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"Those who have known pain profoundly are the ones most wary of uttering the cliches about suffering."
—John Howard Griffin


Those Who Suffer

In observing the news coverage for the last week and a half, I am not quite sure whether I am being informed about the blow-by-blow events of a war, a boxing match, or a football game. Are the participants that are maneuvering to gain advantage soldiers or athletes? From the sofas—or are they bleachers?—there certainly are a lot of excited armchair quarterbacks offering opinions about what should have been the right play, what seems to be the play now, and what ought to be the play in the future. The sixteenth century Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus observed, "War is delightful to those who have had no experience of it."

The infamous Napoleon learned at least this much from the carnage he inflicted, reflecting, "The sight of a battlefield after the fight is enough to inspire princes with a love of peace and a horror of war." Maybe in contrast to their leader's self-seeking reasons, this is why the average French citizen so despises war and the suffering it includes. As a nation, they have experienced war firsthand for centuries, and we must allow them their justified distaste for the suffering it causes.

While listening to the war coverage on the radio, I was struck by the casual and callous approach of the news media and the audience over the loss of human life in this war. After all, are not these soldiers laying their lives on the line for us? Is not the suffering of soldiers and their families enough to give us an appreciation for their sacrifice? Is not their intent, to protect the world from terrorism, worth appreciating? But many are viewing this war as if it were a sports program—with little or no concern for the resulting suffering.

The Allied military is making serious sacrifices on our behalf. Forget for a moment whether we agree with the officially stated purpose of this war with Iraq, or whether we believe that the administration is telling us the real reasons for the war. Our opinions do not change the fact that thousands of men and woman are putting themselves in danger for each of us. Jesus says, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).

It is well worth noticing the difference between the suffering of these soldiers in war compared to the suffering of Jesus Christ and His followers. The contrast is striking. The Allied soldiers are giving their lives for human glory, but Jesus and His servants give their lives to glorify God.

As Christians, we abhor war. We should be able to understand more deeply the sacrifice of the Allied soldiers and to feel saddened by the suffering on both sides of the battle lines. Our empathy should spring from our daily suffering with Christ, especially as we approach the anniversary of the unjust and undeserved death of Jesus, a man of peace who died after being brutally beaten and crucified. Christians should have great compassion for those who suffer in this war.

In contrast to suffering in war, I Peter 4:12-19 describes Christian suffering for God's glory:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

If there must be suffering and death, let it be done according to the will of God with a commitment to doing good, thereby glorifying our Creator.



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