Why we don’t understand suffering

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A re-introduction to this blog.

Most American evangelicals don’t understand suffering, not really. It’s not that we don’t suffer. We certainly do. As a general rule, however, our suffering falls within a fairly modest range of experiences. It’s rare that our suffering is sustained over more than a generation, although not unheard of.

In contrast communities of color have experienced the compounding effect of injustice carried out over hundred of years, indignity with compound interest. While I took it for granted that I would be as affluent or more than my parents, there are many who look to their parents and grandparents as the height of financial stability. 

In a society created and shaped by the mythical American dream, we almost instinctively downplay or ignore those things that question or erode our confidence in the inevitability of progress and success.

The great thing about America, at least for many, is that this error is actually plausible. It’s a sign of America’s greatness that a large (yet shrinking) number of people can assume that financial advancement will be their lot.

What about when suffering is inserted into the script of our lives? What about when that suffering lasts more than a season?

When pain and suffering becomes a companion over the long haul, how do we Christians respond? How do we change?

What about God? How do we see God present in this sort of suffering? Do we have anything constructive to say about the God who permits sin and death to mar the world he created?

In short, no.

Most American evangelicals do not have the type of theologically formed understanding of suffering necessary to allow them to experience it in a redemptive way as an inevitable–if tragic–part of Christian life in a fallen world.

For too long our discipleship has failed to account for the reality of pain, suffering, and evil in the world.

As a result, the experience of suffering—common to everyone—can produce a crisis of faith so severe as to cause some to stop following Christ and to renounce the church, if not Christ himself.

This is especially so when the suffering experienced is in the form of mental illness, experienced most commonly in North America as depression.

The new purpose of this blog is to help Christians–you may be one–to understand suffering and what it tells us about God and ourselves.

It will also provide the resources necessary to develop a faith that is rooted deeply enough in Christian belief and practice that it will withstand the trials that are a normal part of life.