Science divides humanity into various hominid species including:
Homo Habilis – “handy man,” user of tools
Homo Erectus – “to put up, set upright”
Homo Sapien – “knowing man”
Let me suggest another:
Homo Infirmitus – “weakness, ailment”
From minor aches to terminal diseases, infirmities are part of being finite. Is there an intrinsic reason why this has to be so? We are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made,” but were we created with all these design flaws?
Every religion and philosophy has an explanation for suffering. Judeo-Christianity ascribes it to sin. A moral choice is said to have triggered physical decay; doing to the body what fermentation does to the grape—set it to rotting.
Humans have an innate sense that something’s wrong; this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Hence the almost universal belief in an afterlife where we will be fixed. Pain will be eliminated and pleasure will be maximized (or the locus of both—the body—jettisoned altogether).
In the mean time our theology helps us cope by giving meaning to the madness. The Incarnation sends the message that God loves us and has undertaken our rescue. But even he can’t avoid the price of admission into the game of life—suffering and death.
As if enduring our own pain weren’t enough, we can experience the pain of others. The emotional connection to those we love is a nerve bundle through which we enjoy the most exquisite ecstasies and agonies.
Pain and suffering take up far too much of life if you ask me.
But then, nobody asked me.