"Praise be to the GOD and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the GOD of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from GOD. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort which produces in you endurance of the same sufferings we suffer" (2 Cor. 1:3-6).
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in the very nature GOD, did not consider equality with GOD something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant... He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore GOD exalted Him to the highest place" (Phil.
All the power, honor, glory, blessing and riches showered upon Christ on His crowning day, all of it, overflowing all the universe, we will share in. What is it worth? "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).
GOD never would have chosen suffering as a path for His people, but since humans opted for that detour, since suffering is now part of what it means to be a homo sapiens, GOD is going to use it. Not halfheartedly, but in delight. For as dark and pernicious as it is, GOD will squash suffering like a grapefruit in the face of the devil, turning it inside out into something sweet, delightful, and heavenly. If suffering can't be avoided, GOD's going to redeem it to usher us into the highest echelons of heaven.
"GOD has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that each part should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (I Cor. 12:24-26).
As the Church exercises its muscles in sacrificial service, it rises to its calling, it steps into the grand purpose for which it was designed. As it does, GOD smiles. Suffering is being squelched. Pain is being purged. And the darkness which chokes the hearts and blinds the eyes is being pushed back. When your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, an orderly list of "sixteen good Biblical reasons as to why this is happening" can sting like salt in a wound. You don't stop the bleeding that way. A checklist may be okay when you're looking at your suffering in a rearview mirror, but when you're hurting in the present tense, "Let me explain why this is happening" isn't always livable.
We must use the Bible's answers from GOD. The problem of suffering is not about some thing, but Someone. It
follows that the answer must not be one thing, but Someone. "Knowing our Lord Jesus Christ" is keeping your eye on the Sculptor - not on the suffering, or even suffering's benefits.
GOD, like a father, doesn't give advice. He gives Himself. He becomes the husband to the grieving widow (Isaiah 54:5). He becomes the comforter to the barren woman (Isaiah 54:1). He becomes the father of the orphaned (Psalm 10:14). He becomes the bridegroom to the single person (Isaiah 62:5). He is the healer to the sick (Exod. 15:26). He is the wonderful counselor to the confused and depressed (Isaiah 9:6).
This is what you do when someone you love is in anguish: you respond to the plea of their heart by giving them your heart. If you are the One who's the center of the universe, holding it together, if everything moves, breathes, and has its being in you, you can do no more than give yourself (Acts 17:28).
Jesus lost His life. Thankfully, He was not scorched by death. He burst back to life. What power! If I'm to be held steady in the midst of my suffering, I want to be held not by a doctrine or a cause but by the most powerful person in the universe.
Amazing love, how can it be? That GOD should plunge the knife in His heart for me - all the while, me dry and indifferent, cool and detached. That He, the GOD of life, should conquer death by embracing it. That He should destroy the power of sin by letting it destroy Him. This is "the foolishness of GOD... wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of GOD stronger than man's strength" (I Cor. 1:25).
Once heaven has our attention, a fervid anticipation for GOD's ultimate reality - appearing with Him in glory - beings outgrow, making everything earthly pale in comparison. Earth's pain keeps crushing our hopes, reminding us this world cannot satisfy; only heaven can. And every time we begin to nestle too comfortably on this planet, GOD cracks open the locks of the dam to allow an ice-cold splash of suffering to wake us from our spiritual slumber.
Excerpted from When GOD Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada
and Steven Estes ©1997, published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 49530.
THE WAR CRY/ PASSOVER 1998