Redemptive Suffering

This is the conclusion of my series Only a Suffering God Can Save

I began this series with an image of suffering, and a question, where is God in all this pain?  Well it is obvious that while He may be omnipotent, God doesn’t act omnipotent.  That upsets and disappoints many people.  Some people won’t accept it and instead believe that God wills all the pain and suffering for some mysterious reason, saying His ways are not our ways.  They are right about that, His ways are not our ways.  Instead of ending all suffering He enters into it.  He participates in pain in full solidarity us, the creatures He made in His own image.  By suffering with us, He gives all suffering meaning.

The cross is teaching us that all human suffering is also divine suffering.

Once we realize that God is suffering with us we can begin to trust in Him.  We realize that He isn’t behind all our pain, but in it with us.  Then we can perhaps ask for forgiveness.  Forgiveness for believing that He was beyond all pain and was sitting in heaven laughing at us, and hating Him for it.

People who have been hurt can trust, and even love, a God who has also been hurt.  Only a God who has suffered can reach out to those who have suffered.  Only then will they allow Him to save them.

What wounded or humiliated person could not look on the crucified Lord and not recognize him or herself?  Who would not rush toward such a God who is in communion with our pain, humiliation, powerlessness, and failure?  Who knows what it is like to be crushed by the world, to be broken by it, and then left for dead.

Jesus is the God of all who suffer.  He is not in competition with any other religion or world-view.  He doesn’t care about country or politics.  The only battle He cares about is the one He fights against suffering and death.

Those who suffer have a God who does not condemn them or judge them.  He does not stand above them or apart from them or their pain.  Instead He hangs there with them.  He flows through them.  How different from the god preached about daily who does nothing but judge.  Who seems to sit above the little powerless creatures he created and condemns them for not living up to his expectations.  Who crushes those who displease him with his jealous wrath.  How could that god save the world?

Instead we have a God who loves and wants us to love Him.  Who doesn’t want servants, but friends.  Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”  It is in His pain that we are drawn to Him.  In His wounds we are healed, for in them He has made all suffering redemptive.

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5 responses to “Redemptive Suffering

  1. I like your concept of God better than most that I have come across lately. There’s just one thing that I would state somewhat differently.
    We live in a world of duality, a world of light and dark, a world of matter and anti-matter and a world of good and evil (suffering if you will). Both good and evil emanated from God as did all things in creation.
    Evil (suffering) was necessary to allow people to understand good and by extension to understand and be one with our Creator.

    • Thank you for your very intelligent response, however I must disagree. You say that good and evil both emanate from God, an idea that is found in the Old Testament. It says clearly that God hardened Pharaoh’s hart, and Job famously says that if we accept good from God, we must also accept evil. Satan wasn’t clearly understood, as it was believed he was still an agent of God. Jesus clearly teaches that Satan is the enemy, and evil is something apart from God. Evil is a consequence of freedom. God evidently thought freedom was so important that it was worth the risk of evil. He does use evil to bring forth good. He uses evil and the pain and suffering it brings to change and transform us, I do agree with that, but I don’t think that He wanted it that way. He uses what He has. He always tries to make lemon-aid out of our lemons. Also, part of Jesus’s mission was to undo dualism. He wants us to be one, as He and the Father are one, in Him there is no Jew or Greek, male or female, freeman or slave, all are one. I can’t talk too much about that, for it is a wisdom I have only had glimpses of.

      • In the beginning, all there was was God. By definition then, everything in creation emanates from God (directly or indirectly). Even if it’s indirectly, God being omnipotent knew in advance what would happen
        (evil). It’s way too simplistic to just say that good and evil are adversaries. Evil has a significant role that it plays in the Kingdom of God. First, how would you ever know the meaning of good unless you experienced evil. You’d have no way to make a distinction and therefore no way to truly understand God (as good). Also, if God did not allow evil (he could have chosen this alternative but didn’t) then man would not have free will. When you quote from the Bible you have to be careful. While the Bible contains a lot of wisdom and was perhaps inspired by God, it’s not necessarily the Word of God. Man, at least some men, decided that the Bible was the Word of God when in truth it’s the word of man about God. There are all sorts of inconsistencies in the Bible, too many to even try to discuss here and theologians are frequently in disagreement as to what a certain passage in the Bible means anyway. Heck, the disciples didn’t even understand the teachings of Jesus either. Jesus used a style of teaching popular at the time where the words say one thing (a surface story) but the true meaning can only be understood by an enlightened mind. In biblical times, this ancient wisdom was referred to as the Mysteries. Hope that this helps, even if only to make you aware of the possibility of alternative interpretations of the Bible.

      • I understand your points, this is a debate I have had many times. I would like to say that it doesn’t matter, but I do feel it is important, if only because it reflects your image of God. If God is directly responsible for evil than God Himself is evil. That is not the God I know. I do believe that evil is a consequence of our freewill, as I said before, and so it can be said He is indirectly responsible for evil. Like I said, He must put great value on our freedom, knowing the consequences it would have. I don’t think that we are very far apart on this issue. I also agree with you entirely on your view of the Bible and of Jesus’s teaching style. Thank you again, for your well thought out comments.

      • In nature, there are numerous situations where one element morphs into another or into two separate elements or two elements combine to form an entirely different third element. For example in chemistry, hydrogen (one of life’s basic elements) when combined with chloride
        makes hydrochloric acid which if used improperly can be extremely
        dangerous. So it is that an all-powerful God can create a world where evil (or good) can emanate from one of the elements – such as man. God does not have to be innately evil himself. It is true as you said
        that God values our free will highly. The reason is that it is only through man’s own independent decisions and actions that life can evolve and without evolution there is no purpose to life. While you may choose to disagree (it’s your free will), I hope that I’ve given you some food for thought.

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