Going Deeper with the Message:
The Suffering Savior
by: Ben Biles
On Sunday, Pastor Tim talked to us once again on the subject of suffering. The reality of suffering causes us to ask many questions of God like “why would a good and loving God allow suffering at all?” and “why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” But something Tim said on Sunday stood out to me: “No one has suffered as much as God has.” I think we tend to imagine God as immune to pain and suffering as He sits on His heavenly throne, but the reality is that’s not true. He has suffered greatly on behalf of His creation.
What makes this so interesting is that God does not have to suffer, but He chooses to suffer on our behalf. Humans, on the other hand, endure suffering naturally through living in a world corrupted by sin and evil. God, who is incorruptible and holy, enters into this sinful world of suffering by his own initiative. He sends His Son Jesus Christ to die as a sacrifice for our sin and to reconcile us to the Father. In this we see the fullness of God’s love, that He willingly subjected himself to suffering for our sake. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus endure a variety of sufferings through His life, but nothing compares to his taking on the sins of the world upon himself and dying on the cross as payment for those sins. Through his suffering, we can know God in a personal relationship as his sacrifice releases us from the bonds of our sin.
The writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). God knows what it feels like to suffer. He’s endured more than you could even imagine. He has a greater understanding of suffering and pain than anyone else. In this, we find comfort because anyone who has suffered knows that the best comfort and advice comes from someone who has suffered in the same way. We do not have a God who is callous to our suffering or unable to understand, but one who has gone through it Himself and offers comfort. For anyone going through suffering, know that God understands. Don’t let suffering cause you to doubt God’s goodness, but seek instead his comfort (for more, read 2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
Living out the Message:
Purpose in Suffering
By Ben Biles
As Pastor Tim interacted with the hard question of “Why do we suffer?,” his main point was to assure us that “we can make sense of suffering.” This was followed by seven points on why we can make sense of suffering:
- All suffering can be traced back to the sin of Adam and Eve.
- We should not expect God to intervene every time bad things happen.
- Christians should view suffering as discipline, not as punishment.
- No one has suffered as much as God has.
- Suffering should remind us that this world is not our home.
- Suffering provides an opportunity for us to care for another.
- Suffering reminds us of our need for God.
I think the main struggle we face in the midst of suffering is that we doubt God’s love for us. We question why God would allow us to suffer even as He calls us his children. But in this, we misunderstand the purpose of suffering. Did the Father not love the Son while He suffered on the cross? Yet Jesus’ suffering was necessary for our faith. In the same way, our suffering provides opportunities for the gospel to be proclaimed. For when we encounter suffering and then cling to the hope we have in Jesus, that shows the world that God is worth suffering for and that we believe that His grace is sufficient for our needs. If you are willing to suffer for the gospel, then it must really matter to you.
James writes in his letter, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4). Here, our suffering isn’t purposeless, but provides us another opportunity to grow in our faith. When we endure, we become stronger. We have a greater trust in God and a greater hope in our glorious future with Him.
As you encounter suffering in the present moment and in future ones, understand that suffering has a purpose. It gives you an opportunity to strengthen your faith and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t allow despair, doubt, or bitterness to overwhelm you, but stand firm in your faith and press on in the fullness of God’s grace.