1. Human suffering involves many factors that often get all mixed up. Jesus shows by this teaching and example that suffering comes into our lives. In itself, it is not from God but as Paul says, God works for good in everything for those who love him.
2. God hates human suffering. He wants to “wipe away every tear from (our) eyes.” (Revelation 21:4) Every time Jesus is faced with someone who is sick or disabled, he helps that person, despite the demands of his overarching calling to save the whole world.
3. Sometimes hardship, suffering, is necessary in order to accomplish our purpose. (The bleeding fingers of a novice guitarist?) Jesus of course is the paradigmatic example – suffering for the redemption of the world. In principle, if the world had accepted him wholeheartedly his sacrifice would have been his life lived, rather than his death died.
4. That doesn’t legitimate the imposition of suffering on him by the Sanhedrin and Pilate. It should never happen to anyone.
5. Some suffering is the result of our own sin or foolishness. God still hates it even if it is necessary. And we hate it when it happens to others, even if we know that it was the obvious consequence of their action, their freedom.
6. Some suffering comes from this being a fallen world and is due to no-one’s personal fault. Along with Christ, we hate that suffering.
7. All suffering is potentially redemptive and can be “offered up” in order to “fulfill what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.” (Colossians 1:24)
How do we handle suffering that we bring on ourselves by doing good?
How do we handle suffering that we bring on ourselves by behaving badly or foolishly?
How do we handle the suffering that comes to us from others behaving badly or foolishly?
How do we handle suffering that just seems to happen?