The only thing that has ever helped me make sense of suffering and tragedy is the image of Christ crucified.
There is something in the idea that stops the proverbial bleeding in my heart when I consider that God condescended to wear our suffering and death so close to his heart that his heart burst. And it is from his open heart that blood and water gushed -- the life of God poured out on the dirt and sin and agony of all the world.
From the cross, Jesus drank bitterness. From the cross, Jesus' sweat and blood soaked his nearly shredded flesh. From the cross, Jesus felt within his being the agony of being apart from God, so deeply that it brought him to cry out in yearning and questioning.
"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" I've said it so many times in my life. I've said it about myself and about others whose suffering I can't myself process.
But there is an odd comfort in knowing that Jesus himself said it for me. What he felt from the cross was the weight of my death, and what he cried from the cross was the cry of my heart.
It is almost an unspoken intercourse between the Creator and his creation. God saw the depths of our sorrow and desperation, and elected that he would not see us suffer for no reason, even though the death and sadness which entered the world were through sin and not through his decision. He determined that he would bring us, as he intended from our creation, to the heights of his glory, his joy, his goodness, and his beauty.
But he knew that in order for us to share in his majesty, he would himself have to share in our agony.
The cross is where our misery collides with God's mercy. The cross is the mark on our infinite plains of suffering where God has set himself as a sign of hope and resurrection.
We can try to process our suffering apart from it, to move forward away from it, but if that were possible -- truly possible -- God would not have had to die.
My hope is founded in Christ alone, because of his cross. And because of his resurrection, I can know that even death and suffering will not have the final say.