In the previous blog we began to look at the subject of suffering focusing on our societies struggles to have anything helpful to say about it.
This week we look at things from a Christian perspective. For a Christian “Tears cannot extinguish joy”, why is that?
We understand Christ’s suffering had a purpose. Ours does as well. We are united with Christ in his suffering.
In Jesus Christ, God came to earth and suffered with and for us sacrificially—and that is far more comforting than the idea that God is remote and uninvolved. The cross also proves that God is for us.
Through faith in Christ’s work on the cross, we can have assurance of our salvation. We are assured that the difficulties of life are not payment for our past sins, since Jesus has paid for them. Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. But we know God is for us, therefore who can be against us.
Purpose in our suffering.
When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives but that we never were, you don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.
God is at work in our suffering and through our suffering, it conforms us into the likeness of Christ.
We also have the support of the family of God. We love each other deeply. Real community is forged in the midst of suffering.
We know he loves us unconditionally, despite our flaws, we know he is present with us and working in our lives in times of pain and sorrow.
Peter likens Christians with saving faith in Jesus Christ to gold filled with impurities. Mixed in with our faith in God are all sorts of competing commitments to comfort, power, pride, pleasure, and self. Our faith is largely abstract and intellectual and not very heartfelt. Suffering refines our faith.
I have ministered to many Christians who are in pain or suffering in different ways, yet they had a peace impossible without faith in God.
We realise we can’t understand everything.
Let us avoid being over simplistic though.
Suffering is both just and unjust. God is both a sovereign and a suffering God.
We must not look at parents with children gone off the rails, or racial groups with a lot of poverty and crime, or gay people who are dying of AIDs and assume that, if we are not suffering in the same way as they, we are morally superior to them in God’s eyes. And when suffering comes upon us inexplicably, as it did to Job, it means that we can indeed cry out in our confusion. We have a warrant for being in deep distress, and there is truth in our feeling that we are suffering unjustly.
This balance—that God is just and will bring final justice, but life in the meantime is often deeply unfair—keeps us from many deadly errors.
Next week in the last of my blogs out of 1 Peter I ask the question, What difference does hope make?
WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON
Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.
He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.