Pastoral Care Training Pack

Unit 3: Suffering - The Suffering Servant

3.1       Scripture & Worship



Collect: Heavenly Father, you have made us so that we may choose to love you; help us to understand that suffering is an enabler of choice and that those who suffer are special in your sight. May we never forget the suffering of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, through whom we make this prayer to you in the power of the Spirit. Amen.


Can: Lord, when we suffer
Res: Sooth us with your sacred balm.

  1. Heavenly Father, we pray for all those who suffer in mind and body from the effects of  their own actions, the actions of others or from natural disaster; may they be healed in mind and body, coming to terms with themselves and what has befallen them:
  2. Heavenly Father, may we in our lives always seek to prevent and mitigate suffering through our words, actions and self restraint; help us, in imitation of Christ, to share the suffering of all of your children whom we meet:
  3. Heavenly Father, we pray for all of those who work to mitigate suffering: for doctors, nurses and all family carers; may their efforts bring relief to those they serve:
  4. Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending us your son that we might come to know the meaning of suffering and sacrifice; may we serve in His name, knowing that you will ask nothing for which you do not give us the resources of your Grace:
  5. Heavenly Father, as we serve you in hospitals and homes, send the Holy Spirit as the comforter for all who suffer and all who try to share their suffering.

3.2       Introduction

  1. It is one of the key indicators of our imperfection that there is so much suffering in the creation of God which we have tarnished; indeed, if we look at The Bible, our liturgies, our poetry, art and music, or our lives, it is easier to find expressions of suffering than of joy. Yet we should never forget that we share our sufferings with Jesus whose terrible passion and death are the means of our ultimate joy; and many Christian believe that suffering is integral to our faith. What we can offer to those we serve is more than the consolations that this earth offers for we can offer the hope of ultimate and eternal joy.
  2. In this Unit we will consider:
    • The nature of suffering;
    • The human and 'divine' causes of suffering;
    • 'Undeserved' suffering;
    • Christian responses to suffering.
  3. By the end of this Unit we should:
    • Have an understanding of the different kinds and causes of suffering;
    • How we might best mitigate these through empathy.

3.3       Key Concepts

  1. Suffering:
    • Suffering is the infliction of a harmful or painful experience;
    • Much suffering is caused by human wickedness or carelessness; but
    • Many people suffer because of natural disasters beyond human mitigation or control;
    • Much suffering is self inflicted either by an inappropriate lifestyle or by failure to achieve autonomously set goals; but
    • Suffering does not necessarily bear any relationship to moral or prudential behaviour.
  2. Response
    • Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself into the position of the sufferer;
    • Compassion is the need to mitigate the suffering through constructive engagement;
    • Purpose is the context in which to consider suffering, not to downplay it but to see it as part of life;
    • The cause of the suffering is a secondary matter and should only be considered as part of a holistic package.

3.4       Presentation:

3.5       Case Sketches

  1. Amanda's 2-year-old daughter is suffering from a dangerous form of leukaemia and says that God cannot be compassionate if he punishes innocent children
  2. Joe has been seriously injured in a car accident, in which his friend was killed, caused by his own excessive consumption of alcohol
  3. Sarah has just returned from post Tsunami work in Sri Lanka and says it has forced her to consider giving up her faith
  4. Terry is suffering because he treated his children harshly.

3.6       Response

3.7       Resources

  1. Job's Comforters? Biblical Insights into Suffering and Pain
  2. Joyce, John:  Suffering and Pastoral Care (Tape Notes)