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Theologically, Jesus statement on the call of true discipleship made it very clear and explicit that we should expect some trials and sufferings and that these were parts of discipleship. The nature of our sufferings mirrored Jesus suffering in his daily life. His passion, death and resurrection is the ultimate. Human suffering has a universal character is the world. The rich and the poor alike and indeed, all humans suffer.

On the contrary, within our contemporary world today Christs suffering in which we all participate fully by virtue of our creation is seen from a negative perspective as Gods punishment, humiliation and annihilation. Thus, a famous Pauline and Markan theology of suffering for the sake of Christ is gradually diminishing (cf Mark 13 :1-13). Therefore, it is characteristically rejected and vehemently opposed at all costs. But the vigorous aversion neither eliminates nor revolves the problem of human suffering. Eventually, the victim might suffer more without benefiting meaningfully from the difficult experience. Suffering is held by many as that which is more physical and has lost sight of other dimensions such as psychological, spiritual and emotional.

The aim or essential target of the project is to attempt a solution on the above mentioned problem. Suffering for the sake of Christ should be viewed from a positive position. Gods salvific will is not identical with his metaphysical necessary goodness and holiness nor something strictly derived from this. It is not a metaphysically attribute of God which can be established every where and always, but a divine attitude in the nature of an event which has to be experienced and proclaimed in history. This free attitude of God is ultimately directed toward the salvation of souls and mankind. Salvation according to the psalmist is deliverance

from mortal danger, healing of sickness, liberation from captivity, ransom from slavery, victory in battle and peace after political negotiations (Psalms 7:11; 18:28:28;22:22;34:7).



Man lives is the world in which sufferings of different kinds and degrees are inevitable. Rather than being imaginary, it is an existential problem which has become a distinctive mark of earthly life of all peoples, times and cultures. But then man has never fully grasped its meaning. Thus, man is often confused by its various forms of manifestations.

Though Christ urged us to carry our cross and follow him all the days of our sojourn on this earth, people often question why me? Man still views suffering in a negative perspective. One again is tempted to ask what really brings suffering? Why must man suffer? Hardly do people understand suffering as a way of following Christ. Can we say there is something good in suffering? How do our contemporary Christians view suffering? These are some of the problems that we shall be looking at in this project.



Human suffering is an existential phenomenon which is as old as man himself. It is present at all times and ages and indeed wherever human beings are found. Thus, the purpose of this work is to unravel the real understanding of human suffering in Christianity and to link it up with that of Christ which will pave way for the human quest for the salvation. This project will show us that suffering is part and parcel of humanity.



This work is of great importance to Christians because, it explores how Christians should look at suffering, and also accept it with faith whenever it comes because our master Jesus himself is our model. This work will also correct the wrong impression people have on suffering so that they will be able to carry their crosses daily and follow Christ.



This work primordially concerns itself with Christians doctrines on human suffering. We shall be looking at suffering in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Islamic religion. Attention too will be drawn to some Fathers of the Church who said something about human suffering. We shall also not forget the Churchs teaching and especially 2nd Vaticans view on suffering.



We shall implore the use of library research for gathering of information. Our interpretations also shall be based on comparative and also theological hermeneutical methods.



This work is divided into five chapters. Chapter one centers on general introduction as chapter two reviews some related literatures on the subject matter. Chapter three focuses on the various theological exposition of human suffering, while chapter four dwells on the hermeneutics of human suffering in the light of Pauline theology. The last and the concluding chapter is on summary and conclusion during which we shall be looking at the limitations, contribution to knowledge and recommendations for further research.


The Pauline theology and spirituality of suffering and those of the New Testament writers forms the bedrock of the later search for a better way of responding to the reality of human suffering. Even though the definitive experience of Gods revelation is said to have ended with the death of the last apostle of Jesus. However, that did not as a matter of fact, bring to a

close humanitys endeavour to probe into the meaning of life enigma. The New Testament setting and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ provides response to the reality of suffering in the world. Therefore, more and more attempts have been made in an effort to find out new intellectual and theological insight to deepen mans response to the reality of suffering and evil in the world. Thus, the church has produced Fathers whose theological reflections would help to deepen our theological search on human suffering. The phenomenon of human suffering is as old as humanity itself. Christians and non Christians, the rich and the poor alike and indeed, the entire humanity undergoes some sufferings. Suffering has a universal character since it is the issue that bothers humanity everywhere. And since suffering is experienced where ever by the humanity, there are various views concerning this issue. People talk about it irrespective of their religious affiliation, tribes or sex. Everybody knows that suffering exists and what it is, that is to say that all people know the answer to the what question of the meaning of suffering. To some people, suffering is an outcome of sin. Those people in this category view creation as perfect (Gen 1) and that distortion in creation arose from mans disobedience to his creator.

It is therefore the intention of this chapter to expose various views about suffering as expressed by different individuals at different times. But before then, we shall first of all look at suffering in the Old Testament, New Testament and the Islamic religion.

Pain, sickness and suffering are concrete, undeniable and unavoidable human experiences in human life. Suffering constitutes the subjective aspect of human pains involving together its physical aspect and its spiritual aspect.

In the Judeo-Christian approach to the understanding of suffering, it bases itself on creation narratives in which the devil destroyed existent peace, happiness and wholeness by playing into the human need for independence and personal greatness, disobedience deserves punishment and again a combination of human failure and divine activity from the source of pain and suffering for people who believe in God, there is always a relationship between suffering and divine power. Our task iSs on the religious understanding of pain, sickness and suffering as this is found in the biblical writings.

God intervened frequently in the history of ancient Israel. The book of Genesis speaks about this intervention in the call of Abraham (Gen 12:1), the first covenant (Gen 15:1), the birth of Isaac (Gen 21:1)), Jacobs dream (Gen 18:13), and many more occasions.

The people of the ancient Israel suffered through wars and oppressions. In the struggle for existence and in the violence of wars, the people sought divine protection and accepted divine leadership. One of the common titles for Yahweh in the Old Testament is Lord, mighty in battle. The psalmist expressed this in the words; who is the king of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle who is the king of the glory? The Lord of Hosts (ps 24:1-8).

This reliance on God seems secular in origin but it is worthwhile to note that the Lord of Hosts also takes a prominent position in the religious celebrations. The connection between secular and religious power is already visible in Egypt where Moses pronounced the punishment of the liberating God, while Aaron the priest performed the ritual action through which the punishment came upon the land (Ex 7:17-18) on the journey through the desert, whenever the Ark of the Covenant was set out, Moses would pray. Arise, o Lord, that your enemies may be scattered, and those who heard may flee before you (Ex. 10:35, Ps 68:1). Deliverance and battle were inseparably connected. Both battle and deliverance are portrayed in the worship of the one God who won the battle and brought freedom. According to Caroll Stublmueller:

Liturgical celebrations are an essential company in the Old Testament understanding of suffering. Many religious celebrations, particularly the Passover were a re-living of the liberating actions of Yahweh. Through the prophet, Yahweh indicates how deep the union between him and his people has grown because of their suffering and hope. In their own tribulations the Israelites hear the voice of the suffering God. Stublemueller says:

If Israel sensed this blending of voices suffering, her own and Gods then a mystic aura must have pervaded the suffering voices of contemplative prayers are merging, with voices of suffering.

Although the community is suffering, the emphasis begins to shift to individual persons who are caught up in this condition.

The Old Testament considers the deeper cause of human suffering to be any disturbance of the relationship between God and man through sin, and the anger of God thereby incurred.

Thus, pain in child bearing, various kinds of troubles, hardships and suffering sickness and death came into the world as a result of the first sin (Gen 3:16-19; Wis 2:24).

Summarily, the Old Testament revelation on the

meaning of suffering reaches its climax in

Isaiah 53 of the suffering servant of God. Meanwhile, we can say that the Old Testament achieves a rational explanation of suffering which goes beyond all the futile attempts for other earlier scholars and religions to find some meaning in suffering. According to Martin Udejiofor (2006:58), suffering therefore becomes a means of atonement that obliterates sin in the sight of God. In this way God gives the devout man the opportunity of atoning for his sins in this world, so that in the world to come, life may be preserved from punishment.

In the Old Testament there is that close connection between suffering and the Yahwehs relationship and his chosen people. Therefore, it is not surprising that the role of suffering as it existed in the Old Testament. Hence, the New Testament era was a moment in the expectancy of Israel for final deliverance by the Messiah. Thus God came down to his people as deliverer, consequently, pain and suffering which has entered into their religions became a holy ground for human and divine touch. Similarly, Christianity, which comes from an ancestry that incorporates misery and redemption, submission and slavery and liberation, contains within itself these same elements.

For the New Testament, human suffering has still greater significance than for Judaism, no wonder, almost all the books of the New Testament speak of suffering, thus, Udejiofor (2006:61) remarks:

Like the Israel of Old Testament, the New Testament inquires into the why of the human suffering. However, it never offered a definitive answer in search for the why? Of suffering. What then in the light of the New Testament is or are the causes of pain, misery and human pain. The voice of Jesus echoes timelessly to illuminate our hearts and to better our understanding of the mystery of suffering. On one occasion Jesus designates the power of Satan as the origin of suffering (cf Lk 13:10-17).

Suffering, in the light of the New Testament also comes as punishment for ill behavior. As in the case where Christ warns his disciples. you will all come to the same fate and unless you repent (Lk. 13:1-6). In this instance we can see that the suffering of one person can stand as a warning for others. On the other hand, the New Testament in general denies the prevailing doctrine of the Pharisees, that all suffering is retribution. To understand the attitude of Jesus and of the New Testament towards suffering, we must take as our starting point the very fact of his own suffering as the entire messianic work consisted of suffering in manifold form.

The crucified Jesus is the lamb of God who by his suffering takes away the sin of the world. According to the late supreme pontiff Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter, February, 1984: Christ introduces us into the very heart of Gods salvific work. He also expresses the very essence of Christian soteriology, that is the theology of salvation,

salvation means liberation from evil and for this reason closely bound up with the problem of suffering. The New Testament reveals the Lamb of God in the song of the suffering servant who freely chooses to make himself a sin offering for the people. He heals others through his innocent suffering and brings about justice and peace through the blood of his cross, by his salvific work, the son of God liberates man from sin and death, he blots out from human history the dominion of sin, under the influence of evil spirit beginning with the original sin. He also takes away the dominion of death.

On the other hand, Islamic view of suffering may be categorized broadly into two headings. The first is to suffer as a result of punishment for sin; the second type of suffering is a test or trial. The Quran repeatedly stresses that all who do evil will be punished for their actions in this world and the next. This doctrine is associated with an emphasis on the perfect justice of Allah which is to be vindicated on the judgment day, when the evil doers will be thrown into the fires of hell (cf Surah 52).

Thus, the punishment of a sinner through suffering may serve as an educational function namely, to show unbelievers the truth of Allahs word, and reveals a central precept of Islam on the subject of suffering. It is also a test of mans belief. This concept is based upon the belief that the true Muslim stands by his/her faith despite the suffering or persecution.

Therefore, the active response to suffering is grounded in the Islamic belief that man is the cause of his own suffering. Islam considers good those things that got rid of the world of suffering. The man who helps others is a righteous man. The true believer is revealed by his good works as well as by his acceptance of suffering.

Many writers over the ages have expressed their opinions about suffering. Some of them offered the phenomenon a negative view because it brings pains and anxiety to people, some at the same time gave the concept a positive commutation base on the fact that it is a symbol of love, glory and success. The early Christian missionaries associated suffering with being a follower of Christ. Thus, according to the apostle Paul, it involves both a work to be done and suffering to be borne if the body of Christ is to be built up and the life of Christ to be diffused to new monster (John Hick, 1973:35). Paul expressed that his suffering is of great value to the entire being of Christ through encouragement (2 Cor. 1:4-7).

The second letter to the Corinthians expresses another value that Paul finds in personal suffering; that is, it allows the power of God to become manifest (2Cor. 12:6-10; 13:4). Also paging further to 2Cor 12:6-10, Paul speaks of his thorn in the flesh. The values of the suffering are seen in that it forced him to humility and surrender before the creator. Elaborating on suffering, some of St. Peters words in one of his letters come into play:

None of you should ever deserve to suffer for being a murderer, a thief, a criminal or an informer; but if any one of you should suffer for being a Christians, then there must be no shame but thanksgiving to God for bearing his name. (1Pet 4:15-16). Suffering as it were, denies ones of happiness and brings him to almost a shameful state in life. Here ones faith has to come in, to hand over to God every situation. Peter, as a disciple of Christ was speaking from his personal experience, imploring the followers of Jesus to remain steadfast. When one understands that God is in control, he sees his suffering as glory. This


could explain why some Christians who suffered martyrdom where rejoicing as they were been tortured to death.

St Ireanaeus (120 200 AD), a native of Asia Minor and missionary in Gaul, both himself and Augustine have some similarities in their doctrines precisely that of suffering. Both rejected the dualistic solution and looked to God as the alternate source of all realities. However, while Augustine looks at the cause of suffering as mans fall from grace as a result of his freewill, for Ireaneaus, sin is not a kind of disaster instead it is a painful challenging call to grow towards an authentic human holiness.

According to him, the encounter with good and evil is part of the growing process of human consciousness. In his view sin does not ruin human condition instead it delays it. Thus, the journey towards moral and personal maturity was delayed by mans fall. However, that fall and it effect has been renewed by the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

The classical theories provide that human suffering is the problem of misuse of human freedom. We see that the problem of suffering is not an abstract reality but can be solved by reasoning and understanding. Humanity undergoes suffering and answers about suffering will not provide any solution. According to Greshake as quoted in Martrin Udejiofor (2006:121), suffering is not a problem to be integrated into life. However, it is really a search for understanding that can offer and direct for a responsible response to suffering formulated. St. Augustine (353-430) at the age of forty three began to write his biography, which is the story of his search for the truth ad personal struggle with evil.


According to Augustine who thought at that moment, was under the influence of the Manichean dualistic theory evil is the absence of the good. He held that, matter is evil and do not the creation loving good God. The Manicheans held that the world embodies two opposing powers of good and the evil power causes all the evil in the universe. Following this trend of thought, for Augustine every thing that is positive is good and that it becomes evil when it ceases to be what it should be.

For him, God created man to be free. He gave man the dignity of freedom so that his response more than being controlled by God would instead be a loving response to God. However man misused his freedom and chose evil instead of good and since sin has devastating repercussions for man, so like a destructive tidal wave, sin flowed over in variety of painful consequences. Augustine thus, says that because of sins, humanity began to bear the burden work, disease, weakness, fragility and widespread of suffering. However Augustine posits that God does not abandon man in his suffering and miseries.

But Augustine saw in suffering the power and goodness of God for he says, suffering here must be taken to mean both mercy and physical evil. However, Augustines invocation to the divine omnipotence reconciles our hope and faith in God while we ask the question why suffering. He places the answer thus, that Gods omnipotence does not pose problem with human suffering for him one of the marks of omnipotence is that it can extract good from evil.

Similarly, in Thomas Aquinas is the conviction that every nature or being fully realized or in potency towards realization, is basically good. This goes along way affirming Augustines position, for he says evil is the privation of good which chiefly and of itself consists in perfection and act.


As for whether God is the cause of suffering, Aquinas holds that the omnipotence is goodness himself and that in him there is no defect of evil since he is all good. Therefore, it follows then that in Aquinas opinion, suffering is as a result of mans sin. And God sends it to man because of defect nature, as a result of his fall from grace human nature became wounded. Thus, we are born into a broken world of suffering. But God overcomes evil and makes suffering redemptive in the life, death, and resurrection Jesus, the son of God and the suffering servant.

Magnate, (1992), in his view does not make a distinction between human nature and human experience when commenting on suffering. Man is not free from suffering. It is part and parcel of humanity. To demonstrate this, Magnate embarked on enumerating experiences of suffering of men of old in the Old Testament and New Testament. For him, human being is prone to suffering. This stern from the fact that man derailed from Gods injunction in the Garden of Eden and this made suffering come in. According to Magnate, Jesus Christ is the example per excellence as far as suffering is concerned. He adulates that: Jesus certainly suffered for the benefit and salvation of others like the suffering servant. He does not eliminate suffering and death, but he assumes them. In so doing, he manifests the great love of God for humanity (Magnate, 1992:132). The suffering of Christ as the innocent one should be a panacea for the quest for salvation. The suffering of Christ also points to the fact that mortal men can suffer and for man it is a cross when it comes as a result of faith in Christ. Human beings are so soaked up with sufferings of various kinds so much so that they begin questioning the existence of God. As if to justify their stand, one of the complainants has this to put across:


I would rather face life without God than to live with the thought that God is so insensitive to human experience that immeasurable pain and suffering are divinely prescribed treatments for evil in the hearts and actions of five years old girls (Duke, 2004:40). We notice from the foregoing quotation that there are people who are not at home with sufferings and tend to doubt Gods existence. Such people most at tines preferred been dead, some attempt suicide hence they do not see the value of life any longer.

Karl Rahner, (1965), sees suffering as the way in which the entire world informs the human mind and the spirit (passio in St. Thomas). This suffering always spontaneously exposes itself to the world and the world cannot do otherwise rather, it dire to embrace it. The experience of this exposure of the human mind to the world causes man to experience a demitting contradiction, both within and without. This contradiction occurs when the relationship has been antecedently turned against God and salvation.

Fitcher, (1981) offered some pieces of advice to Christians to embrace sufferings whenever they come. According to him, suffering should be viewed as something positive, something that brings joy; they should try to cheerfully offer it to God since Christianity offers the hope of gladness through suffering when Christ is revealed. Fitcher so encourages suffering because since Christ who is God suffered for us voluntarily, we too should be happy to embrace it in the name of Christ. He maintains that suffering was no longer unjust and all pain was necessary (Fitcher, 1981:46).


Jungen Moltmann maintains that there is a call for human solidarity in the face of suffering, confident that if we are made in Gods image, then God himself enters into and shares palpably all human suffering. According to him and in a special way, those who suffer injustice remain indelibly etched in Gods memory and ought to be in scribed in human consciousness. He believes that in the memory of Jesus Christ there is hope even in the face of inexplicable human suffering. He concluded that the meaning of suffering defies simplistic categories.

In contrast to the above argument, Youggi Cho champions the opinion that human suffering is punishment for sins. Youggi Cho himself as a person suffered recurrent sickness all through his life. When he talks like this, he is coming from his own personal experience. According to him, suffering fundamentally arises from ones disobedience to God. In his view, he says: Sickness, death, the curse and pain were all brought about because man rebelled against God and developed a companionship with devil. Man refused the calling, exhortation and love of God and did not respond to him. So God allowed man to go his way as one who was deserted (Youggi Cho, 1985:34).

He frees God from any blame and locates the moral humanity at the center of cause and origin of suffering. One will find interesting to observe that, a similar viewpoint on suffering is maintained among traditional Africans. According to Ekechukwu E. 1982:6, though some sufferings may be attributed to human carelessness, it should not be overlooked that to talk of suffering is to talk of the shear bloody agonies of existence of which all men are aware and of which most have direct experience. Individual and collective experience of suffering is intimately linked with Igbo morality. Taking the Igbo culture as an example and of course where the author comes from, he believes that suffering among the Igbos is morally determined, and therefore a punishment for sins.


Another scholar that accepted the fact that suffering is universal and part of human existence is Cornelius Van der Poel (1999). He maintains: Human life is a gift received from God for the purpose of manifesting Gods love. Human creative development includes suffering and struggle, but ultimately, there is a fulfillment on God (Van der Poel, 1999:98). Human beings by implication cannot be free from the suffering. Suffering must come. It is part and parcel of human existence. Reaffirming his ground he further postulates:

Suffering is such a deeply personal reality and general experience that we cannot realistically imagine human existence without some form of it (Van der Poel, 1999:97). When suffering becomes so intensed that the victim can no longer bear, the sufferer tends to ask question that sometimes affects his faith. With the exit of time Van der Poel affirms that suffering acts as a catalyst for personal choice that bounds humanity to God. The chosen people come to know God better, love him and draw closer to him because of their wars and prolonged suffering. According to him God does not will humanity to suffer but to embrace it as a way of life that renders service to him.

In congruence with Van der poel, Celestine Umeh also views suffering as a mystery. In one of his books The human suffering, Umeh maintains that mystery is the most appropriate term for the description of suffering. For him, he refers to mystery in this regard as What cannot be fully grasped by human comprehension or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation (2006:7-18). Umeh calls human suffering a mystery because of its wide, varied

and multidimensional nature which defies human explanation. As a mystery, Umeh shows that the magnitude of human suffering cannot be measured by the human mental capacity. He further reiterates that human beings should rather bow in faith before it as a mystery while they continue to search for the proper ways of understanding it. The above conception of suffering as a mystery and a phenomenon related to faith, though may be religiously valuable, is not helpful in human against suffering useless. For how can you alleviate suffering or end it if it is inexplicable? Except by mystery the author means a phenomenon that is fully known (which is not the case here); the above notion of suffering is intellectually retardatory towards the human effort in understanding and building a suffering free-society.

With regards suffering, another scholar so pertinent to mention is James Cone (1975). For Cone the reality of suffering challenges the affirmation that God is freeing those held down from human captivity. If God is unlimited both in power and in goodness, as the Christian faith claims, why does he not destroy the powers of evil through the establishment of divine righteousness? If God is the liberator of the sufferer who freed Israelites from the slavery in Egypt, the God also who heals the sick, and the God who is ever present in our midst, why are the black people still living in financial and economic as well as political bondage to determine their historical destiny? (Cone, 1975:163).

Notwithstanding, John Hick is the book entitled the mystery of suffering and death has this to say: To relate the sad facts of human misery to the problem of theodicy, we have to ask ourselves whether a world from which suffering was excluded would serve the divine purpose of soul-making. Having been created through the long evolutionary process as a personal creature made in the image of God, would man be able to grow without suffering

towards the finite Like of God? (Michael, 1973:25). Hick further stresses that so far as human nature is concerned, the question concerns mans liability to bring suffering upon his fellows by his own selfish, greed, cruelty and lovelessness (Michael, 1973: 25). He maintains that in order for man to be endowed with the freedom in relation to God, it is essential that he comes to his creator in uncompelled faith and love; man must be initially put an end epistemic distance from the creator. And this according to him entails his immersion in an apparently autonomous environment which presents itself to him, as if there were no God.

In the view of Fyodor Doestoevsky, people suffer for their sins. His understanding of suffering comes with the experience he confronted from what he observed from how children suffer. According to his viewpoint, when children are undergoing some sufferings, it is as a result of the sins of their parents. He says: If they too, must suffer horribly on earth, they must suffer for their fathers, they must be punished for their fathers, who have eaten the apple, but that reasoning is of the other world and is incomprehensible for the heart of man here on earth, an innocent must not suffer for anothers sins and especially such innocent. His view aims at exemplifying human suffering as deliberately inflicted by men themselves. He is understood as postulating that mans wickedness which led to suffering explains his temptation to refuse the heaven. Fulton Sheen (1987) appears pessimistic about suffering when he makes allusion to Christ as suffering innocent though he was, had to undergo it for the betterment of humanity. Sheen further reinstates that, man in his own way always seeks to comprehend the why question. The death of Christ on the cross for Sheen is something worth

emulating because he willingly accepted and endured it. Sheen offers us a theological implication of the symbol of the cross especially what the bar on which he was nailed signifies. In his view point, the horizontal bar signifies death while the vertical bar signifies life. The crossing of both the horizontal bar and vertical bar signifies the contradiction in human experience; life and death, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears pleasure and pain. He adds that to overcome evil one must suffer unjustly (p. 39).

One of the leaders of the Church, Pope Leo XIII (1884) has this to say that, human suffering was said to have originated from the garden of Eden when the devil deceived Adam and Eve and they fell. And since that time till date, man has the capacity of falling and falling again. He further stresses that the race of man after its miserable fall from God, the creator and the giver of heavenly gifts, through the devil separated into two diverse and opposite parts. Following from the Popes argument, he is proposing the devil to be responsible for the suffering in the world. The ulterior basis of human suffering could somehow be attributed to the direct or indirect activities of the evil spirits. By always tempting man, the devil has in mind that man turns away from the creator, he makes sure that man loses his target of following his creator. And when man deviates from his creator he suffers as it were.

Pope John Paul II (1984) on the similar note observes that suffering is particularly essential to the nature of man. And as such, man needs to go beyond himself to grasp this reality. Making allusion to the Old Testament, the Pope maintains:

Man suffers on account of evil, which is a certain lack, limitation or distortion of good. We could say that man suffers because he does not share, from which in a certain sense is out of or of which he has deprived himself (John Paul II 1986:6).

In the view of the supreme pontiff, he limits the cause of suffering to the individual sufferer. He then shifted from the individual standpoint that refuses to share his good and takes a Christian dimension to the meaning of suffering. On this, suffering is not just the absence of the good otherwise there will be a big question against the suffering of the innocent Job and that of Jesus. The Pope further urges those suffering to embrace it with happiness and see themselves as sharing in the redemptive work of Christ. Agreeing with this view, Evelyn (1998) says that suffering accepted in the spirit of Christ is acceptance of his redemptive power.

The call of the church to oppose injustice and operation reached its climax in the teachings of the Vatican 11 council, especially in Gaudium et spes which at the beginning says: The joy and hope, that grief and anguish of the people of our age especially of those who are poor or afflicted in anyway, are the joy and hope, the grief and the anguish of the followers of Christ as well.

The Christian involvement here is a holistic one and participation in the mystery of those who suffer. This world-involving Christian mission for the suffering humanity was further stressed in 1971 when the synod of bishops formulated a document justice in the world, in that document, the bishops declared that justice and liberation constitutive elements and dimensions of proclaiming the gospel. The church calls all, to jointly work towards the betterment of the world. Lumen Gentium no8 agrees with Gaudium et spes when it says that the church encompasses with love all those who are afflicted with human weakness. The document sees in the poor and the suffering the likeness of her poor and suffering founder (Christ). The church hence works towards the needs and alleviation of those who suffer and by so doing strives to serve Christ (LG no 8).


Undeniably and understandably, there is a self-evidence deep sensitivity noticeable in late John Paul II for the sufferings of the world. Round the world the journey took him to various places where people encountered the pain of poverty, starvation, economic and political oppression. He always addressed the problem publicly, showing the pain of suffering and its redemptive possibilities. He described evil as privation of good and suffering as a consequence of sin.

To round up this chapter, we have successfully looked at a good number of authors and people who talked about the issue at stake as well as the Vatican 11s view. As many as there are authors so are there different views about suffering. Some tend to agree with the Old Testament notion of suffering, that is the sinner suffers. Others agree that suffering is peculiar to human nature and that, human nature as it were, provokes suffering. Still, some suggest that suffering is relative and is better appreciated from a stand point. Every approach to human suffering is right, though may not be sufficient depending on its background. No doubt the knowledge acquired here is so rich and it is the intention of the writer that all suffering in the name of Christ be viewed as sharing in the redemptive work of Christ and should be a quest for salvation of souls.


CHAPTER THREE THEOLOGICAL EXPOSITION OF HUMAN SUFFERING In a world beset by varied forms of sufferings, St. Paul offers us as he did for his contemporaries, the true sense of suffering in the world. A deeper understanding of the cross of Jesus has made Christians, represented in a significant way by Paul, to transcend the popular doctrine of divine retribution as the cause of sufferings in the world. Just as in other aspects of Christian faith, the meaning of suffering is extensively addressed in his (Pauls) life, teaching and writing.

Thus in this chapter, we shall be looking at various dimensions of human suffering with a view to bringing out the theological implications.



Human suffering is one of the human experiences that defies a single definition. This is because suffering has many dimensions, which are better experienced than defined. One appreciates its impact more by coming in contact with the person involved in order to perceive the inexpressible sentiments associated with it. Human words might not always fully grasp the deep emotions of distress. According to Kris David Stubna (1981) suffering is a disruption of a human persons inner integrity which results from original personal and social sins and from the inherent, natural process of creation itself. In this sense, the visible universe, which disrupts the inner peace, are at the base of human suffering.

More precisely, suffering is a disruption of inner harmony caused by physical mental, spiritual and emotional forces experienced as isolating and threatening our very existence. Thus,


according to John Paul II (1982), he describes it as the undergoing of evil before which man shudders. He does not define it but rather expresses the deep feelings that go with it.

Suffering is experienced and expressed in the form of a loss, a wound, a failure, a serious disruption or the absence of the condition of well-being. This experience is interpreted as being physically, psychologically, emotionally, morally or spiritually harmful to the individual or group of individuals. These descriptions notwithstanding, suffering does not become less mysterious; it is closely associated with the mysterious problem of evil in the world. As a matter of fact, no single response to human suffering suffices. The origin of evil and the meaning of suffering defy simplistic categories. Hence, there is an advantage in conceiving it as a mystery, which human intelligence cannot completely comprehend. This does not rule out the need to search further for a better understanding and more appropriate ways of responding to it.

It is also appropriate to observe that human suffering also has a social character. According to Ray Spark (1993:953) it is any experience that impinges on an individuals communitys sense of well-being: synonymous with pain, grief, distress, disruption, affliction, imposition, oppression, discrimination and any sense of loss or of being victimized.

It can be inferred from the foregoing description that human suffering is wider than a simple feeling of physical pain. Its meaning comes out more clearly in the context of human subjects who experience manifest and interpret it within culture, but due to certain cultural and personal outlook, some people do not find enough meaning in suffering while others it could foster growth, development and better relationship with God through the cross of Christ.


In the light of Christ, suffering is integrated into the process by which soul is purified, strengthened and directed towards the ultimate purposes of human existence, human suffering could also be described as an important but difficult means of salvation in the light of the paschal mystery, when one learns to perceive, interpret and undergo the cross in union with Christ, the painful experience, before which man trembles, looses its original distinctive orientation and is re-invested with positive values. St. Paul insists in Rom 8:28 that for those who love God, everything including suffering works for their goal.

Human suffering is meaningful because it is an actual experience, it is not imaginary. In the physical world, it is encountered by human beings, each according to his particular dispositions, personal history and cultural environments etc.

Going further, we can describe human suffering negatively as the absence of joy and happiness in the soul. One feels bad when his happy state is interrupted or when the conditions for happy life is lacking or deprived. Thomas Aquinas in his summa theologiae of 35, a I, rely obj 3 explains that the loss of what should be in a persons life is accompanied by some painful and disgusting feelings, example the deserved good is totally or particularly absent. Hence Aquinas says, It is like a call that remains unanswered, a yearning that is not fulfilled, a dashed hope and other forms of frustration vis--vis the intended important accomplishment. The feeling of frustration and the accompanying crises are capable of causing those who do not know how to manage difficulties to consider other unhealthy options, such as euthanasia as a final solution to their ordeal. For many people, the persistence of difficult problems could provoke severe psychosomatic disorder, the abandoning of the Christian faith or belief in an all-loving God.




From the above description of human suffering, it is observed that human suffering belongs to mans earthly experience, irrespective of time, place and circumstance of living. The different kinds of suffering notwithstanding, there are however, certain traits that generally characterize the entire experience. These become evident when one considers of its power subject, its universality and general experience of discomfort that accompanies it. For John Part II (1984) by its very nature, human suffering is very strong that is associated with the problem of evil.

The Greek root of the word mystery is mysterion, from myein that is to shut, to close, to make secret, etc. a mystery generally speaking, applies to what cannot be fully understood by human reason or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation. Something esoteric but known only to the initiated or disclosed by revelation. Human suffering is called mystery because its field is very broad, varied and multi dimensioned. John Paul II explains this clearly.

Man suffers in different ways, not always considered by medicine, not even in its most advancement specializations,suffering is something which is still wider than sickness, more complex at the same time still more deeply rooted in humanity itself. In the course of human history, many disciples have emerged, trying to unmask the complexity of the problem of evil and suffering in the world. Ancient myths philosophies and different cultural approaches have tried to throw light on it. Incidentally, while some people find it difficult to acknowledge the existence of an all knowing, all-good and almighty God in the face of the problems of evil and suffering in the world, others developed superior logics to prove the existence of God. These problems, notwithstanding, however, no thinker has so far succeeded in completely disentangling the problem of human suffering.


In the effort to comprehend and explain the nature and implications of human suffering, it is plausible to insist that it is a mystery indeed. Suffering, admittedly belongs to the category of the mysterious in human experience with no adequate rational solution.

As a mystery, mere humans or positive, approaches cannot debunk it. Hence, the difficulty of the atheists, extreme positivists and materialists in general, in comprehending the nature and salvific dimension of human suffering is predictable. Similar problems are encountered by many cultures under the influence of the new wind of modernism. These either deny the existence of God and mysteries, or simply reject whatever could not be investigated by the tools of positive service. Modernism seeks to break tie with the tradition cultures, in an exaggerated quest for new ways of judging, accepting and expressing values. It is characterized by an infatuation for what is new, easy and gratifying.

The modernist tendency constitutes obstacles to the proper understanding and handling of human suffering. It does this by regarding as obsolete, the traditional ways of coping with problems; unfortunately, it hardly provides better alternatives. Human suffering is a mystery that could not be disentangled by any simplistic approach. According to Celestine C. Umeh (2006:17) the deep modernists ways of solving problems often give rise to exaggerated freedom, alcoholism, drug addition, murder, euthanasia, terrorism and permissiveness. These instead of lessening the gravity of problems make man less capable of coping with difficulties.

As a mystery, the magnitude of human suffering cannot be judged or measured by the human mental capacity or by concentrated effort to deny it. Man should bow in faith before great


mysteries while seeking proper ways of understanding it. In this way, he can strive to arrive at the meaning and purpose of human suffering.



Having briefly considered the mysterious dimension as a characteristic of human suffering, the next important characteristic concerns the proper subjects of suffering in the world. Now the question is do irrational animals suffer? Or is suffering proper to man as man? Obviously, all animals appear to be in pains at a certain moment of their life. But it has to be clarified whether the two concepts, namely, suffering and pain express exactly the same idea. Certain concepts could be technically used to designate peculiar phenomena without ambiguities.

Thus, as far as the proper subjects of suffering in the world are concerned, the understanding of suffering as a mystery places, it immediately at the realm of beings capable of appreciating the meaning of mysterious. Suffering has also being desired as a subjective experience which disrupts the integrity of rational beings. Hence, suffering by its very nature, can be predicated of the beings of rational nature. It is man precisely, who suffers in the world. The late Supreme Pontiff Pope John Paul II appreciates this line of thought when he penned down: Even though man knows and is close to the suffering of the animal world, nevertheless what we express by the word suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is deep as man himself, precisely because it manifests in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to mans transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense destined to go beyond himself, and he is called to this in a mysterious way.


On one hand, the concepts close to that of human suffering include sorrow, misery, agony etc. On the other hand, physical pain is close to experience of an ache or a hurt. It is only in an equivocal sense that suffering and pain could be used interchangeable without doubt; there is a difference between suffering as a conscious experience or rational beings and a mere sanction of physical pain by living organism.

Besides, physical pains can be ordinarily used to express a feeling accompanying physical injuries experienced by animals in general. While suffering is used to depict the miserable experiences felt in the depth of the soul, by rational beings, sorrow and happiness could result as after thoughts on actual experiences on rational beings. This is because suffering involves a reflection, a reinterpretation of the painful experience in the context of a rational nature and culture. It also goes with some sentiments of regret or sorrow in the soul. Unlike pain, it does not concern only the pleasant but also the unpleasant part experiences and the frightful future. But pains are felt at the incidence of an immediate wound and remains only insofar as the world endures.

It is understandable that, by their very natures, suffering or sorrow and its opposite, namely happiness or joy are proper to man in the world. Similarly pain has its opposite as pleasure, both could be experienced at the ordinary animal instinctive level, without doubt, the irrational animals have the sense or instinct of pain. But they may appreciate the meaning of suffering, in the sense of sorrow, mourning, grief, remorse of regret etc. this is because they are naturally equipped with the capacity for suffering; human suffering is wider than bodily pain, just as rational knowledge is deeper than an instinctive feeling.




Human suffering is an existential problem which by its nature, is unique and multiple in a sense, it is one, because it is generally marked by a certain disruption of would-have-been happy state of life, it is also characterized by a defect and deficiency in the essential conditions for such happy state. In another sense, human suffering is diversified, because of its manifestations in an ever new and multiple fashions, according to the prevailing circumstance, time place and culture of its victims, suffering is further distinguished by its various causes and diverse ways of manifestation in the human body and soul or both.

In a broad way, considering (Isaiah 38:1-3; Mt 9:19-20) human suffering can be considered under the following headings: protracted and deadly sickness Thus, repeated deaths in ones family particularly death of ones own children or parents (cf Gen. 37: 33-35; 2Sam 19:1-5) death of an only son or first born (cf Job 10:1-7, Jer 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zech 12:10) lack of offspring or barrenness (cf Gen 15:2-3; 30:1-2; 1Sam 1:6-11). Poverty and discrimination based on ethnicity or caste systems, nostalgia for homeland. (cf Ps 137:1-90) persecution and hostility of the environment, natural catastrophes and humanly caused accidents, mockery and scorn of the one who suffers (Job 19:18; 30: 1-10; Ps 42:10-31; 44, 15-16; Isa 53:3). Loneliness and abandonment, remorse of conscience, difficulty in understanding why the wicked prospers while the just suffers (cf Ps 73:2-15) breach of confidence, ingratitude and treachery by close associates and neighbours; death of one husband and wife, divorce, the misfortunes of ones own nation. (cf Ps 79:10-13; Ezek 9:8 Dan 3:32-33; 9:16-19).

From the above examples, one gleans that human suffering can be grouped under physical, moral, psychological, mystical and vicarious suffering, depending on its cause manifestation and how it affects the human life.


Although a distinction can be made between the various kinds of suffering, it is to be observed that no one may suffer, exclusively in one dimensions of his being without the other dimensions being involved. For instance, according to Luke 22:44, Jesus suffered in the garden of Olives, his soul was greatly troubled while his body sweated blood. So, when human person suffers, it is not merely his body or his soul that suffers, it is the human person as such, his entire self.



This according to Umeh (2006:50) refers in particular, to a disorder in the body, which results in bodily pains. The pain is a warning of a serious danger yet to happen to the individual. It is a call for action. It is in the nature of pain to be felt in a particular way due to some physical disorder in the body. Thus, physical suffering is present when the body is hurting some way. However, it is not the simple feeling of pain that makes it an experience of suffering. The feelings of bodily pain by a human person could constitute suffering, because the subject goes beyond the mere bodily ache and conceives in the deep human way, with the attendant consequences. Instances of physical suffering include those resulting from a hurt in the body, bodily sickness, a congenital and an accidental disfigure of parts of the body. Thirst and other forms of breakdown of bodily organs, etc. eventually, what begins as a physical pain may sooner or later, involve all the other levels of the beings of man.



Man is also a moral being and suffers the moral level of his being. Suffering is said to be moral when, according to Umeh, is associated with pain of the soul. In fact, it is a question of pain of a spiritual nature, here no physical wound is found in the body, yet the human subject suffers considerably. He is worried and lamented because of his failures, wrong


decisions and improper actions his sins and consequences these have on him and others etc. These miserable conditions could be inflicted on the subject by other people also.

The moral evil, namely, sin is accomplished by moral distressed. But a moral agony, which may begin as a feeling of regret, remorse of sympathy depending on its intensity, duration and causes, may affect the physical as well as the psychological levels of the sufferer. This is because of the unique nature of the human person.



Human beings also suffer at the psyche. In the psyche, are imbedded the underlying conscious, subconscious and the unconscious motives of human behavior. Psychology testifies that each person has his own peculiarities; he perceives, interprets and reacts to stimuli according to his unique temperaments, personal experiences. Environments and circumstances of living. Therefore, human suffering has a psychological dimension which may occur from or accompany both physical and moral suffering or give rise to them.

Psychological suffering crises constitute real problems for man. Under normal circumstances, the crises feature in his daily life at a manageable degree. These occur as little worries, doubts, trifling fears and slight preoccupation. When these reach a critical level, the human subject becomes restless. It then begins to manifest as upsetting fear, sporadic anger, dissatisfaction, self-negation, rage and at worst a pathologic depression.




Along side the psychological sort of human suffering there is also the mystical kind of suffering. Suffering that is mystical is follow-up of a mystical experience. Mystical phenomena are generally characterized by an immediate and intensive kind of knowledge or experience beyond the world of sensory perception, in which God, the transcendent reveals himself to a human person who assumes a more passive role in the process.

Man naturally knows God by the light of reason and through the divine revelation. Another way of knowing God is the beatific vision, the privileged experience of the Saints in heaven. For the Christian, a mystical experience could be a gift not merit. Consequent upon a mystical encounter with the Holy and absolute, a profound intuitive knowledge, which transcends the normal categories of understanding, is gained. Mystical suffering is one of the possible consequences of such experiences and could result from a mystical union with the crucified or provoked by a deep sense of sin in the world, mans finitude and unworthiness, vis--vis the overwhelming love, greatness and absolute holiness of God.



The natural facts of mans earthly life are important for understanding the difficulties that he encounters in the world. His nature is composite of a material body and a spiritual soul. From the point of view of his own person, he is equipped with and conditioned by certain biological, psychological and spiritual presents. Suffice this to say that man is born with certain genetic predispositions, physical features and rational capacities for auto-transcendence etc. He does not claim responsibility for such facts as his nationality, height, natural complexion, blood group genotype, temperaments and other psychosomatic features that personify him. By all indications, man appears not to be perfect being. He is engaged in a process of selfactualization. Even, the human race grows and develops as individuals evolve as a people.


In the world, man passes through the crises of growth, works for daily bread, admits the limited resources and defends himself against inimical factors. Finally, man dwindles in strength and health, as he advances in age. The fear of death and his fate after the worldly sojourn are also among his major preoccupations. The Fathers of the Vatican II observed that it is in regard to death that mans condition is most shrouded in doubt. Man is tormented not only by pain and by the gradual breaking up of his body but also and even more by the dread of forever ceasing to be. According to Albert Furioli, (1987:3) sickness and death form part of our earthly existential fabric: I suffer because I have feelings. I fall sick because I have a biological organism; I die because I was born


Man is a being in communion with the other rational entities and the irrational order. He lives and realizes his being in his relationship with the other. The other is primarily God himself the source, sustainer and the ultimate end of the humankind. Mans relationship with the author of his being is axial, not appendicular; it is not a side reference but absolutely vital, a conditio sine que non for mans continuous existence and happiness. He must constantly and continuously be maintained by God. God is the base in exclusion of which there is no other foundation for man. In this view the catechism of he Catholic Church, 385 maintains that should man seek to break away from his essential and irreplaceable base, he is only attempting to establish another false base or merely pretending to do without God; this is the most fundamental implication of sin.


Sin is technically defined according to Paul J. Glenn as a human act (that is, a deliberate thought, word, deed, desire, omission) contrary to right reason, and therefore contrary to God. It is primary a revolt against the divine government.

A spiritual-mutiny, a rebellion against divine providence. To sin is to avert God, in a way telling him that he is not relevant. God endowed man with reason and freewill, intending that man may know choose love and do what is good while avoiding its contraries. But through sin, man abuses his freedom and seeks what is improper. The first sin of man was characterized by certain dissatisfaction which man was longing to be unduly independent of God and a presumption to establish by the desire for the knowledge of good and evil. Cardinal sins such as (pride, gluttony, lust, avarice, sloth, envy and anger) are regarded as grave psychologicalpsycho-moral sickness.


CHAPTER FOUR SUFFERING IN THE LIGHT OF PAULINE THEOLOGY (2COR 1:3-7) The early Christians when Paul unexpectedly joined with his youthful exuberance emerged from a background that had negative conception about suffering. It was considered as a divine attribution. Human beings suffer because of their personal sin. God is just and he rewards each person according to his deeds. The wicked cannot evade his just judgment.

The belief in the vindication of the divine justice has its fundamental etiology in the fall of the primordial parents of human beings. In the two accounts of creation at the beginning, everything God created was perfectly good and they are given divine approval by the reiteration of the phrase: God saw that it was good (Cf Gen 1, 4, 10, 12, 18, 21-25, 31). It is important to note briefly that this phrase occurs seven times in the creation narrative. In the bible, the number seven is a significance number symbolizing completion and perfection. Goodness in Gods creation is fully perfect. Sin of our parents however, initiated suffering and its accompanying pain.

Throughout the different stages in the historical development of the Old Testament thoughts and theology the problem of suffering had been validly addressed. It is normally linked that it is due to human sinful actions, either personal or inherited from ancestors. A classical literary work on divine attribution in the Old Testament is the book of Job, which is the person of his interlocutors proved different views on the case of suffering. It is an age-long pa### that has dwelt with human beings.

The eye witness of Jesus whom Paul joined came from the background that understood suffering as a consequence of personal sin. According to Obiorah Jerome, (2010:63) Paul


himself with his proficiency in Hebrew Scriptures must have shared the same belief with his contemporaries. Jesus inaugurated a new era of understanding and interpretation of the scriptures. In his teaching, he led his bearers to transcend that popular belief that suffering is as a result of ones sins (cf Lk 13:1-5, Jn 9:2).

Paul broke away from that popular idea when he encountered Jesus. He turned from a persecutor to an ardent believer; he suffered immensely for his faith. He fulfilled the prophecy made about him at his dramatic conversion. I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name (Acts 9, 16). The content of the God News, evangelion, he proclaimed was the crucified Jesus who rose from the dead. His teachings on suffering can be summed up thus: suffering is inevitable is human life, it has a benefiting function and that, suffering unites us to Christ.

However, the major concern of this chapter is the interpretation of human suffering in the view of St. Paul, with the aim of giving the ##### a better understanding.



In the New Testament and other Christian, literatures, suffering is given a secondly understanding, which serves as a discipline function. According to St. Paul, for just as the suffering of Christ overflows into our lives so if we have hardships to undergo, this will contribute to our encouragement and salvation: (2Cor, 1,5-6); according to Morns Leon (199:30). Suffering, then is part of the process of living out the Christian life, and Paul suggest that we should not regard it as something monstrous and alien.


It is in the present time that Christians prepare for the future glory. They should follow Jesus who suffered and entered into glory. I considered that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us (Rom 8, 18). Suffering is a necessary preliminary, and assurance of coming glory which will eclipse all the preceding anguish. We are in the midst of suffering in the present time as we prepare for the future glory. Similarly, St. Paul goes on to say that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope. (Rom 5, 3-4).

Pauls theme of the necessity of sharing in the suffering of Christ as a prerequisite of sharing in the glories of Christ should not be carried to extremes, Jesus represents the gospels embodined of the concept of the suffer servant. Seeing Jesus not only as a suffering servant, but also as the Messiah. Thus, is working out this Pauline theology, he narrates that Christ Jesus is the means by which the suffering of this world, mans inherit sinfulness and death itself can ne overcome. By being at home with him who suffered, a person is able to achieve a state that is free from suffering and death. As we share abundantly in Christs suffering so through him we share abundantly in comfort to citing Paul in his book Udejiofor (2006 51) maintains that I have suffered the loss of things .. In order that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share in his suffering.

The Pauline spiritual insight on human suffering enriched by personal experience and inspired by Christ crucified. Paul desired suffering, cherishes and embraces it. He preaches the gospel of suffering; he prays sufferings, not for suffering sake but for the meritorious salvific grace inherent in it. Pauls position in terms of suffering has an ecclesial dimension which is worthy of mention, for he knows that he does not suffer alone, but in union the church, which is the


body of Christ, and not only in union with the Church but for the benefit of the Church (cf Col 1, 2-4).

Another dimension of the Pauline theology is the feelings of Christ a compassion for the suffering people, having been closed by God himself in his suffering, he becomes consolation to others. We can see that for Paul and for other apostles and witness of the New Testament, suffering does not constitute any problem. There is blessing in the folly of the cross.



In Pauls #### and in other New Testament works the cross on which Jesus was crucified has become a fundamental term for Jesus suffering and death for the salvation of human. It was a gradual process for the early Church to move from their ordinary understanding of Christs ignominious death on the cross to a higher conception this as divine means of saving humans from their degradation. Paul was very outstanding in propounding this new doctrine. Suffering for him is a proof of our love for him when we suffer for the same motive for which he accepted the cross.

The crucified Christ who rose from the dead is the summary of Pauls teaching. It is evangelion tou theo (the Gospel of God), because God is the source of the message. It is also Pauls evangelion for he has personalized it with the phrase evangelion mou (my Gospel). Pauls teaching on the cross of Jesus can be considered under these two major parts: the cross is the means God has freely chosen to reveal himself in Christ and in human history and the cross is the principle of Christian discipleship/apostleship.


It was through the word of the cross that the Saga of human redemption was won. According to Joseph Bayobin (2004: 56) the Corinthians therefore believed that we are called not only to reflect on suffering crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, but also to share in his suffering through self-mortification. We can also make the sacrifice of legitimate pleasures in order to show gratitude for what Christ has done for humanity. Jesus suffered and accepted death even on the cross due to the love he has for us.

Therefore, the Corinthians build up their spirituality towards suffering because of their conviction, we too are called to suffer because cross stands for suffering. It is a teaching among the Corinthians that has a lot of truth in it; this is so because it has its basis on the concept of expiation: suffering and death of Christ, which is very fundamental in Christian belief. Christians are enjoined by divine revelation to always have a preferential option for the way of the cross. Suffering in itself is not something good; human beings naturally do not like it. But through it, we can attain sanctification or growth to Christian maturity.

Besides, Corinthian sees suffering as that which unites them with Christ. When a leader imparts from lived experience, he or she speaks from personal conviction, persuasively, and the words achieve more than their desired end. Paul is an ideal teacher. From the wealth of his personal experiences he learned that suffering does not separate us from the love of God. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardships, or ### or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or word? (Rom 8, 35). Paul experienced all these in his life and learned that they brought him closer to the divine master.

Experience of suffering prepares one for the kingdom of God, writing to the Christians at Thessalonica, Paul reflects on the intrinsic link between suffering and the kingdom of God:


therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfast and faith deceiving all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduing. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of god, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of god, for which you are also suffering. (2 Thess.1, 45).

Furthermore, for the Christians in the Corinthian Church, no amount of suffering allowed to visit us should separate us from God. Suffering should never become a reason for engaging in sinful behavior. We are afflicted in event possible way, we never despair, we are persecuted but never abandoned we are struck down but never destroyed. Continually we carry our bodied the life of Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed (Cf 2 Co 4, 8-10).

Equally, Paul did not give in to self-pity, resentment, hatred in the face of suffering, but rather converted his suffering into a hymn of praise to God, so we believers in Corinth called to demonstrate strong, heroic love of God in face of difficulties. In say this, we are also remember the Jobless, the sick, the homeless, widows and orphans, the oppressed, those imprisoned, particularly those who suffer for no just cause or because of their political affliction or being outspoken for justice in the society.

Thus, this is possible when there is a clear understanding on the meaning and purpose of Jesus suffering and death on the cross. In the encyclical-salvific Doloris, the pope used words such as The Gospel of suffering that Christians endure in union with Christ and for the salvation of the world. He suffered so that human kind may be set free from suffering. This means his suffering was explicatory or substitutional, cf Is 53. Here the prophet describes someone under the title, suffering servant. His description of the kind of suffering this servant of God would undergo agrees in many respects with the kind of suffering Jesus underwent in his passion the


sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried. He was pierced through for our faults crushed for our sins on him lies a punishment that brings us peace and through his wounds, we are healed.



The redemptive dimension of Christs suffering leads one to a new orientation and understanding of human suffering. For John Paul II (1984:24), human suffering has reached its culmination in the passion of Christ. And at the same time it has entered into a completely new dimension and a new order: it has been linked to love.

The implication here is that by the suffering and death of Christ on the cross, human suffering also has become redemptive. It has been brought to light by the following statement according to Christians Usugngurua, (2006:10): In the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering it has been redeemed in bringing about redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of redemption.

Since human suffering has received a new salvific dimension with definitive value from Christ, everyone is called appropriate the redemptive aspect in his own suffering and become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.

Suffering is a litmus test of our faith (1Thess 3,2-5). It is in suffering that we prove what we are. Suffering reveals the strength of our faith. Knowing the value of suffering in his life and in the life of Christians, Paul rejoices in tribulations: therefore I am content with weakness,


insults hardships, persecutions and calamities for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong (2Cor 12, 10). Every little pain we experience in union with Jesus brigs us close to him and to our God.

Suffering is an essential mark of discipleship for it brings a follower of Christ closer to the master who himself took the path of suffering. Those who shun sufferings in their lives are enemies of the cross of Jesus: For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them and now I tell you even with tears (Phil 3, 18). Suffering prepares us for the coming glory. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us (Rom 8,18). Just like Jesus who suffered and rose from the dead, Christians crown of glory comes after the cross. The hymn in Pauls bitter to the Philippians 2, 6-11 is structured on this: W 6-8 describe the self-empting of Jesus, W 9-11 is on the exaltation.

Besides, the idea of redemptive suffering becomes very compelling when we come to see that suffering is still a part of human life. Osungurua still maintains that: It is something we experience often despite the fact that Jesus dead to set us free from it. Not only sinners suffers but sometimes, even those with worldwide reputation for Holy and saintly lives. Sometimes, suffering defiles all prayers and forces us to discern what the will of God really is for us at certain trying moments.

John Paul II of blessed memory explains the Christians meaning of suffering, what our suffering can be a contribution of the first grade in our fight for the victory over evil powers. It can become a precious contribution to Gods salvific work if we accept it generously. Our suffering has a precious function in the life of the Church and we can utilize it to build up the Church.

According to the explanation of the significance of suffering in salvific Deloris suffering is an invitation to manifest the moral greatness of man and his spiritual maturity. It may be a trial at triunes a hard one to let ones faith or fidelity in God manifest. Based on the experiences of the saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyal and others, it has been recognized that in suffering there is concealed power that devours a person interiously close to Christ a special grace.



The New Testament wrings present and provides us valuable insights into Christs response to human suffering, precisely in Corinth. Thus, to understand Christs response to human suffering in the Church at Corinth, let us first understand his own response to his suffering. According to Udejiofor, (2006:94): Christs attitude towards his own suffering shows his willingness to suffer. Peter had the great difficultly of accepting the necessity of Jesus suffering, he demonstrated against it, but he was rebuked by Jesus. He healed those who were suffering and most immediately predicts his own suffering and those of his followers. Christ showed his willingness acceptance and surrender to the will of the father. He therefore calls us to follow his examples. Our human condition is Gods invitation for human to enter into a mysterious yet a meaningful union of love and relationship with God.

Christs response to the suffering humanity is founded in love. The Divine Human love by which he took flesh in his incarnation and suffering and died on the cross. Christ beheld mans


helplessness and powerless state, thus he would heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper and forgive the sinners.

According to St. Paul, Christs suffering is transcended by eschatology. Paul desires suffering cherishes it, embraces it, as well as preaches it, in fact he actually prays for suffering, not for suffering sake but for the meritorious salvific grace inherent in it. Hence, Paul desires nothing according to him accepts to suffer and to reproduce Christs pattern of death in his mortal body. Commenting further, Udejiofor maintains:

Suffering can only be acceptable appreciated and endured for the sake of Jesus, for he would not suffer as he wishes, Like Christ but for Christ and with Christ.

Following St. Pauls theological insight, suffering now should be desired, but mostly because of love for Christ who suffered innocently for our redemption.



In a society where Christians move from one prayer house to another seeking remedies to human suffering, Paul as it were, offers us a good teaching, thus his teaching becomes highly instructive. One is tempted to ask, why do contemporary Christians shun suffering with all their strength? Why do we who live in the age of unrestrained Pentecostalism propagate and live a kind of Christianity without the cross of Christ? Why do we complain and blame God and fellow human beings for every little discomfort? Why do prayer houses multiply in many comers of our society? These are different means we have devised in our effort to reject suffering and keep our eyes far from its saving function in human life as it were in the Corinthian Church.

Many contemporary cultures as it were, have a world view akin to the religion of the ancient Israel. Suffering in our cultures is primarily rejected and attributed to some forces outside human realm. It is often seen as punishment, a just reward, a boomerang for evil actions against common good, fellow human beings and even the creator. Advent of the Christian faith has done very little among some in changing this common traditional concept of suffering.

However, the issue of human suffering and evil has moved beyond the frontier of the realm of academic and scholarly journals, now the issue on the large part involves justice world pieces, freedom from mans inhumanity against men. Udejiofor has this to say: Suffering presents itself as a school of human development and personal growth in which the purpose of creation is not frustrated but realized. In seeking the way of peace we must look to the victim through whom God has concealed the world to himself, for as Paul writes to the Ephesians: In his flesh Jesus removes the wall which divided the court of the gentiles eliminates the division between Jews and Gentiles, and makes peace in order to create in himself one new humanity (cf Eph 2, 14ff).

According to John Hick, the mystery of Gods love for us is that the redemptive process turns all things unto good even human selfishness of our lives, which is build into the birth process of the entire Cosmos. He saw suffering as essential for human self-realization and encounter with the divine.