1025) The Suffering God

By Alvin Rogness, The Word for Every Day, page 303, Augsburg Publishing House, 1981.

     If God is perfect, does he suffer?  If he is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present, holy and eternal, can we possibly cause him to suffer?  Would it not be beneath his dignity to let small people like us cause him pain?

     If, in addition to all these other sovereign qualities, he should be a God of love, then how can he escape suffering?  If we love someone, we give that person the power to hurt us.  To the degree that we love, to that degree we may have to suffer.  A loving wife who is betrayed by a faithless husband knows what suffering love is like.  A father and mother who lose a child know.  The only certain way to be spared suffering is never to love at all.

     God opened himself up for suffering when he created us to be his sons and daughters.  Had made us like all other creatures, beasts and birds and fish, he could have escaped the risk.  In the very first book of the Bible, we see him broken-hearted over the betrayal.  Adam and Eve chose the enemy of God instead of God.  And throughout the long chapters of the Old Testament, as he lavishes his love upon Israel, only to have them turn to other gods again and again, we watch him suffer.

     One would think his patience would run out.  It would have, had his love run out.  But he loves with an everlasting love.  Once committed to his children, he could not abandon them, though they grieved him a thousand times.  His anger would flare, but it was anger out of a broken heart.  Not only was it anger at his children, but more often high indignation over the evil that caused suffering for his children.  He wept for them and with them.

     Anyone who has lost a dear one in death, anyone who has watched a dear one in agony, anyone who has had his dreams shattered, anyone who has writhed in pain has known what great comfort there is in having a God who, in love, suffers with us.  If, when our son was killed, I would have had to think of God sitting detached as a spectator, I could not have prayed to him.  It is good to remember I had a Lord who wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus.  It is of great comfort to have a God who loves and suffers.

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Genesis 6:5-6  —  The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

John 11:35-36  —  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

Hebrews 4:14-16  —   Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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Do not be far from me, O Lord,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

–Psalm 22:11

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