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Below is a brief quote from Jon D. Levenson’s recent book The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (see also here).

His point is simple and, I feel, self-evident, but something about which we need to be reminded now and then.

But deserved or not, suffering has a powerful capacity to turn sufferers away from the illusions of self-sufficiency and invulnerability, both of which appeal very readily to the successful but both of which, in the traditional Jewish view, powerfully inhibit the love of God and the strength and healing it brings. Sometimes suffering opens up the heart when nothing else can.

The Love of God, p. 36

There is a reason, I suppose, why both Old and New Testaments deal so honestly with suffering.

Of course, a Christian angle would include something of how we “participate” in or even “complete” the suffering of Jesus when we suffer (Philippians 3:10, Colossians 1:24).

I would also add the suffering of Jesus can and should be seen an embodiment of Israel’s story—a “fulfillment” (as it were) of the Old Testament that doesn’t get as much airtime as it probably should. And so when we suffer “in Christ” we connect with, are “invested” in, the Old Testament narrative on a very practical level.

The suffering pilgrim is part of a long tradition.

[For those interested, I lay out my own view on the role of doubt (which is a mental/emotional suffering) in the life of faith in The Sin of Certainty.]
Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.