One thing I can never get my head around is how God understands our pain. No matter how bad is gets, God understands. Plantinga really put it well:
…as the Christian sees things, God does not stand idly by, coolly observing the suffering of his creatures. He enters into and shares our suffering. He endures the anguish of seeing his Son, the second person of the Trinity, consigned to the bitterly cruel and shameful death of the cross. Some theologians claim that God cannot suffer. I believe they are wrong. God’s capacity for suffering, I believe, is proportional to his greatness; it exceeds our capacity for suffering in the same measure as his capacity for knowledge exceeds ours. Christ was prepared to endure the agonies of hell itself; and God, the first being and Lord of the universe, was prepared to endure the suffering consequent upon his Son ‘s humiliation and death. He was prepared to accept this suffering in order to overcome sin and death and the evils that afflict our world, and to confer on us a life more glorious than we can imagine. So we don’t know why God permits evil; we do know, however, that he was prepared to suffer on our behalf, to accept suffering of which we can form no conception. -Alvin Plantinga
God, being an infinite being, can understand suffering infinitely more than we can. He’s there to enter into our condition with us, and that’s all we really need: someone who understands us, who knows what it’s like. If we have to go through the pain, there’s nothing else to be done, but I think true comfort comes from having someone there, with us in our pain.
Having that comfort, I think, disarms rage and anguish, turning them to compassion. A while ago, I prayed that I would see the world more like Christ sees it; that my heart would ache for what His heart aches for. As I’m becoming better acquainted with pain, when I see pain in others, I identify with it (at some level) and want to do whatever I can to alleviate it. It’s like once you’ve had chicken pox, you can identify someone else who is going through the sickness. The more recently you’ve had the virus, the more readily you remember the intricacies of the disease and your flesh winces at the sores on the other person. In this way, pain can be a tool to arouse compassion.
I think not only does God empathize with our suffering, but He would have us, like Jesus, choose to enter into the sufferings of others. It’s God’s way of handling pain, so why not do the same? Rather than judge or ignore (both of which I have done), I think it is better to walk beside one suffering.