Suffering 101: What's Missing from Your College Education

Flip on the tube, tune in to a talk radio station, or do a quick search on the Internet and you’ll be flooded by news stories that all have pretty much the same headline: “Injustice, Persecution, and Murder Happened, More to Come”. Dig a little deeper and you’ll learn about dozens of current tragedies with more detail than what my 15 minutes of news consumption in the morning could inform you, but here’s the bottom line: our world is full of suffering. But as a college student it can often seem as if you are detached from this big scary world, in a sort of bubble between the parentheses of fun and freedom.

So, what does this have to do with your college experience? 

Well, why do you go to college? Among the more popular reasons (such as “make more money” or “have more opportunity”) is something along the lines of “become more knowledgeable.” This is a major draw for many young adults, as it should be. Knowledge can lead to a richer, fuller life. But what happens when you don’t learn the right stuff? What happens when you learn how to write a paper in APA format, or how to solve for “x” in calculus, but don’t learn how to endure persecution or injustice? What happens when your school doesn’t offer Suffering 101?

College is a great thing. But it can also be a time when the pervasive realities of a fallen world become painfully real; when our eyes are opened to a whole host of injustices, both in the world and in ourselves. As the old Puritan prayer reads, “A fountain of pollution is deep within [our] nature”. You see, the problem of suffering is really the problem of sin. The world is broken because the hearts of its inhabitants are full of injustice, and it can be our tendency to turn to untrustworthy sources for answers. But in a world permeating with the problem of evil, we need something that is trustworthy and something that is good. 

So, what’s my aim? Let’s walk through the Sovereign syllabus of God’s course on suffering. When you find the terrible realities of persecution, murder, and injustice to be true, even in your own heart, study two things:

1. God is Trustworthy

“The saying is trustworthy...that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” » 1 Timothy 1:15

Tim Keller said, “[Jesus] had to pay for our sin so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us.” We can trust God because one day all that’s wrong with the world and our hearts will be made right. And we can trust him because he knows suffering; he suffered to make us new.

2. God is Good

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”  » Genesis 50:20

Joseph said this to his brothers after they left him to die in a hole, but then decided to sell him into slavery instead. That is some serious, multifaceted suffering. But even though the hurt, he knew God was good and that He was working all things toward that end.

So, go to your next class. Gain some new knowledge. But when your pursuits lead you to a burdensome awareness of evil and suffering - in this great big world and in the person in the mirror - don’t turn to your textbook for answers. Look to the Trustworthy and Good Author of Salvation.

Hayden Nesbit