Let me begin by saying, I have come to realize it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do, where you were raised, or whether you are rich or poor, good or bad, you will face pain and suffering at some level. I have witnessed it and I have been a part of it.
I will be transparent for a little while. Because of the poor choices I have made in my life, I brought about pain and suffering that I continue to need healing from. And the worse part of it, I have caused others to suffer as well.
I have asked God from time to time, “How could you love someone like me?” I’ve had seasons of great depression and despair because of the choices I have made and the hurts I have caused. There was a time where I wondered if I could ever have faith in a God who could be so loving and yet allow me to instill so much pain on others and myself. I cried out to Him to shake me and tear out the memories. Today, I say, “Thanks be to God!” God is a sovereign God who made Himself vulnerable and subject to us, as well as to suffering.
I remember nights where I cried out to God and wept for what seemed to be hours wanting God to hurt me for hurting others. I remember those same nights feeling an unquenchable love pour over me. It was in those times when I began to realize that when I suffer, He suffers. When I hurt, God Himself hurts.
I believe that there are three Christian themes of teaching that can help us when we are facing pain and suffering.
First, Creation and the Fall. God desires an intimate relationship with us. His desire is for us to spend time seeking His love and compassion. This has been God’s eternal plan since creation began. God’s Word chronicles this. But in Genesis Chapter 3, the origin of the world’s darkness is confirmed. We turned from God, lost that relationship, and everything else fell apart. Let me ask you something: When you want to nurture a relationship, whether it’s with your spouse or your children, don’t you want to spend time with them? You find as much time as possible because your joy and love rises up when you are with them. The same with our Heavenly Father. We are special to Him and He desires to spend time with us. When sin entered the world, we lost our relationship with our Heavenly Father. And it took the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on a cross, and His resurrection, to reconcile us back to our Father.
Next, there is the Renewal of the World. The bible teaches us that there will be a Judgment Day. Yes, and it’s necessary. In a biblical sense, the doctrine of Judgment Day is far from being a gloomy idea. It actually enables us to live with both hope and grace. Listen, if there is no judgment day, then there are only two things to do…lose all hope or turn to vengeance. The bible teaches that vengeance belongs to the Lord and should not be from us. When we believe in a Judgment Day, it keeps us from being too passive or too violently aggressive in our pursuit of truth and justice.
I found this statement to be very impressive to me. I think it is one you should latch on to and get into your heart. “The Christian doctrine of resurrection and renewal also gives us hope beyond the suffering and pain we experience in this evil world.” Yes, there will be a better, greater, and glorious tomorrow. God has promised it. It is found in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 21, verses 1-5. It says this, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then He said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”
Lastly, God suffers. Yes, He does. God did not stay in Heaven, but rather entered our world in the person of Jesus, experienced the brokenness, and suffered Himself unjustly even to death for our sins. He was God and yet He suffered. He knew firsthand rejection and betrayal, poverty and abuse, disappointment and despair, sorrow, torture, and ultimately death.
Friend, pain and suffering are terrible realities in life. I have experienced times of pain and extreme suffering. But we have a God who is not above suffering. He is not cold and heartless. He watches over us from above and stands in the midst of our pain and suffering with a compassionate heart. The center of God’s character is compassionate love. He understands what it is to suffer and is ready to walk with us and share in our pain and suffering. He is at work not only suffering for us, but suffering with us.
To learn more about a sovereign God who knows our pain and suffering, check out our podcast, “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering: The Sovereign and Suffering God” at: http://painesvilleag.com/walking-god-pain-suffering.
We are not alone. God is our Great High Priest who sympathizes with us and who gives us strength as we walk through whatever we face.