Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

why pain and suffering?



Nothing makes a man amenable to change and growth like tragedy. Perhaps this observations serves as an explanation for why humanity suffers so much. Pain and suffering seem to be the often necessary catalyst for the shift in assumptions and attitude which must precede mental/spiritual development.


Exposure to new truth cannot be effective in imparting wisdom before the one exposed is ready. Being ready necessitates being uncomfortable with one's current understanding. As long as nothing challenges us to re-evaluate where we are, complacency and laziness cause us to enjoy a static, comfortable state of mind. If I am happy where I am, there is no reason to consider moving elsewhere, perhaps to a yet better place.


Numerous individuals, after a life tragedy, have observed how they are then better off in a very real sense. Somehow the pain they felt has moved them to a more desirable place in life. In every case, it seems that what has changed is how these sufferers view themselves and life in general. In other words, they have experienced a transformation in how they think. They have a whole new attitude about all aspects of their life, one generally relinquishing the need to be in control all the time. Another oft cited lesson of tragedy is the keen  awareness of the inter-relationship and common human experience of all mankind.


In postulating in this manner about the impetus for change, one might conclude that the broader the reach of a tragedy, the larger the number of people who will be thus transformed. Thus, a tragedy of worldwide proportion would likely shift the thinking of the vast majority of people.


Of course, there is no guarantee that the mental shift prompted by tragedy will be in a positive direction for everyone. We often hear, after a traumatic event, that we need to move backward to the mode of thinking and behaving that was prevalent in the past. Reclaiming past wisdom may be a perceived route to positive change, but real growth and development does not involve running in a circle, re-tracing past steps. I see no historical evidence that in the past we were generally wiser than currently. Some individuals may have been wiser, but I don't believe that societies at large were.


We all recognize the aphorism: No pain, no gain. It comes up most often in relation to athletic endeavors, indicating the suffering of training must precede success on the athletic field. The pain in view in this example is physical pain.


The required pain that I allude to is more mental. It is the suffering of doubt, the loss of certainty about the right path. It is a shift in thinking that causes us to question long held assumptions and perhaps begin a mental transition to a place we would never have previously even considered.


For the spiritual person, one who perceives a divine plan unfolding in human history, God must be directing mankind towards a destination or goal. If the transformation of the human mind (Romans 12:2) is in anyway a part of that process or purpose, then the suggested role of pain and suffering would be an essential element.


Following this line of thought, the trials of life, which the Bible associates with man's sin, potentially become the mechanism for achieving the mind of Christ, which is to guide the lives of those who achieve freedom from the bondage of sin. Paradoxically, then, the results of sinfulness, at least as it manifests itself in painful human behavior, would become the trigger by which sin is finally overcome. Jesus remains the Savior of mankind but not as the God appeaser but as an "abundant life coach".