What is Suffering?

A friend asked me recently how I would define suffering. I panicked for a moment. I just published a book on suffering, but I didn’t seem to have a quick definition for it in my head. How had I allowed such an oversight?! But it didn’t take me long to find succinct words. Deep down, I know exactly what suffering is and what is its cause.

All suffering, at its most basic level, is our groaning under the weight of the effects of the Fall.

I have found it deeply helpful to ground my understanding of my own personal suffering in terms of the Fall. God did not intend husbands and wives for divorce. There was no cancer in Eden. And in terms of the communal crises facing us today, there was no disease in Eden. There was no racial bias.

Every ounce of suffering in your world, whether from your sin, another’s sin against you, sickness, death, job loss, relational crisis, or any other cause, stems initially from brokenness that came to our world as a result of the Fall of Man. The good news, in the midst of such widespread groaning, is found singularly in Jesus. No one has groaned under this weight more than Christ. He stood up under that weight for His years on earth, clearly troubled over and over again by what He witnessed. He felt compassion, in other words, suffering with those He saw suffering. And then He suffered FOR all of us on the cross. In our place. Bearing the heaviest weight of the Fall, a weight that would have crushed us.

As you bear up under the effects of the Fall on your own life, and on our world as a whole, know that Jesus understands. He more than understands. He carries this weight WITH you. And He carried the heaviest weight of it all FOR you on the cross in your place.


Companions in Suffering is now available on Amazon. I also have two free copies of the audio book from Audible. If you are willing to share this post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, comment below where you shared it, and I will enter you into a drawing for the free audio books. Winners will be announced on Wednesday June 24.

2 Responses to What is Suffering?

  1. Shelley Merritt June 21, 2020 at 4:03 pm #

    Thank you. This encourages me in my weight-bearing journey!

  2. Ann-Marie July 13, 2020 at 11:37 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more. After my son was stillborn, a friend’s mom said, “doesn’t it make you hate Adam and Eve’s choice all the more?” The response confused me at the time. I understood but it seemed a little theological for an emotional moment. Since then, I have thought a LOT about it, especially as I have struggled with an undiagnosed condition. Thinking of suffering in light of the fall, really does help. It helps me to have more compassion for myself and it keeps me from trying to control what I just can’t. Looking forward to reading your book soon.