I am troubled by the general thesis of this week’s lesson that God purposefully leads us into situations that God foresees will cause us suffering, because God also sees how such situations may provide some greater benefit. A woman who worked with children once told me a story about one of her small clients that set forth the general tenure of my difficulty with such suggestions as well as any I have ever heard.
The task set for us this week is to examine the causes of the difficult times that we experience through our lives.
First we will sharpen the idea of “difficult times,” for not all difficult times are unpleasant and painful. Some might be readily endurable if not enjoyable, as, for example, what we endure when we see that we are accomplishing a desirable goal. We suffer pain to avoid further pain, as when we submit to the dentist or undergo painful medical treatment. We welcome some difficulties as a challenge to our strength and an opportunity for progress.
Suffering is a funny thing. It may sound strange to use the word funny as an adjective to describe suffering. Actually, the two words are oxymoronic! Suffering is often coupled with words like hard, painful, and difficult. The concept of suffering is totally contradictory to the first law of nature: self-preservation. No, funny is not a word that generally comes to mind when we think of suffering. However, I would like to offer a perspective that will, indeed, support the use of these two words in the same vein.