I have been in a few scenarios recently where not surprisingly the subject of suffering has been highlighted and the phrase ‘a theology of suffering’ has been used.
This has caused me to reflect and to consider whether I have one, whether I should have and if so what is it.
My conclusion is that I’m not convinced that it is a correct phrase to talk of a theology of suffering.
When I hear the word theology I consider it to be the study of God. Now I understand that if I study theology I will study suffering and other issues, but does that equal a theology of suffering?
One thing I know is that I do not want to develop a ‘sufferology’ if that is even a word.
What I do want is a healthy theology through which I am able to view suffering.
So here are some thoughts about how I approach suffering and my theological lens through which I view it.
1. My 1st theology is of a Good Father
I don’t blame Him for bad stuff happening.
2. He makes all things work together for good.
He doesn’t send bad stuff to teach us lessons, but he makes all things new and have redemptive purpose.
3. Heaven is the standard, and we are seated there.
Our assignment is heaven on earth, we are not there yet.
4. Earth is the result of a divine expression at creation which is on a journey towards restoration back to its created order.
There is pain, loss, suffering, and sin and its consequences, one day that will end.
5. There are mysteries, things we don’t know.
We know in part, our God is omniscient and we are not.
6. I pursue what Jesus died for.
The fellowship of His sufferings is not the goal, but it is a part of our experience.
7. The christian life exists in tension.
Hope in the wilderness, love in the presence of enemies, faith when we cannot yet see the answer.
8. Jesus paid for it all.
He bore our sorrows, griefs and shame.
9. We are to live christian lives full of perseverance and hope
Hope does not disappoint, it is stopping hoping which makes us sick. Perseverance creates hope.
10. We have the great comforter living inside of us.
1 Corinthians 1:5 Our comfort is abundant through Christ.
11. We make declarations but that is not denial.
Praying ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ doesn’t start when everything is perfect.
12. The end times are not the end of the church.
They are the scenario in which the glorious bride will be even more evident.
My goal in writing this is not to seek agreement but to begin a discussion. One of my other primary lenses is that unity does not depend on agreement. These are principles which I believe and apply to the subject of suffering.
Do I have a theology of suffering? My answer is no. I have a theology of a good father and through that lens I view pain and suffering. I see a fallen world, a Jesus who suffered, died and was buried and raised from the dead. I know a Holy Spirit living inside of me, comforting and giving me grace to comfort others. I see a Father who knows no limits to reach out to a fallen creation and do all that is necessary to restore earth and His created kids. And through that lens I see pain and loss and suffering, and sometimes I try and imagine how God must feel.