It is written:
Isaiah 63:9-In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old.
Why doesn’t God end our suffering?
This is a question that I have wrestled with in my life, and that I have heard from so many friends over the years.
OF course, this is a question that God’s people throughout time have asked. It was the great warrior of God named Gideon who told the angel sent by God:
Judges 6:13-Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
The Prophet Jeremiah constantly spoke with God about evil, pain, and suffering:
Jeremiah 12:1-Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?
Jeremiah 14:19-Have You utterly rejected Judah? Has Your soul loathed Zion? Why have You stricken us so that there is no healing for us? We looked for peace, but there was no good; And for the time of healing, and there was trouble.
Jeremiah 15:18-Why is my pain perpetual And my wound incurable, Which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, As waters that fail?
Jeremiah 20:18-Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, That my days should be consumed with shame?
Little wonder that Jeremiah is often known as the “Weeping Prophet.”
While logic and the Bible provide us some of the reasons we need to understand the existence and prevalence of evil, pain, and suffering, we are often left questioning. And (as the Bible passages mentioned above demonstrate) that is alright!
Personally, I have found the greatest comfort in suffering through realizing Who Jesus is and what He did by entering in our world.
Matthew 1:23-BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Speaking of this concept, one author has written:
“The death of Jesus was qualitatively different from any other death. The physical pain was nothing compared to the spiritual experience of cosmic abandonment. 10 Christianity alone among the world religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and imprisonment. On the cross he went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceeds ours as infinitely as his knowledge and power exceeds ours. In his death, God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken. 11 Why did he do it? The Bible says that Jesus came on a rescue mission for creation. He had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us. Let’s see where this has brought us. If we again ask the question: “Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?” and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he is indifferent or detached from our condition. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself. Albert Camus understood this when he wrote: [Christ] the god-man suffers too, with patience. Evil and death can no longer be entirely imputed to him since he suffers and dies. The night on Golgotha is so important in the history of man only because, in its shadows, the divinity ostensibly abandoned its traditional privilege, and lived through to the end, despair included, the agony of death. Thus is explained the “Lama sabachthani” and the frightful doubt of Christ in agony. 12 So, if we embrace the Christian teaching that Jesus is God and that he went to the Cross, then we have deep consolation and strength to face the brutal realities of life on earth. We can know that God is truly Immanuel—God with us—even in our worst sufferings.” (Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, 28-29 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Penguin Group (USA) Inc.)
From this, please consider the following.
First, Jesus shows us that God knows the suffering that we endure in this life-whatever that suffering may be. God indeed “knows” the affliction of His people (Exodus 3:7). Through His temptations and suffering, Jesus was able to become the perfect High Priest for mankind (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16). By His perfect life and experience at Calvary, Jesus was able to come to a point where He could completely relate to each and every one of us and hence become the perfect Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Through Jesus, we see that God has fully embraced our suffering and our struggle. Through the Cross, Jesus joins our shame; and through the Cross, He feels our pain.
Second, Jesus shows us that we may not always fully understand the “why” of our suffering when we are eclipsed in our pain. On the Cross, Jesus felt forsaken by God (Matthew 27:46). When Jesus made this statement, He was quoting from Psalm 22.
Psalm 22:1-My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
When you read through Psalm 22, you see the Psalmist questioning God. Where is God? Why doesn’t He put a stop to the suffering? Has evil won? Will the demonic bulls of Bashan be victorious?
In the same way, we may not fully understand “why” we suffer in this world, or even “why” it seems like God is silent and absent in our times of struggle. Yet Jesus shows us that even though we do not fully understand the reasons for our pain, we can embrace God in our times of struggle and know that He understands.
Third, Jesus shows us that in our suffering God does NOT forsake us even when we feel that He has. As Jesus quotes Psalm 22, we are reminded of what the Psalmist concluded:
Psalm 22:24-For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.
The Psalmist had felt forsaken by God, but the truth was, God had been with him through all of his suffering.
In the same way, God will not forsake you in your darkest times, even when it is hard to feel His Presence through the storms.
Finally, Jesus teaches us that God WILL act on our behalf when the time is right. The Cross and the feeling of abandonment was not the end of the story! Jesus came to realize that He could depend on God even when the pain was unbearable, and He learned to depend on God! We see this because Jesus cried out:
Luke 23;46-And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.
Jesus made His way through the darkness to embrace His Father. The feeling of abandonment was only part of the path-not the conclusion of the journey.
Friends, hold to God when you are hurting and unsure.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.