- "A thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. " (2 Corinthians: 7-10)
Oh Lord, why is there suffering in the world?
This question is asked whenever we see a person dying. The pain that a person endures as their life is drawn out of them due to an illness like cancer is something indescribable. Some people choose to avoid it through assisted suicide and some persevere until the very end.
Suffering is a result of the Fall of Man. In Eden, there was to be no suffering. After the Fall, Man brought a curse to the earth that has scorched it since the beginning of time.
Does God want us to suffer?
Why? I don't know. Who am I to question God? However, He wanted Christ to suffer and Christ knew the suffering that was to come and His anxiety was so great that He sweated blood. Perhaps He wanted Christ to suffer as an example to all of us who have to suffer to a much lesser degree every day of our lives.
He also wanted Paul to suffer as noted in the above passage. Paul did not want whatever affliction he had and asked God to take it away from him. God's response: "My grace is sufficient for you."
What are we to do with suffering?
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24)
My father died from stomach cancer two years ago and although he suffered immeasurably, he never showed it. At that same time, my wife was expecting our first (and for now only) child. As you could imagine it was a time of great joy and great sorrow in our family.
In my father's last few weeks as he laid in his bed dying, a priest called him. He asked him if he'd had his last confession (which he'd already had) and then told him something that I'll never forget. (My father didn't tell me this...the priest did months later only after asking him.)
The suffering that my father was going through. The immeasurable pain he was feeling. The priest told my father to "Give it meaning." The term that the Church uses is "Redemptive Suffering." It's what Christ did on His path to the cross and it's what Paul is referring to in the above passages.
In redemptive suffering, we bind the suffering to our intercessory prayers and through the suffering the prayer has more meaning to God.
Although my father never told me what he was doing, I know that through all the pain that he went through, his prayer to God through it all was:
"Lord, I am suffering for my unborn grandchild."
When I think about that, I cry.