health and prosperity. Our greatest failure is the inability to recognize what health and prosperity look like even in the midst of suffering.