Hedonism, Suffering, and Redemption: The Challenge of Christian Psychotherapy

Few questions have so animated the discourse of the philosopher and the priest, the physician and the poet, as why it is we suffer and what our suffering might possibly mean. Of course, the question has never been solely the province of the scholar or the professional, as can be attested by any parent who has had to look on helplessly as a young child wastes away in a hospital bed. The implications of how this most pressing question of life is answered and profound. As Truman Madsen has noted, for some “the most staggering objection to belief in a personal God is the ugly, tragic, overwhelming fact of human inequality and suffering.” Paradoxically, others have found in suffering not only the most divine assurances of God’s enduring love but also the overpowering call to brotherhood and full humanity. Mother Teresa, for example, taught that “in the slums, in the broken body, in the children, we see Christ and we touch him.” Clearly, in addressing the question of suffering, we are not just playing with some “academic toy” but are dealing with an issue of immense and potentially soul-rending human significance.

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