Suffering is very difficult to understand.
I've heard more than one person ask how a loving God could allow suffering.
I definitely do not have all the answers, but here are a few things I'm learning about suffering as I walk with some very dear friends through some very difficult times. Times that can only be referred to as suffering.
Amy is one of those dear friends. It was over 4 years ago that she was diagnosed with Primary Schlerosing Cholangitis, 3 years ago that she had surgery to have her colon removed, and 1 year ago that she was diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma (cancer) and began chemotherapy. To say it has been a long, hard road for her and her loved ones would be an understatement. It's a road that has only gotten more difficult. It definitely qualifies as a road of suffering.
The first thing I've learned is that people seem to respond one of two ways to suffering. They either become angry and bitter with hearts hardened toward others, or their hearts become soft and their compassion for others becomes great. Those who have soft hearts, full of compassion, are quick to lean into the suffering of others and support them any way possible. It's an amazing thing to witness! Amy and her family have grown beautifully soft hearts!
Second, people often find it comforting to talk to others who have suffered through circumstances similar to their own. It can be very helpful to have one, who has walked the path before you, guide your way. It's also very helpful to have someone say, "I too felt and thought the things you are thinking and feeling now. It's normal." Amazing how soothing that can be.
The third thing I'm learning is how qualified Jesus is to understand, empathize, and have the deepest compassion for us in the midst of our suffering. He too experienced rejection, hearts of bitterness towards Him, the loss of loved ones, the illnesses of loved ones, being beaten and abused, being nailed to a cross, and death. A death that He suffered by choice, to forgive the sins of everyone who would repent and seek the salvation He alone can offer!
Jesus walked through suffering to make His compassion for us complete. So by His suffering He would know exactly how we feel in ours. So we could turn to Him in the midst of our darkest journeys, knowing that He had already walked the same path of suffering, and trust Him to guide us through ours. So that He could offer the comfort of one who fully understands.
Jesus suffered on our behalf, He allowed His heart to be soft so His compassion for us would be great! That is what a loving God does!
He also suffered so that, as my dear friend Amy wisely reminds me, "This is the closest we ever have to get to hell."