The following guest column is by Gladys M. Hunt, author, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In 1963 Helmut Thielicke, well-known German preacher, visited the United States. When asked by reporters what he considered the most important question of OUT time, especially in America, Thielicke spoke of his concern that Americans did not know how to deal with suffering, that they did not expect suffering to be part of life. He said, “Again and again, I have the feeling that suffering is regarded as something which is fundamentally inadmissible, disturbing, embarrassing and not to be endured.” If life is inconvenient or hard, there are pills and anodynes for everything.
In view of severe drug problems among old and young alike in the last ten years, his comments seem prophetic. Alcohol consumption increases among teens as drug abuse works its way down into elementary schools. While deploring both dope and booze, others regularly consume tranquilizers and pain-killers. It’s un-American to suffer. It spoils our pursuit of happiness.
To our shame, some contemporary evangelism leads people to believe that trusting Jesus will be like taking a giant aspirin. Testimonies of bubbling enthusiasm, where troubles always have a glib, happy ending because of Jesus, increase the expectation that this is what the Christian life is all about. Trust Jesus and be rid of suffering.
But the Bible never promises that. Instead, the words of Jesus and the apostles assure us that we will in fact suffer. How hard it is to hear that; in fact, we prefer not to hear it. We like some of the beatitudes, especially the one about peacemakers being called the children of God. But we don’t linger long over “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all ...1