“Grace must wound before it can heal.” –Flannery O’Connor
Suffering is inevitable. It isn’t a simple question as to whether suffering will come, but multiple questions. Why? What form will suffering take? When will suffering come and how long will suffering last? The suffering can come from outside of us, in objective conditions: betrayal, tragic loss, illness, trauma, or accumulation of disappointment. The suffering can also be within—our subjective, quickly changing world of emotions, thoughts, and memories that we try to keep at bay. Sometimes the suffering is of one’s own making, while at other times it’s at the hand of another. Whatever the source, it seems that suffering brings more questions than answers. Why does God allow evil and suffering? What has the person done or, for that matter, not done to bring about this suffering? Where is God in one’s hour of need? How long, Lord, how long?
These were a few of the questions addressed at the first conference. We looked at the culture in which we live, examined the difference between a Christian understanding of suffering and that of a secular worldview, and discussed the place of personal suffering in God’s redemptive plan. Then we looked at Christ, “the man of sorrows,” and the purpose of suffering. Finally, we discussed how we are to live in the midst of suffering—walking with a limp, which Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones called “sorrowful joy.” One who knows “sorrowful joy” has compassion for wayward travelers and offers comfort for weary souls.