“Suffering is an inevitable part of life” is based on nature. Every creature is born and dies. In between these two poles, creatures fight to remain alive. The physical body is exposed to danger from every side – famine, violence, accidents, aging, and death are the most prominent.
“Suffering is unnatural, growing out of sin and wrongdoing” states the opposite. Instead of considering all the natural forces that threaten us, it declares that humans suffer from the inside out, not from the outside in.
Our choices to follow wrong action come back to haunt us. Humans are the only creatures wracked by guilt and shame. We feel pain when we commit a sin like murder, whereas animals show no remorse when they exhibit violence.
Sin-based suffering is far more terrible that mere physical pain. It gives birth to anxiety and depression, which are mysterious afflictions, since these two ghosts of the mind haunt people even when they have done nothing wrong.
Just the perception of doing wrong can create intense guilt. But any creature that can commit a sin must be capable of doing the right thing. Therefore the second answer is actually optimistic.
“Suffering contains a hidden spiritual message” is very different than the other two. It says that out of suffering can come love. Love is the hidden message within all fear and pain, no matter how horrible they make you feel.
The idea that suffering contains a spiritual message goes beyond fatalism and idealism both, because the distinction between inner and outer, physical and mental is erased. Instead, we are seen as pure spirit, which has chosen to walk on the stage of the natural world in order to play out soul dramas.
Adapted from The Deeper Wound: Recovering the Soul from Fear and Suffering, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2001).