God who suffers well – Part 1

Watching others suffer is a distasteful part of life, and sadly, it’s possible to become insensitive to it. However, when suffering is personal, it usually brings our innermost character to the surface; for better, or for worse. And although we may not think of it often, if at all, the same is true of God.

Officially, the teaching about God suffering is called the doctrine of Impassibility. This doctrine does NOT teach that God is changeable, has mood swings, or cannot control His responses, because God is never the victim of circumstance. The doctrine of passibility does teach however, that God is emotionally invested in His creation; that He is involved because He cares, and because He cares, He feels pain when His creation suffers.

For humankind, it began in Genesis 1:27-28, God created man in his own image… male and female he created them. And God blessed them saying… “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Humanity was the most spectacular and privileged of all God created, unparalleled in design and capacity for glorifying their creator.

Genesis 1:31 summarizes, God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. As Yahweh microscopically examined everything, particularly volitional humanity, His conclusion was that it all surpassed being good. It was very good! Tragically, it wasn’t long before the first two people bought into the lies of God’s enemy, and they sinned, introducing death and suffering into the world. Before long, human rebellion was so rampant, that the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart (Genesis 6:6). The original word for “grieved” carries the idea of pain that carves its way into the heart. Although sin causes God the deepest pain, He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10).

Stepping forward in time, we see unfaithful Israel becoming the source of great suffering for God. They rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel (Psalm 78:40-41). In the New Testament, it was Peter who publicly explained Israel’s ultimate wound to God’s heart. Men of Israel…  Jesus of Nazareth… attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst… this Jesus, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:22-23). Yet, despite the pain suffered by the Father at the murderous rejection of His Son, God has not rejected his people Israel (Romans 11:2). Such mountainous grace displays God’s holiness through His suffering.

The Lord’s mercy towers above the immense suffering caused by mankind, especially Israel. His integrity shines brightest when upholding His many covenantal promises to Israel, and especially through the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Hebrews 10:10-18). His grace prevails over His suffering, seen by only a partial hardening which has temporarily been brought upon Israel. As stated by Paul, it remains God’s firm intension for all Israel to eventually be saved (Romans 11:25-26). Such is God’s integrity, who suffers well for His glory and the ultimate blessing of His covenant people.

When this world suffers, grace is often among the first qualities to get dropped. But not so with Yahweh, His suffering only highlights His incalculable grace. God’s innermost character is seen best through His sufferings, may the same be true of us.

To be continued…

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