There are many words in the Greek that can be translated as suffering. Some of them are obvious, unambiguous translations like this one:
[Mat 16:21 KJV] 21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
So we with hindsight see what happened to Jesus when He said “suffer.” It was horrific in natural and likely beyond our comprehension in the spiritual. Still the word can also be translated as:
3958 pásxō (a primitive verb) – properly, to feel heavy emotion, especially suffering; affected, experiencing feeling (literally “sensible” = “sensed-experience”); “the feeling of the mind, emotion, passion” (J. Thayer).
3958/pásxō (“to experience feeling”) relates to any part of us that feels strong emotion, passion, or suffering – especially “the capacity to feel suffering” (J. Thayer). The Lord has privileged us to have great capacity for feeling (passion, emotion, affections). Indeed, this is inherent because all people are created in the divine image. Note for example how Jesus in His perfect (sinless) humanity keenly felt (3958/pásxō, see Lk 17:25, 22:15, 24:26,46, etc.).
So I love that God gives us this multi-dimensional opportunity to “see” Him in 3-D or 4-D or surround or whatever other moving-watching metaphor works for you. Here is another word for suffering that I think will change your thinking.
páthēma (from 3958 /pásxō, “the capacity to feel strong emotion, like suffering”) – properly, the capacity and privilege of experiencing strong feeling; felt, deep emotion, like agony, passion (ardent desire), suffering, etc.
Under God, 3804 /páthēma (“strong feeling”) is redemptive, preparing us to know the Lord better now and forever in glory (cf. Ro 8:18; Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 5:1). 3804 (páthēma) is not inherently negative; indeed, it is only negative when experienced outside of (apart from) faith. See 3958 (pasxō).
[3804 /páthēma (“strong feeling”) includes affliction (suffering), which should always (ideally) result in knowing God’s glory – like going through difficulties (persecution, etc.) in faith. Note the -ma suffix, emphasizing the end-result (experiencing strong feeling).]
Alright, way too much Greek so now just let your mind get around these few verses. I have inserted passion/suffering in each instance of the usage. What do you see?
[Rom 8:18 ESV] 18 For I consider that the passions/sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
[2Co 1:5 ESV] 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s passions/sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
[Gal 5:24 ESV] 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions/sufferings and desires.
[1Pe 4:13 ESV] 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s passions/sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
[Heb 2:9-10 ESV] 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the passions/sufferings of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through passions/sufferings.
[Phl 3:10 ESV] 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his passions/sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
OK, can you see now that Jesus “sufferings” (at least in these cases) could be passion for His purpose? I don’t believe Jesus was happy like a giggling kid on the way to the cross but I know He was passionate about dying for us. This is the heart of God to die for us. This act of surrender, humility and meekness would demonstrate to the world how much God loves us all. I would say that Jesus had incredible passion to reveal His true divine nature… sacrificial love.
Here is another verse that might twist your thinking a bit:
[Rom 7:5 ESV] 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions/sufferings, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
In my experience I have heard this verse only as “passions of sin” or “sinful passions” as if this was the irresistible pleasure of doing bad stuff. What if we have “missed the mark” (pun intended) on this one? What if it really is the “sufferings of sin” or the “sin produced sufferings?” In the context of Romans 7 and 8 it is obvious that Paul is describing a torturous existence in Romans 7 under the law and freedom in Romans 8 under Grace. The transition is this verse:
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (ESV)
Does it make sense that the condemnation that we experience when we sin under the law is what brings us sufferings? Could it be that the guilt and shame we experience as “sinners” is what drive us into the bushes of hiding from God like Adam and Eve? Could it be that Jesus died to remove the condemnation and any excuse for the enemy to pound us with the guilt hammer again? Could it be possible, even remotely, that sin isn’t the problem but separation is? Pick what you want. God will meet you where you are. Know this above all else: He loves you. He wants you as His child. He died to make it possible and to destroy any and every excuse to hide from Him. He is that good!