To be human is to be in trouble. Job’s anguish is our epigraph: “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Suffering is a characteristic of the personal. Animals can be hurt, but they do not suffer. The earth can be ravaged, yet it cannot suffer. Man and woman, alone in the creation, suffer. For suffering is pain plus: physical or emotional pain plus the awareness that our own worth as people is threatened, that our own value as creatures made in the dignity of God is called into question, that our own destiny as eternal souls is jeopardized. Are we to be, finally, nothing? Are we to be discarded? Are we to be rejects in the universe and thrown onto the garbage dump of humanity because our bodies degenerate or our emotions malfunction or our minds become confused or our families find fault with us or society avoids us? Any one of these things, or, as is more likely, a combination of them, can put us in the state Psalm 130 describes as “the bottom has fallen out of my life!”

A Christian is a person who decides to face and live through suffering. If we do not make that decision, we are endangered on every side. A man or woman of faith who fails to acknowledge and deal with suffering becomes, at last, either a cynic or a melancholic or a suicide. Psalm 130 grapples mightily with suffering, sings its way through it, and provides usable experience for those who are committed to traveling the way of faith to God through Jesus Christ.

Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2012).

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