On love and suffering

September 1, 2017
September 1, 2017 Jonathan Evans

On love and suffering

No one in life is going to escape suffering through hardship, pain, loss, sickness or death. These things are a given in life regardless of who you are, where you live, who you know, what you believe or what you do.

 

In addition to suffering itself, when we are suffering we have also in common that we look and long for someone to be with us. They may not be able to change anything about our circumstances, take away our pain or explain what is happening and why, but they can very much be a help in our time of need: someone who understands and sympathizes with us, someone we can talk to and depend on for anything, someone we can silently sit with. As Christians we believe that one person above them all is Jesus Christ.

 

In Jesus, God draws near to us in our suffering. He does so because he loves us and because he sympathizes with us in our weakness, not in that he feels sorry for us but in that he actually experiences and knows what we are actually experiencing and knowing.

 

God is moved by our needs. He doesn’t enjoy or ignore our suffering. In fact, our suffering is why Jesus came. It’s because all these things happen in the world and in our lives that Jesus came from heaven to earth. But he didn’t come into the world strictly speaking for suffering. Suffering is the result of sin. Jesus came into the world to suffer and die on the cross because of our sin.

 

But to die for our sins he needed also to suffer the full consequences and effects of sin. Every pain, sorrow, hardship, weakness, loss—every suffering imaginable he endured, carried, and experienced in himself. This he did out of love freely, willingly, and completely, so that by his death and then resurrection he could begin to make all things new.

 

Having defeated sin, he has defeated death by his death and suffering by his suffering, so that what he has begun to do now he will complete on the day of his return, when with him he brings a new heaven and new earth in which there will be no more suffering of any kind.

 

We don’t know, and can’t comprehend, why God still “allows” suffering. But this much we do know and understand: God won’t allow it forever. This is why Jesus came: to one day end suffering forever.

 

Until then, we desire what is true: God be with us in our suffering. Jesus was abandoned and forsaken by his Father on the cross in our place, so that we would never be no matter what. In and through our suffering, God walks with us, holds us close, and keeps us secure. He is not in the suffering itself, but is rather with us in our suffering.

 

So our ultimate hope, confidence, and joy in this life is that in his love—because he is love—God will not allow anything to separate us from his love, but will rather in all things and at all times love us in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus lives, we will not be ultimately destroyed but eternally saved.

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