(1.) What do we make of a world in which every kind of suffering that could possibly happen to a human being (imagined or inconceivable), happens or has happened sometime, somewhere?
Could it be that God is gathering trophies of different kinds of suffering, storing up examples of people who loved Him through their trials, in spite of their trials and because of their trials? Might that be what is happening? Is He working on creating an astounding kind of living “museum” with halls filled with glorious trophies of lovers of God?
Scripture implies that at the end of the ages there will be a great courtroom scene, a great final judicial bar of the God of the universe, where all of us will be judged (Rev. 20:4 and 11-15; Psalm 82:1). The Bible also contains hints that God, too, will be judged in front of the principalities and powers via Satan's last relentless onslaught of accusation, saying, "Yes, but they loved You because You were good to them" (see Job 1:9-11 and 2:1-5). In response, God will turn and bring forth Exhibit A, Exhibit P, Exhibit X, of persons who did not experience only goodness at God's hand in this life. God says to Satan, in effect, "Here now is one who suffered such-and-such and yet chose to love Me, believing against all the evidence that I am ultimately good. Here is one who chose to cling to My word where it says, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?"
Everyone's suffering is unique: individualized, sometimes isolated, sometimes severe, and often imagined to be worse than the suffering of the other guy. All suffering, of all kinds—emotional abuse and mental anguish as well as physical injury, sickness, and spiritual hammering, etc.—is, to some degree, horrific to the person who is in the throes of it. But what is key is what is our relationship to God through it. May we be like the returning Christian soldier who said, "I'm so glad I only lost both my legs in the war." Such a statement will bring eternal, ongoing glory to the King of kings. The suffering happens here, in a limited scope no matter how horrific, but the reward of a grateful, praising heart goes on forever and ever. This world may well be a type of spiritual crucible, capable of surfacing to the top of the human heart the true and lasting bend of a person’s soul toward the living God.
(2.) The problem of evil is confounded by the existence of beauty. If earth's existence were only stormy gray and pitch black and all of our experiences were insufferable tragedies, that would be one thing. But piercing into those experiences are often stabs of beauty. After we’ve been crying our guts out we see a sunset that takes our breath. A victim in a concentration camp is lifted by a shy smile coming from another soul there. A hiker who is lost on a trail finds blueberries growing on the side of a hill.
The most astounding stabs of beauty come from within ourselves, where we experience another level of letting go in humility, or realizing that life has levels we didn't know about that we become almost glad to have been shown, or we find within ourselves a new search for uncommon kindness towards a very difficult person...or, or, or. Where do these things come from within our own soul? We didn't put them there. We ponder, why did I see them emerge only in and through my suffering?
G. K. Chesterton perhaps said it best when he said that surely life is like stumbling upon a shipwreck. The ruin is all about us, but we also see jewels strewn upon the shore, spilled from the treasure chest that was borne here by a ship from a region beyond—a region from which it came. This evidence indicates that this island is not all there is; there is more to life than what we now know.