God who suffers well – Part 3

There is no denying the suffering that exists throughout the world. From personal abuses to a nation’s poverty due to war, disaster, or disease. The world has proven its inability to eliminate human suffering, despite great humanitarian efforts. Yet, much of society is so obsessed with ease, comfort, and pleasure, that they fail to deal with ugly human suffering. In this world Christians are not spared from the pains of suffering either. No amount of denial or speaking it out of existence can change the painful realities of life.

Apart from the daily frustrations Christians experience, some believers endure terrible health, financial, or relational struggles by the will of God. There also exists many thousands of God’s people worldwide who suffer for no other reason than for their faith in Christ. From harassment, to excommunication, to loss of employment or housing, to violence and death, more Christians than ever suffer persecution for Christ. Regardless of what the world may tell us, God exists within the sufferings of His children. To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). As Christ suffered well, so believers are equipped to follow Christ’s gracious and faithful responses in suffering.

It’s fair to be nervous at the possibility of extreme suffering. And it’s good to learn in advance of God’s presence and comfort in sufferings.

Peter explains a key component of Christ’s suffering, which, if we apply, serves us well in our sufferings. When he (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). Jesus did not respond to suffering in a typical human manner. He didn’t retaliate or lash out at others. He didn’t hide from it, or deny it, or try to pass it on to someone else. Yes, He received the sour wine on the cross (John 19:29-30) which was meant to dull his physical pain. Receiving assistance and pain relief of all kinds are graces of God during suffering, for which we are thankful.

Jesus’ example is both spiritual and practical. As He was experiencing the various degrees of suffering leading up to and including crucifixion, He continuously entrusted Himself to His Heavenly Father. Jesus didn’t wait until He thought He was at breaking point. From Judas’ betrayal to the nails driven through His wrists and ankle bones, Jesus entrusted. This was deliberate and continuous prayer. Open, honest, and unrestrained in its expression of suffering and dependence upon the Heavenly Father for strength, determination, and faithfulness.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking… (1 Peter 4:1). From minor irritations to life threatening assaults for the name of Jesus, Christ suffers well through His believers. Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 1:5, that as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. Before suffering begins, we can’t imagine how Christ will supply comfort. Only pain triggers the release of Christ’s comforting resources. When we suffer, the indwelling Holy Spirit participates in our suffering. We are never abandoned by God, as the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26). God suffers well within His beloved children, providing security, hope, and even joy that transcends the pains of this life.

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