It was Helmut Thielicke, the German theologian, who observed American Christians have an inadequate view of suffering. Basically, we want to remove whatever discomfort we find ourselves in.
Talk about discomfort, when I was in my first year in Emory Divinity School in the 1970’s, I was made a student intern in the burn ward of Emory University Hospital. During one of my rotations, I sat with a man who had third degree burns over 80 percent of his body. In those days, our pain management options were slim, the man was writhing in agony. His family was weeping uncontrollably, so when I met my professor later in the day to discuss what I had seen, he asked me my thoughts about a God who is all loving and all powerful but would still allow suffering like that. Without thinking I blurted out “Thank God!” The professor of chaplaincy shot me an angry look and sneered “Why would you thank God for any of this?” I told him, “Thank God that the Bible says, ‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed.’” (I Corinthians 15:51)
Scripture teaches that suffering will not forever ravage us. It teaches that suffering will give way to healing, that this broken world will give way to a new heaven and a new earth, that our sick bodies will become new and vigorous again.
Bill Gothard defined hope as enjoying the things of God’s tomorrow today. It is our hope for the better things that are coming that allows us to press through some of suffering and the horrors of this life. And, of course, as the sage C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”