The story behind the film Lone Survivor teaches us a lot about how to deal with suffering. In that tense exchange in the interview Marcus Lutrell elucidates a very rare perspective on tragedy which Jake Tapper clearly doesn’t understand. In a sense, they are both representatives of two different viewpoints.
Under the pessimistic view all suffering is vain and is reflection of the vanity of life. For these people it represents the fatal flaw in any theistic worldview. Suffering does nothing but make our lives miserable and if there is a loving God then He’d never let it come into existence, much less eliminate it.
Luttrell made a very important point when he said that they didn’t question their mission and purpose just because an operation went sideways on them. They were in a combat zone doing a dangerous job and that was par for the course. More importantly, they were highly trained and eager to successfully complete the mission. SEALs are intense competitors and they thrive under incredible stress and pain.
The rest of us can learn to shape our expectations based on their perspective. I believe much of our struggles are based on our expectations about what God owes us. It’s easy to say “Amen” when the preacher says to put our complete trust in God as our provider but when something near and dear to us is taken away we get desperate. We feel entitled to certain level of well-being and we see our faith as a means to maintain it.
Jesus offers us a simpler, but more empowering, view of life. He teaches us to look to God for our needs and be content and thankful that He has supplied them all. Life is not about material wealth (Luke 12:15) but about living by every word of God. When you have this perspective you’re not likely to get entangled with the cares of this life. You’re not likely to be consumed with a desire for more.
This biblical perspective also informs us that this life is full of troubles (John 16:33) and that we should not be surprised when bad things happen to us. Followers of Christ do not get immunity from pain and suffering. They do get the grace that enables them to be of good cheer in the midst of sorrow.
We know that tragedy can and will strike us at some point. We also know that God is able to sustain through every tribulation. If we keep things in perspective then we will not forget the goodness of the Lord towards us and His everlasting mercy. It’s important to always remember that because such gratitude shows us how to properly understand the hard times we endure. When you can praise and worship God in those times then you know you have succeeded.