On today’s episode of BreakPoint, Colson Center President John Stonestreet discussed a conversation he had with a friend, Joni Eareckson Tada, about her suffering. Joni has been battling cancer for a long time, and she has been wheelchair bound for over 50 years. Joni knows more about suffering than many of us could ever imagine, and she makes it clear that she can see a greater purpose for her suffering in God’s Kingdom.
Stonestreet further notes how the idea of purposeful suffering is completely foreign to the secular worldview. Not only is suffering to be avoided at all costs, but when taken logically, there isn’t really a basis for the condemnation of suffering in in general. If there is no God, and therefore no higher plan for our lives or higher standard for good or bad, why should we see anything wrong with suffering at all? On the secular worldview, everything that happens is the result of blind, unguided processes, so suffering is just the result of bad luck.
The Christian worldview, however, offers us a more satisfying understanding of suffering. We can see how those who suffer can have an especially big impact for the Kingdom of God through the ministries of people like Joni Eareckson Tada. The very core of the Christian message rests on the fact that sometimes suffering is necessary to achieve some greater purpose; Jesus suffered and died so that we might live in relationship with God, for all of eternity. While we may not understand suffering in the moment, we can rest in the fact that we are living in God’s world, and that His plan is worthy of our trust.
“We will never be able to weather the ordeals that will come our way, neither as individuals nor as churches, unless we recover a theology, and practice, of suffering in Christ.”