When you boil it all down, human demands of God are really pretty simple — we just want the pain to go away. We want the hurt to stop. We want the suffering to end.
We tend to believe that it is God’s job to take care of this, to make our lives as easy and comfortable as possible. Life is supposed to be good and all of that bad stuff does not belong.
I personally believe that many of the psychological, emotional, and spiritual problems among many adults is due to being raised by well-meaning parents who always tried to protect them from the pain in life. Those same adults will often reject a God who does not pick up where their parents left off.
Remember how Jesus tried to teach the disciples about the suffering that he was to endure? They would have none of it! There is something in us that rejects any connection between God and suffering. This is despite the crosses many of us wear, the very symbol of God’s own suffering in his encounter with humanity.
The Gospel tells us that God does not take away the suffering in this world, but rather that he enters our pain with us as no human being ever can. The truth is that suffering and pain and loss are not aberrations, but part of life for everyone. We do not like this reality and we ask “why,” but that does not change a thing.
Suffering is certainly not “good” in that it hurts people, but there is good in it as it has the potential to lead to life that could never have been experienced without it. As long as we see suffering and loss as things to be avoided, or at least dealt with in a hurry, we will not experience the fullness of life God intends. Pain is a doorway to a deeper experience of life and a more intimate relationship with God.
I don’t know of any poll on the subject, but I suspect that people are more likely to find God in times of pain or loss or emptiness than when everything is fine. That doesn’t mean we should go out seeking suffering and rejoice when the bad times come, but it does mean that we have cause for hope.
There are people who never move beyond the pain, see it as unfair, and try to handle it alone. Others invite God to share their suffering, and find their lives renewed, deepened, more authentic, and discover a whole new understanding of the meaning of life. We may wish it were not the case, but life is fully lived only when we experience both pain and joy, loss and gain, disappointment and success.
Is there opportunity lying in the midst of the suffering if we take the time to look for it? We forget about the three days between the suffering and death of Jesus and his Resurrection and appearance to the disciples. Why didn’t it happen immediately? Is it possible that those three days of waiting were there to teach us something? Could it have been a time for the disciples to ponder his life, teaching, and promises? Might that not that have kept their faith and hope alive even in the darkest of times?
Easter faith reminds us that, in the end, all will be well. In the waiting time between now and then, we will experience the fulness of life God has given us, in all of its pain and joy, only when we live each moment in partnership with the God who knows suffering and will not allow it to have the last word.