The mysteries of the Gospel of grace are never ending. Contemplating the topic of suffering lends itself to much discussion.
Why does God let us suffer? How can we worship a God who lets His worshipers suffer natural disasters, starve from malnutrition, become sex slaves, and more ungodly things? Doesn’t our God care about His people?
My friend, I assure you He does care, and our salvation is at the root of our dilemma, the root of our questions.
The Jews thought their King would come riding into town on a white horse, brandishing a sword, and wearing the best armor. Many did not recognize the Messiah because He came into town nestled deep within His mother’s womb, brandishing the cry of an infant, and wearing nothing but swaddling cloths from a stinky stable.
As I have thumbed through the pages of the Bible, reading the passages regarding suffering, I stand amazed at what I read. God does not waste our suffering.
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” ~1 Peter 1:10-11
Do you see what happened here? Christ first came to suffer. Then, Christ was glorified. Christ came into town as an infant, fully reliant upon the care of his parents. He was then despised and rejected by men, run out of one town after the other. He hungered and thirst. He cried at the realities of death. Few believed he was the Messiah. He was tortured and beaten. He was spit on and ridiculed. He was crowned with thorns. He was hung on a cross outside of town. He was taunted and teased. He died while asking his Father to forgive us dirty sinners for we know not what we do.
Christ suffered in every way before He was glorified. Hebrews 2:17 explains this confusing order of events.
“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of his people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
So though He suffered, though we suffer, let us not lose sight of the point – salvation. Christ suffered to make propitiation for our sins. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees when it comes to suffering. Suffering is for our salvation.
“[Our suffering is] to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9).”
Without suffering, how do we know we need a Savior?
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God…For in this hope we are saved.” ~Romans 8:20-22,24a
Christ did not stay in the ground. He suffered and died a shameful death, but He rose victorious. And the Bible says we will share in His glory. His perfect sacrifice led to the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” ~Romans 6:5
We share in Christ’s suffering so we might share in his resurrection (Philippians 3:10).
If you read through the passages of the Bible regarding suffering, the message always points beyond our current circumstances to that Day! We suffer, but for a little while, as we await the return of Jesus!
For Christians, that Day will be a happy day, a day of rejoicing!
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’
And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.’” ~Revelation 21:3-7
But for those not of the household of faith, that Day will only be a continuation of this world’s sufferings and more.
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, there portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” ~Revelation 21:8
Our suffering is only meant to reveal our need for a Savior. Don’t waste your suffering in this present life because eternal glory awaits those who call on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13).