What are some answers to the title question? Is it because we screw things up? Because we’re bad? Is it because we do not break free from the chains of desire? Is it ultimately unknowable? In my reading this morning, I came upon some interesting thoughts in Richard Rohr’s On the Threshold of Transformation. (279)
“Suffering is our necessary perception of evil. If we don’t feel evil, we stand apart from it, numb and aloof, and do not see our own complicity in it. Jesus did not numb himself or stand above pain; in fact the cross reveals his utter solidarity with all the suffering of history. It was God’s way of joining us at our lowest moments. I’m not sure how or why, but our suffering unites us to God and to other people—and therefore to ourselves.
“The irony is not that God should feel so fiercely but that God’s creatures should feel so feebly. If you find nothing to cry about or no injustice that deserves your anger, then you are blind and out of touch. We need to make personal the immense pain of humanity, of animals, of the earth itself, which is all the very pain of God. He holds it first, we hold it second. If we agree to hold it with him, I think we can actually participate in the salvation of the world (See Colossians 1:24-25).”
The opposite of suffering isn’t pleasure—it’s numbness. In a spiritual sense, it’s sloth, acedia. No one welcomes suffering, but one must be awake to experience it.
(The image is from yasminsinai.com.)