I will post more about this when I have more time to fully dive into a theology of suffering, but for the moment I read something from The Message Bible that I wanted to share. In the introduction. To the book of Job the author was describing the way that Job gives voice to his sufferings and the response he encounters from men and from God.
" In our compassion, we don't like to see people suffer. And so our instincts are aimed at preventing and alleviating suffering. No doubt that is a good impulse. But, if we really want to reach out to others who are suffering we should be careful not to be like Job's friends, not to do our 'helping' with the presumption that we can fix things, get rid if them, or make them 'better'. We may look at our suffering friends and imagine how they could have better marriages, better-behaved children, better mental and emotional health. But when we rush in to fix suffering, we need to keep in mind several things.
First, no matter how insightful we may be, we don't really understand the full nature of our friends' problems. Second, our friends may not want our advice. Third, the ironic fact of the matter is that more often than not, people do not suffer less when they are committed to following God, but more. When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed. Deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.
So, instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering - which we simply won't be very successful at anyway- perhaps we should begin entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able - entering the mystery and looking around for God. In other words, we need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them, and - if they will let us- join them in protest and prayer. Pity can be nearsighted and condescending; shared suffering can be dignifying and life-changing. As we look at Job's suffering and praying and worshiping, we see that he has already blazed a trail of courage and integrity for us to follow."
Reading the story of Job right now has been healing for me to gather strength and courage from the ways Job cries out to The Lord and protests loudly through his pain....yet he does not forsake God. If you haven't read The Message version of Job, I highly recommend it. I don't pretend to be Job, to be holy, but I am one who suffers...."Where's the strength to keep my hopes up? What future do I have to keep me going? Do you think I have nerves of steel? Do you think I am made of iron? Do you think I can pull myself up by my bootstraps? Why, I don't even have any boots!"