In my years of ministry people have asked me one question more than any other. Why did God allow Jesus his Son to suffer humiliation, torture, and excruciating death? Why not swoop in at the last minute, before the crucifixion and raise his Son to an exalted state? The question itself suggest we have made an assumption about suffering—that it is always bad and serves no purpose.
We Americans are especially prone to thinking this way. SUFFERING SERVES NO PURPOSE AT ALL AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS. We see this in the way we parent. We are known as “helicopter” parents because we swoop down at the slightest hint of trouble for our children. And we rescue them out of it. So, they never learn how to cope with difficulty. When they become adults, they have not learned the tough-mindedness, endurance, and coping skills they need to be successful. We have set them up for failure.
The recent college admission cheating scandal is a prime example. Parents paid as much as $500,000 to have their children fraudulently admitted to prestigious universities and colleges. Their children couldn’t meet the admissions standards and rather than let them “suffer,” they “bought” their children’s admission. The parents couldn’t let their children experience the university’s rejection. They taught their children to avoid pain. They also taught them that you can achieve success without hard work and sacrifice. Moreover, they denied their children the experience of growing stronger through struggle.
God has put us in a world where there is pain, although one could argue that there’s really not much pain involved in having to attend a second tier university. Other life experiences are truly painful like illness, joblessness, poverty, incarceration, loss of a spouse, debilitation injury, etc. Why did God make THIS world of suffering?
His wants to develop our character through pain and suffering. He wants us to turn to him for help. Then we become stronger and each successive time it takes more trouble to knock us down. Over time we become spiritually mature because we’ve learned to walk with God in tough times. So, this world of evil is really the very best place to learn character. Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?”
The cross is the best example of how God can redeem evil to good. Jesus was able to endure the cross only by the Father’s grace and power. He symbolizes to the world that walking with God will help us endure to the end. Christ endured to the end and then God redeemed him by raising Christ to life on Easter.
I Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” God’s purpose is always to bring us to himself and to eternal life in Christ. I want to be more like Jesus, don’t you? He used his suffering as an opportunity to be all that God wanted him to be—the Living Lord.”
Don’t despair. God has an empty tomb for you on the other side of your cross. It was so for Jesus. It will be true for you also.
--Pastor Ken Shick