The fact that there is suffering in the world does not disprove the existence of God. We have seen, over the past two days, that suffering is not without purpose (it helps us to grow and mature; it strengthens our character; it can deepen our faith in God).
But often that is not what bothers us. At the heart of most people’s skepticism about God is not the existence of suffering – it is God’s perceived indifference to suffering. “How can Christians possibly claim that God is a God of love – and yet He is so indifferent to all the people, of this world, who are suffering? To ignore the hurting, especially when you are supposed to have the power to help them, is not love at all!”
But this observation ignores something supremely significant. It ignores Jesus.
We should not forget that when Jesus (God among us!) came to this earth, He did not seclude Himself somewhere – He mingled with society, He walked among the people, He encountered real pain and hardship and suffering – and He lovingly touched those lives. Notice… He did not come and stop suffering from happening – He met the suffering that did exist with His loving care. Jesus came and alleviated suffering – but He did not stop it from happening.
We also should not forget that Jesus also suffered. He was hungry. And thirsty. And disappointed. And angry. He felt betrayal. Loneliness. Rejection. In short… He hurt, just as all human beings hurt. He felt everything it was to be human – in every way.
And we should never forget that His earthly ministry ended with the most profound suffering ever known. Not only did Jesus suffer beatings and floggings and the unbearable agony of being brutally nailed to a cross – He also experienced something that no one else had ever suffered. He suffered the abandonment of God, His Father. On that cross, as He carried every sin of every person to ever exist – He was also required to endure the endless exclusion from God that all of us deserved. No deeper, more agonized words were ever spoken than when Jesus cried out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!”
In that very moment, Jesus was suffering for ALL the suffering of this world. He was taking upon Himself all the cruelty, the abuse, the hate, and the horrors that have ever been inflicted by human beings upon other human beings.
The truth is: God has never ignored or been indifferent to our suffering – He embraced every bit of every person’s suffering, through Jesus, on that cross. Jesus did not just carry our all our sins – He also carried all our pain and suffering upon Himself. “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)
And He didn’t have to do so…
He could have just left us under the Old Covenant system of Law and sacrifice.
He could have just wiped us all from the face of the earth and started over.
He could have called for legions of angels and ended His suffering at any moment.
Only one thing kept Him on that cross. Only one thing caused Him to endure the ultimate in physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering.
It was… love. ONLY love. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10)
Ultimately, God is not indifferent to any suffering. He takes our suffering so seriously that He came from Heaven to earth… and took it on Himself.
Prayer focus: God, help me to understand that Jesus not only carried our sins… He also carried our suffering upon the cross.