“. . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” – Romans 5:3-5
Rabbi Harold Kushner in his widely read book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, tells the story about a couple who, in grieving the tragic loss of their teenage daughter, confessed to him that they had neglected to fast during Yom Kipper, as if their failure to observe religious custom had somehow precipitated their daughter’s untimely and unexpected death. They needed an answer, you see, and having none, blaming themselves seemed to provide a handy explanation. As it turned out the couple’s otherwise healthy daughter had suffered from the sudden rupture of a blood vessel, something no one would have ever suspected or detected. Yet, understandably the couple was desperate for an answer, and the answer that was in reach was to blame themselves.
We don’t do well with unanswered questions, do we? Human nature desires there be logical explanations for everything. The good news is that most of the knowledge we have today – from scientific discovery to the development and advancement of such disciplines as mathematics, engineering, philosophy, psychology, theology, art, music, and the study of history – is the result of our high sense of intellectual curiosity and desire for explanations. The bad news is that it is also the reason we have such a tendency to place blame when things go awry – blaming others, ourselves, or even God. Blame too often becomes the default answer when we have no other explanation.
Full knowledge, in spite of our pursuits to attain it, will never become perfect or complete in this lifetime. Thus we humans will never be free from sufferings that cannot be explained. But the Apostle Paul invites us to rejoice in our sufferings, “. . . because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us . . .” For hope is what inspires the human spirit, that in turn motivates the advancement of knowledge, all of which work for the betterment of the human condition and the building up of God’s Kingdom. Rejoicing in our sufferings still may not explain them, but what it does do is redeem them.