The Purpose of SufferingApril 9, 2023 - 12:00 am
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him My salvation. — Psalm 91:15-16
When I was a young girl, the hardest part of the Passover seder was waiting. You see, before the meal is served comes the retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. And in my family that meant that my father led a wide-ranging discussion, dissecting every nuance of the story to make sure that each one of us heard the message of God’s redemption.
Because we had to wait so long to eat, I always enjoyed the small bite we had just before the storytelling began. This is called karpas, where we eat a piece of a vegetable dipped in salt water. The salt water reminds us of the tears from the suffering of the children of Israel in Egypt.
The message of karpas, eaten just before the story of redemption begins, is that there can be no redemption without suffering. To put this lesson in more modern terms: “No pain. No gain.” This is also the meaning behind the commandment to eat bitter herbs together with the Passover offering.
The Purpose of Suffering
Suffering as a prerequisite for redemption provides an important connection between Passover and Easter, celebrated at this same time of year.
It’s true that the reason for Easter occurring when it does is because the events surrounding the crucifixion took place during the Passover celebration. For example, it’s clear that the Last Supper was a Passover seder. But these two festivals are also connected thematically.
Just as the children of Israel could only reach redemption after a lengthy period of suffering in Egypt, so, too, in the Christian tradition, Jesus brought salvation to the world only after a period of suffering.
None of us wish suffering on ourselves or anyone else. But the ultimate purpose of suffering is redemption. Oftentimes, suffering causes people to focus on what is most important and rethink their priorities in positive ways.
More importantly, suffering leads us to pray, to call out to God. And when we call out to God in suffering, He suffers with us, and redeems us. As God says through the psalmist: “He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”
Your turn: Have you suffered in your life? Are you going through a difficult time? Call out to God and remember the purpose of suffering is redemption. God is faithful; He will redeem you.