There is not a living thing that doesn’t desire to avoid suffering. From the wisest creature (be that a human or a dolphin), to the smallest beetle, none would choose suffering. If it can be avoided, we will choose to avoid it. The universal desire to avoid suffering is, I hope, a truth we can agree on.
A second truth is all creatures suffer. Suffering is unavoidable. Oh, it can be avoided temporarily, but suffering will manifest itself in some way. Like in dodgeball, I duck the ball coming straight at me while I’m hit from the side by another.
There are at least two things for us to consider when it comes to suffering. First, the Golden Rule. Why would I choose to inflict suffering on another when I desire that they not inflict suffering on me? This awareness inevitably leads to compassion: feeling at our core the pain of another.
Secondly, what are we to do with the suffering we endure? The suffering of Jesus was extreme and perhaps it could have been made easier for him if he could see God’s purpose at work. Scripture is clear that even Jesus felt, in the midst of the pain, abandoned by God. Remembering the Passion of the Lord is only made easier (for me) when I can see it in the light of the overall purpose of God’s salvation.
Our suffering, on the other hand, hardly has the grand design to bringing forth the salvation of creation. Yet we nearly always feel that we are better because of some sort of hardship we’ve endured. I would still avoid suffering, but if it must be endured, why not make the most of it, and come out the other side: better, wiser, stronger. The wonderful thing about what Jesus does for us is that what he did is to our credit. Alleluia!