Is suffering a necessary component of humanity?
Jesus went through more physical and emotional suffering during His time on earth than most people could withstand in their lifetimes without wishing for their own death. And yet, Christ did not wish for His own death. His faith remained strong, and He sought the Father’s love through it to the end.
Many people have asked why Jesus needed to suffer, to save us from sin. If God is really God, why couldn’t He just take away the sin, and we could be done with it?
But as I sit here tonight contemplating the death and resurrection of Christ, I keep asking myself; if Christ had not suffered, would His humanity have been believable? If Christ had not suffered, as countless people suffer each day throughout the world, would reconciliation to the Father have been possible for all of humanity?
We often view suffering through the eyes of evil, which most suffering is a product of. And yet, Paul gives us a different picture:
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.
Paul, during his lifetime, as many of you know, was persecuted. He was not only persecuted for what he believed, but for who he was within early Christianity. It was in those times of suffering that Paul was able to give us a glimpse into God’s will for our relationships with the Lord. It was through that suffering that a theology that was divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit was shaped and formed in the mind of this man who was abused for being a follower of Christ.
It is an unpopular opinion, that suffering would encourage and bring faith to the heart of the believer, but I have realized that in my own life, this has been true. During the easy times, during the times when I think I have it all together and life is going well, I tend to lean on my own understanding. I tend to begin believing in my own confidence, my own ability, and stop leaning on who God is, what He is doing, and His will for my life. When the suffering comes along, it brings me back to the feet of the Father. It leads me back to the foot of the cross, which in turn places me back into the suffering that Jesus went through on that cross. Through His suffering, I can see that I am not alone. I am not crushed. I do not despair. Because God is with me. And I can share in the suffering of Jesus on the cross through His death, so that God can make new life in the body I live in today.
This does not mean we need to seek out suffering. It does not mean we must put ourselves in positions that cause suffering in our lives to find our way back to God. It does not mean that God ordains suffering, because through His Son’s suffering, God is giving us another way out. He is extending grace so that we can have reconciliation with Him. It does mean that God allows suffering, and although we cannot and do not ever understand it or wish it to be in our lives, it does mean that He will be with us through it. It does mean that we can seek the Lord’s face, and His Will, will be done in the earth. And that “the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies…”