I began thinking about this topic when I was in the YMCA pool and saw a beautiful young boy being carried on a stretcher into a dressing area by his two care givers. He couldn't hold his head straight, and his hands and feet were twisted lumps.
The Bible tells us that a major problem with our human fallen nature is pride. Martin Luther said that “Pride is the mother of all sin” and I’ve never read a theologian that disagrees with this.
In practice, “pride” boils down to our deep instinctive attitude that “I deserve better”. We all think we deserve better appreciation for our thoughts, words, actions, feelings and wishes. In practice pride motivates much (maybe most?) of what we do. Sometimes these responses are benign, and sometimes these responses are destructive. This “I deserve better” attitude causes us to change the channel, to stop for a coffee, to have an affair, to take drugs, and so on. In our destructive responses we think “What was done to me was wrong and unjust and I deserve better so I’m going to move in this direction which will be more satisfying to me (my pride)”. Often times the destructive response to our wounded pride concludes that our most satisfying response will be to retaliate by then hurting the other person’s pride. Think about it: Whenever our feelings are hurt it is always due to our feeling that we were treated wrongly and unjustly and we deserve better treatment than that. If we had zero pride, then we would not be offended by another person’s behavior toward us. When we ask our Father in the Lord's prayer to forgive our sins "for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us" we are telling Him that we forgive everyone who has wounded our pride.
The Bible identifies various reasons why we suffer through trials. Some of them include: God disciplines His beloved children; He wants to turn hearts back to Him; He wants us to see the true state of our faith; we belong to a group that is suffering; God wants us to demonstrate our faith to non-believers; demonic possession, and others. Learning to recognize and understand the specific reason for a particular trial is an ongoing challenge and growth experience throughout a Christian’s earthly life.
Let’s look at perhaps the two most common types of trials that the Bible describes. One type of trial is a “tragedy” that happens to a person totally out of their control as an unfortunate natural result of living in a broken world. The other type of trial is a “manufactured” relational trial that is created by someone hurting another person’s pride. We sustain our suffering in these manufactured relational trials when we stubbornly refuse to simply ignore our deep inborn pride and ask and receive forgiveness. Like so much in the challenge of Christian living, this forgiving is easier read than done.
Examples of unavoidable tragedies that men, women, children and even tiny infants must endure are birth defects, disease, starvation, physical abuse, forced separation, death of loved ones, persecution for the Faith, etc. The Bible teaches that God sympathizes deeply with us when we suffer these tragedies that happen totally outside our control. These are the types of suffering that Jesus healed.
The Bible does not seem to teach that God sympathizes with us when we create, sustain and suffer from our own manufactured relational trials that we create when we hurt each other’s pride and then refuse to forgive. Instead God’s explicit solution to escaping these relational trials (commanded through Jesus and Paul) is to simply forgive one another seventy-seven times, stop quarreling, don’t let the sun to down on your anger, get over it, move on – walk it off! Apparently, God thinks this should be entirely possible for us now that we are new creations and have the power of the Holy Spirit in us. We don't see Jesus healing this type of suffering.
It seems like it is a mistake for us to walk around grieving, moping, angry and suffering in righteous indignation from a relational trial that we played a role in creating and sustaining, and imagine that God is pitying us and wanting to strengthen us while we endure it. It seems like God is focusing his pity and strengthening on those who are suffering major, truly uncontrollable tragedies, because he has clearly given us, his children, the key to manage our own relational trials. I wonder if it seems absurd - almost obscene - to Him that we dare to create and sustain our own certainly painful, but relatively minor and solvable relational trials – caused only by our unwillingness to conquer pride - and persist in feeling so sorry for ourselves that we are crippled from serving others and advancing the Kingdom while twisted little boys on stretchers are enduring unimaginably more difficult true tragedies that they played no role in causing, and for which the only resolution lies in continued prayer, endurance, and hopefully a miracle.