- God chose to enter human history in the person of Jesus Christ.* He was born in a feeding trough. At the age of one or two his parents took him to Egypt to escape King Herod’s slaughter of all the small children in the area. He spent his early years in a foreign country. He grew up in obscurity, probably following his father’s trade as a carpenter. He was poor, depending on the support of others for his public ministry.
- Throughout his ministry he was accused of being a glutton, a madman, a drunkard, a deceiver, a demon or possessed of the devil, a friend of prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners. He was excommunicated from the synagogue and several times threatened with stoning. His home folks sought to throw him over a cliff.Finally he was betrayed, deserted by his friends, suffered the worst kind of flogging, and was nailed publicly to a wooden cross. He is described in the Bible as “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3)
- If Jesus is God, as the New Testament declares, and Christians have always believed, then God knows all about suffering. As Dorothy Sayers wrote in Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World:——-For whatever reason God chose to make people as they are – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – he had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from us that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it all worthwhile.——
- Yet the physical and mental suffering I have described pales into insignificance beside another kind of suffering that Jesus endured on the cross. The Bible says, “Christ carried the burden of our sins” (I John 2:2).
- In some remarkable way, when Jesus hung on the cross he was taking on his own shoulders the consequences of the evil of the human race. This is the amazing centrepiece of the gospel story. The God who gave us the dignity of freedom of choice, now takes upon himself the consequences for our wrong choices.
- “The tears of God are the meaning of history.” Nicholas Wolterstorff-
- William Temple:“There cannot be a God of love,” people say, “because if there was, and he looked upon the world, his heart would break.” The church points to the Cross and says, “It did break”
- He didn’t give us a placebo or a pill or good advice. He gave us himself. He came. He entered space and time and suffering. He came, like a lover. Love seeks above all intimacy, presence, togetherness. Peter Kreeft
- Kreeft continues:Remove Jesus and the knowledge of God is questionable. If the knowledge of God is questionable, trusting this unknown God becomes questionable…Suffering is the evidence against God, the reason not to trust him. Jesus is the evidence for God, the reason to trust him.
- The British philosopher G. K. Chesterton presented a powerful thought. He argued that, for the Christian, joy is the central feature of life and sorrow is peripheral, because in the gospel the fundamental questions of life are answered and it is the peripheral ones that are relatively unanswered. For the atheist, sorrow is central and joy peripheral, because only the peripheral questions have answers and the central ones remain unanswered.
- It is significant that Jesus rose from the dead with a body that still bore the marks of his sufferings in his hands, his feet and his side. Throughout all eternity he will bear those scars……
- True happiness results from being a certain kind of person, not from being in a certain set of circumstances. God loves us enough to persist in moulding our character, often through trials, and even when we would rather remain in our immaturity.
- C. S. Lewis said in The Problem of Pain: When we want to be something other than the thing that God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy…whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.
- Jesus did not come to make a way out, but a way through. He came not to make life easy, but to make people great.
- C. S. Lewis wrote:–God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
- If we are going to pursue the things of the Lord, we will often not understand what he is doing…As my friend always used to tell me, “Sometimes God crushes a petal to bring out its essence.” Sometimes he offends our minds to reveal our hearts.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis for his stand against Hitler, wrote from prison, “In view of our supreme purpose, the present difficulties and disappointments seem trivial.”
- A Ugandan Christian, Henry, was on a bus that was attacked by guerrillas. Half his face was blown away. A Christian organisation got him to Montreal where he had many operations. David Watson, an Anglican clergyman, tells of his visit with him. He could not help flinching when he saw the mask that was once a face. But Henry’s eyes still sparkled. He was unable to speak, but he wrote on paper for David, “God never promises us an easy time. Just a safe arrival.”
“a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
In that day “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
As Philip Yancey, one of today’s most helpful writers on the problem of suffering, puts it, “God’s miracle of transforming Bad Friday into Easter Sunday will be enlarged to cosmic scale.”