The ‘why’ of suffering – no firm answer

By Dave Henning / September 22, 2019

“The Christian gospel tells us more of the meaning of sin than suffering. . . .  To the ‘why’ of suffering we get no firm answer.  Of course, some suffering is easily seen to be the result of our sin: war, assault, poverty amidst plenty, the hurtful word.  And maybe some is chastisement.  But not all.  The meaning of the remainder is not told to us.  It eludes us.  Our net of meaning is too small.  There’s more to suffering than our guilt.”- Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

“Laments are not just cognitive; lament demands to be felt.”- Aubrey Sampson, citing Rah, Prophetic Lament

In Chapter 4 (“The Grief of Love: Lamenting Losses”) of The Louder Song, Aubrey Sampson probes these questions:

  • Where is the hope in a sudden, tragic death?
  • Where is God’s presence in freak accidents?
  • How do you find God’s love in a thing that feels so loveless?

As a result, Aubrey observes, like most people who grieve, she wants to make sense of nonsense.  In the author’s case, she tries to make sense of the sudden, tragic death of her cousin Cameron.  From clues and Cameron’s tracks, it appears that he fell from a snow-covered cornice into the startlingly beautiful blue waters of Crater Lake in Oregon.  Just prior to his death, Cameron sent a photo of the two-thousand-foot-deep body of water.

Furthermore, Aubrey agrees with Wolterstorff that not all suffering is (a) the clear result of something or (b) reasonable.  Aubrey adds that not all agonizing questions pair with sensible answers:

“In our deepest grief we don’t lament to find answers.  We lament to stop searching for them.  We lament to be still in the unanswerable.”

Yet, in the midst of grief and suffering, we must keep going.  As Aubrey phrases it, we still do life.  However, we find ourselves changed as we do it.  An altered person carries on.

Today’s question: What Scriptures sustain you when no firm answers exist to the ‘why’ of suffering?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Childhood wonder exists in life’s complication”

About the author

Dave Henning

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