Over the weekend, conservative writer and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center Peter Wehner wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times exploring the problem of pain and suffering as it relates to faith.
Wehner’s piece begins by noting that as he has advanced in age, he has grown “more alert to the grief and sorrow around [him] than [he] once was.” Over the years, Wehner has witnessed close friends of his lose their son to suicide. He’s had other dear friends die of cancer, and he’s seen marriages fall apart.
And while Wehner, a Christian, notes that Christians can and should take comfort in the promise of eternal life that followed Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, even this often does little to console those grappling with significant pain and loss in this life.
What, then, can our faith say about our pain, he wonders? While exploring this question, Wehner recalls finding a strange comfort in the writings of famed 20th-century Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis. In his famous work, “A Grief Observed,” Lewis catalogues the deep agony, and doubt, he experienced following the death of his beloved wife, Joy.
From The New York Times:
In writing about his bereavement, Lewis described what it was like to go to God “when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”
Wehner says he found it “reassuring” that such a staunch defender of the faith would write so candidly about his own doubt and anger. In studying Lewis, Wehner came to realize and appreciate human suffering in a uniquely Christian way. He notes that Jesus himself gave voice to his own fear and doubt when, hours before his crucifixion, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
If Jesus Christ — the God-man himself — responded to intense grief the same way many Christians do, what does this say about suffering as it relates to faith?
Christ showed us that hostility toward death is a distinctly human trait. Even in moments of great doubt, we cannot shake the intuition that we were made for something more.
For those of the Christian faith, God is a God of wounds, where the road to redemption passes directly through suffering. There is some solace in knowing that while at times life is not easy for us, it was also hard for the God of the New Testament. And from suffering, compassion can emerge, meaning to suffer with another — that disposition, in turn, often leads to acts of mercy.
In other words, suffering unites Christians with Christ, the one who through his death on the cross gave meaning to our pain, and turned death on its head.
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