Paidion, thank you for the instruction on the Greek of Romans 8:18. We can always count on you to help get us to the actual Greek text.
I do believe that human suffering is less than nothing. I further believe that any other view is a counsel of despair. Consider James 1:2-3: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." Not only, then, should we not be sad in the face of suffering, but we should actually be joyful in the face of suffering. This of course ties in with Paul's command that we "rejoice always".
If we are supposed to feel sad in the face of suffering, then when could we ever not feel sad? Every single second of every single day human beings somewhere in this world are experiencing horrible pains. If I remember rightly, a human being dies on average every 5 or 10 seconds. If we are supposed to feel sad in the face of human death and suffering, then we would have to feel sad every second of every day. This of course is not consistent with "rejoicing always".
Am I counselling us to be flippant and to put our heads in the sand and pretend that nothing bad ever happens? God forbid. We of course must recognize that human death and suffering is sad, but we must not let that sadness inside of us. THAT's where we must draw the line. Being sad doesn't help anyone anyway. Consider:
You're in the hospital, very sick. Some loved ones come in and weep loudly and uncontrollably, hugging you are saying stuff like, "Oh, my God! How horrible! How can you bear it? We want you to know that we are eaten up inside with worry and sadness. We just feel awful." Etc. That sort of thing would make me as the patient feel worse rather than better. As a sufferer, I don't want my pain infecting other people with sadness. No!
Now imagine instead that you are in the hospital and very sick. Some loved ones come and visit, and they radiant joy and peace. They hug you and tell you they love you. They smile and laugh with right good gladness. They don't have the half-shy, half-mousy appearance of someone uncomfortable and uncertain what to say. They talk to you the same as they've talked to you for their entire lives. Now THAT would make me feel better. The joy they radiate would "infect" me, making my pain easier to bear.
Consider the heroes in George MacDonald's novels. I don't remember any of them moping about. They are all glad and active workers.
At any given point in time, we should ask ourselves: "Is there a duty that I need to do right now?" If yes, then we should immediately do it. If no, then we should do as we will (though of course without sin). I cannot for the life of me ever imagine that it is a duty under any circumstance to feel sad because of pain or death. Nor can I imagine how feeling sad can help you or anyone else. God does not call us to feel sad. He calls us to work. And we work best and longest when we are filled with the Lord's own gladness.
If you think about it, cancers, concentration camps, and all the rest are not a big deal in and of themselves. It is only when we "let them inside", so to speak, that they become big deals. For example: Imagine a man with inoperable cancer and 3 months to live. Further imagine that he doesn't give a fig about any pain he might suffer or for the fact that he will be dead in a few months. He laughs and lives life and rejoices in the Lord. When anyone hesitantly asks him about his pain and impending death, he laughs infectiously, snaps his fingers, and says, "I don't give that for pain or death! Christ is with me, and Paradise is ahead! What is there to be sad about?" Would you feel sorry for such a man? Or would you admire him and strive to be even as he is?
As long as we have Christ's joy in our hearts, cancer, concentration camps, torments, etc. are less than nothing. The martyrs illustrated that with their own lives. They sang as they were tortured. They sang as their children were tortured. They blessed those who killed them and blessed those who killed their children. They were full of joy.
That's how we must be as Christians. We must "rejoice always". Always. We must recognize the objective sadness of sin, pain, and death. We must NOT allow those things to steal away our joy. We are COMMANDED to not let them steal away our joy. We must be good-natured, hearty, joyous men and women of God, working and fighting alongside Christ against evil. We must sing as we work (or in prison as Paul and Silas). We must be content in all states.
So what must we do when confronted by an innocent child in agony? We do our duty. If we can assuage his pain, we do so. Any help we can render him, we do so. We certainly pray for him. If we can do nothing else, we give him glad encouragement. Under no circumstances should we allow his pain to steal the joy out of our hearts. That does not help the child, not at all. It would probably make the child feel worse. Nor does it help us. (In fact it hurts us and renders us less able to do our duties.) And it is disobedience to God. We must "rejoice always", and we must remember that "perfect love casts out all fear". Who is the one who loves God? The one who obeys His commandments.
If I had to put it all on a bumper sticker it would come down to "Do your duty and be glad."