None of us can really understand suffering though we certainly attempt to make sense of it. It's a mystery and one we won't completely understand until we are in heaven. Last year, I met with a prayer group a few times and one day we were discussing suffering when one of the women said to me, "God doesn't want us to suffer. You can have the suffering, I prefer to live in the Lord's joy." I felt rebuked and hurt by this remark because at the time I was in a lot of pain and I felt that this comment not only belittled those who were ill (making it seem like they were at fault for being sick) but seemed to suggest that since I suffered a lot physically I could not also receive God's joy and peace. This woman was very gifted so her words hit me quite forcefully and made me wonder if I was doing something wrong in my walk with the Lord. I was very troubled by what she had said. Not so much the first sentence - I could agree that God doesn't WILL suffering but rather permits it and brings good out of it, but the second sentence really bothered me.
Why? Because I don't feel joy all the time. Sometimes I feel joy, sometimes sorrow. I certainly don't feel joyous when I read about tragedies and natural disasters, nor when my child is sick with the flu, feverish and coughing all night. These things sadden my heart.
After thinking about this woman's words for a while I eventually threw them out. I have yet to meet a person who has never suffered or is always joyous. Never. This includes Jesus and Mary. Both of them suffered immensely. Neither felt joy at Calvary.
The truth is - I'm not sure I would even want constant joy here on earth. Not as long as others are hurting. There will be time enough for that in heaven. While I am here I will weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. I spent many years chasing rainbows when I was young, trying to be "happy". Only to find that nothing made me happy for long. I realized later that happiness wasn't what I was searching for....I was searching for peace and this peace could only be found in one person:
Jesus...the Man of Sorrows. The God who suffered, not so that we would never suffer, but so that we might have eternal life with Him in heaven. I no longer seek "happiness"- I seek authenticity. And I no longer equate suffering with unhappiness. Some of the most pain-filled moments of my life have also been the most joyous - like the birth of my daughter. Death, too, often comes with much suffering, but just beyond this final agony is perfect peace and joy. It often occurs to me that suffering just might be the "door" to joy. Jesus sanctified suffering on the Cross and by his suffering and death he opened the gates of heaven for us. He didn't do this through his joy - He did it through his agony. Crucifixion is brutal.
As for me, I have times of joy AND times of sorrow. My life is very real, not a dream. And I no longer chase rainbows ...
I chase He who created rainbows.
"We know that all things work for good for those who
love God, who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
"What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:
'For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.'
No, in all things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us." Romans 8: 35-37