Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Why Do We Suffer in Life? Why did Jesus Suffer?

On page 13 of Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot, she talks about the parallel between our suffering and Christ-suffering. 

In our suffering, we often hear from God that He will be with us.  He doesn’t promise to remove the suffering. But He does promise to be with us in it. But our question is: Why isn’t it removed? If God loves us, why allow us to go through such intense pain?

Elliot wisely indicates that she has never found an intellectually satisfying answer. Indeed, nor have I, not in reading the Bible, not in reading The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis or A Grief Observed by Lewis, and even in the book of Job, the book about suffering, God does not answer Job’s many questions. God answers Job with 67 questions of His own, essentially saying to Job, "Can you understand the depths of what I’ve created and how it was done?" God essentially says to Job, "You don't have the intellectual capacity to understand the big picture that I've created." Indeed, how could a finite created being ever comprehend the infinitely complex system of an infinite Entity?  

We can’t understand it intellectually, would seem to be the final answer... At least in this life.  Or, perhaps, God is saying, "I’m not going to tell you." 

That could be it too. For the purposes of the system and matrix you are in now, in the testing ground, that is not information you’re allowed to have. The teacher doesn’t hand out the answer sheet for the quiz right before she gives it. You see the answers after the quiz is completed.

But in any case, the answer Elliot does find is, as she says, not so much an answer, but a person, Jesus Christ our Savior and God. In particular, the moment of the cross.

Was the suffering prevented by God the Father? Was the death of Christ prevented by Christ himself who leapt off the cross with His infinite power?  No it was not. The Pharisees mocked and ridiculed Him, saying, “If you’re really God, come down now from the cross, you who would destroy the temple in three days, prove your power by coming down now and saving yourself.”

That is the same thing we say to God when we are in suffering, remove the cancer to show your power to us, prove you love us by removing this problem from my life, save this person from death, remove this chronic pain, and so on and so forth.

But we as Christians are called to live the life Jesus lived.  I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. If we live as Jesus lived, which is our calling as Christians, we must carry our crosses. Our crosses are these sufferings we go through. And they are not removed from us.  The Bible tells us to “carry them” they are not to be removed.  We must carry them. In fact, we must often be nailed to them, to suffer upon them. Not for atonement of sin, but for the sake of suffering for Jesus. Then the word says we are blessed.

In short, the answer to the problem of pain/suffering is theological, not intellectual in nature. The answer is: Jesus suffered ruthlessly in this life, He was not spared, therefore we will suffer ruthlessly in this life, but we will be spared.

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