Mark at Christian Doubt, linked to an article on George John Romanes, a gifted scientist during the 19th century, whose scientific beliefs led to a prolonged period of questioning his faith and God. He suffered declining health, so his friend, Canon Scott-Holland, including this exhortation within a letter of sympathy to his friend:
It is a tremendous moment when first one is called upon to join the great army of those who suffer.
That vast world of love and pain opens suddenly to admit us one by one within its fortress.
We are afraid to enter into the land, yet you will, I know, feel how high is the call. It is as a trumpet speaking to us, that cries aloud—‘It is your turn—endure.’ Play your part. As they endured before you, so now, close up the ranks—be patient and strong as they were. Since Christ, this world of pain is no accident untoward or sinister, but a lawful department of life, with experiences, interests, adventures, hopes, delights, secrets of its own. These are all thrown open to us as we pass within the gates—things that we could never learn or know or see, so long as we were well.
God help you to walk through this world now opened to you as through a kingdom, regal, royal, and wide and glorious. My warmest sympathies to your wife.
These words are not necessarily easy ones to hear while in the midst of deep suffering. In fact, we may recoil in protest and anger that any one should have the audacity to encourage us to "play our part" during our suffering. There are some forms of suffering I pray I never have to endure, despite what "hopes, delights, and secrets" I may gain through the experience. However, I cannot help but be aware that there often are valuable gifts and depths of wisdom that the sufferer earns should she choose to endure and stand through the experience. In fact, they may not be gained any other way. As I try to make develop a worldview consistent with my knowledge and experiences, I ponder the role of suffering in the world. Does it make more sense that there is suffering, though often much of value to be gained through it if a benevolent God is ruler over creation, or if we were given birth in a quantum vacuum, which has no awareness of our existence? What do you think?