Fairness and Suffering
How fair was it for the Creator of the universe to have to interject Himself into His creation and become “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” in order to redeem it? There was nothing fair about it at all! As strange as it may sound, God’s love and grace are not fair! If we want fair, then we have to deal with God’s Justice; but then the best we can hope for is to be consumed by it. God’s love and mercy are not fair. Listen to Jesus’ cry as He experienced the full impact of God’s judicial wrath, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Despite the awfulness of His pain, despite His humiliation, despite the loneliness He was experiencing as He was being rejected by His nation, despite His being a sin-offering, despite the alienation He must have been experiencing, He was still saying, “My God.” He had not lost His trust in His Father. He had been stripped of all His human rights, His privacy, His status in the eyes of the law, but they could not strip Him of His absolute trust in His Father. In other words, like Job, Jesus was saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
As we listen to the Lord’s words from the cruel cross, we hear Him say, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46). Here is absolute trust. Here is victory over suffering. Here is victory in the face of death. Although His Father had just delivered Him over to cruel men to suffer and die (cf. Acts 2:23), He says, in essence, “You I trust!“ Faith (i.e., trust), hope, and love will do it every time (I Corinthians 13:13)! If we believe that the One who loves us is allowing us to pass through the fire of suffering for some good purpose, then we will be victors over whatever happens to us. Remember, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Jesus, because He loved us, was willing to submit to the will of His Father through suffering so that mankind could have the hope of redemption. Wasn’t this a good enough cause? Obviously, God seemed to think so.
So, take a real good look at Jesus, because He is “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God...[and] consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:2,3).
Yes, look at Jesus, for in the midst of what, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be defeat, we see the greatest victory mankind has ever known. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, [and] received up in glory” (I Timothy 3:16).
How much does God love us? Latch on to the truth that He loves us a Calvary’s-worth. Be convinced that Calvary speaks the truth of God’s magnificent love and then ask yourself what is it that could separate you from that love.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
As Jim McGuiggan so effectively pointed out in his excellent little book, The God Of The Towel, will hunger and thirst convince us that God doesn’t love us? How could it? Hunger and thirst were God’s experience in Christ to show us that He does love us. Can persecution (i.e., being led to the slaughter) while others jeer, convince us that God does not love us? How could it? The slaughter of the Lamb of God became God’s own experience in the flesh to show us that He does love us. In other words, what the apostle Paul said in Romans 8:31-39 is: If I had a wife and men were raping and humiliating her while compelling me to helplessly stand by and watch, I would not be convinced that God does not love me. If I had children who lay brutally deprived of food, lifting up weak and skinny arms in voiceless appeal for me to do something, I would not be convinced that God did not love me. And if the world brutalized me in every conceivable way and God stood by to watch it, I could not be convinced that He does not love me. I would cry, complain, agonize, and probably protest, but I would remain persuaded beyond any doubt that God loves me. This is why I am able to live with suffering.
The skeptic may ask, “Is it not unreasonable to think that a good God would so order His universe so as to make his subjects happy?“ And maybe the thought is not really unreasonable, even for a Christian. How can free-will worship possibly be worth the excessive amount of evil that exists in the world? We just do not really know. But, if the loving, kind, merciful, and all-wise God of the universe thinks there are more important ends to be gained from this fallen world than our unbroken enjoyment of life on this earth, then we will have to either trust Him or rebel.
But, if one event in all the history of mankind is true and unmistakably plain in its message, it is the CROSS OF CHRIST: the true image, imprinted indelibly in our hearts, of the all-good, all-powerful Creator of the universe, in the form of a defeated man, dying contemptibly in the shadows of one dark afternoon some twenty centuries ago, because...He loved us.
Thank You God for everything You’ve done for us. Help us always to glorify You in our pain and suffering. Again, from the bottom of our hearts, thank You!...Thank You!!...Thank You!!!