Can Suffering Lead Us to God?

Dear Friends:

My friend is suffering today and I want to stop the pain he is enduring. For the purposes of this short letter, his name and the cause of his suffering does not matter; but struggle I have is my desire to intervene and stop his pain or believing that God is permitting it for a greater purpose. It is obviously a good thing to want stop his pain. Right?

Frankly, I am not so sure that if I stopped all suffering and hurt that people would be better off! Why? Because if I could stop all pain and suffering the world would be a much colder, meaner, and less livable place.

Saint Francis actually embraced personal suffering and hailed pain as the “straightest path to God”. I think he was right. Whereas I hate to see anything suffer, if God is truly sovereign, perhaps He is permitting — or even orchestrating it — for a good purpose. Sometimes it is only when my heart is breaking — or my body is hurting — that I look more deeply at who I really am and who He truly is.

Pain reminds me that life can change on a dime! I can be apparently safe and secure at one moment — full of life and mirth — and in a second — a mere second — my life can be overcome with pain and anguish! “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…” Suffering reminds me that the things that happen on earth often have nothing to do with God’s original plan and purpose. When we suffer or are in pain, we know that we were not made for this! This is an aberration of what He first wanted.

But in this fallen world anguish does seem to bring about a new life that only pain can create. In my boldness to stop suffering or protect those I love from pain, I might in fact be standing in the way or curtailing the new life for my friend! Should I seek to inflict suffering? Of course not! But there is God — and there is Dean. I should not get the two confused.

Dean Barley

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