There’s a Purpose Behind It: God Identifies With Our Suffering

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:38-44). 

What do we see about this? First, by believing, we see the glory of God.

Secondly, the Father always hears the Son, and Christ intercedes for us and is doing so even now—even if we cannot sense that He is. He makes this clear for the people around him.

Thirdly, Jesus has Lord over death. Death listens to Jesus! If Jesus tells death to go, then death moves because Jesus is God the Son who is over death. Jesus was sent by God (v. 42) to conquer death for His own.

How would he do this? By his own death! Remember that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised. During Jesus death, we see the sky go dark for three days, when his Father turned His back on His Son—the only time they had ever been separated, for God cannot look upon sin. Here, Christ was paying for the penalty of our sin by becoming sin for us, and being separated from His beloved Father.

But when He said, “It is finished,” the Apostle Paul builds on this three word phrase:

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

By the Father and the Son identifying with suffering in this way shows that there is a purpose behind the suffering. Malcolm Mudderidge says:

Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.

So what are we to think of suffering? That the presence of suffering is the absence of God? By no means, because God sent His Son for the purpose of suffering so that our suffering for His sake might mean something.

C.S. Lewis says, “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.”  Suffering has a purpose—to show the cursed nature and wickedness prevalent in the world, so that we would recognize there is something for which we long—a hope in which we have only in Christ who saves, sanctifies, and glorifies!

Categories: apologetics, suffering | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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