Suffering

How does the opening to Pixar's 'Up' make you feel?

You may have seen this clip before, but what strikes you as particularly poignant this time?

In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent promises Rachel Dawes that she will get out alive from where she is being held by the Joker. 

Harvey genuinely hopes that this will be the case, but he has no way of influencing or expecting this outcome. In fact, Rachel dies.

How would you feel offering a loved one in pain promises that might prove to be empty?

Writing in The Guardian, Tiffany White tells the following story:

 

Since I became an atheist, I wouldn't say it made any drastic changes in my life – until my best friend called me one day to tell me her mother passed away.Although we live in different parts of the country (me in New York, she in Oklahoma), we still call each other weekly. But on that particular day the usual familiarity of speaking over the phone was eclipsed by the suddenness of tragedy. I couldn't give a sympathetic hug or offer a shoulder to cry on. All I could offer were my condolences ... which were what exactly?

What might Tiffany have liked to have said to her friend during that phone call?

Of these options, what are things that as an atheist she could truthfully say?

What things might an atheist believe about suffering and death but never dream of saying in such a situation?

Just because the atheist answer to a world of suffering is bleak does not mean it is not true.

But for millennia Christians have looked to Jesus’ encounters with suffering as a reliable way of knowing much deeper hope in the midst of suffering.

Here’s an account from one of the earliest accounts of Jesus’ life:

 

Soon afterwards, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’

 

(Luke 7:11-13)

What strikes you about Jesus' response to the suffering he saw?

Here’s what happened next:

 

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ 

 

(Luke 7:14-15)

What could those who saw this event have said about suffering and death that Tiffany White never could?

What questions might those who believe that Jesus is God have about suffering?

What do you think gives Christians hope when they encounter suffering?

Think more about why, if God is good, there is so much suffering in the world:

Bethinking

Consider whether Jesus’ offer to bring us freedom is worth taking seriously: 

Uncover

Find out how you can meet Christians living by this story at your university: 

Link Up