Good Things Happening While Suffering Goes On
Too often in Americanized Christianity, folks are told that if we just have the right kind of faith, God will bless us with prosperity, large savings accounts, and the best of health. All that’s required of us to eliminate or greatly reduce suffering, the canned script proclaims, is the faith to believe we can have such a faith to.
Here’s one for ya, have you ever wondered what the ramifications would be if the suffering did stop? Think about that very carefully for a second before you answer.
Both the missus and I both have a parent with oncological concerns. So with that in mind, imagine my delight in reading the following bit of commentary on Psalm 110 from Dr. Luther:
You would like to ask some questions here. Why does God peek through his fingers so long and allow so many enemies to become so strong and mighty and rant and rage against the Christian, so that there is no end? Could he not defeat them or make an end to all of them at once, that they cease to exist, or just suddenly make them vanish?
Answer: this shows only that we have a God who is for us and all of Christendom. For if he would have quickly thrown to the ground the Roman Empire or his other enemies in the beginning all at once and destroy them into ashes, where would there have been room for us to remain for us were we not yet born? Or if he were to do it now, where would the ones remain who should yet be baptized? But (says Hebrews 2), the saints before us would not be complete without us nor would they come to glory after us, although this work has already been established for a long time and the judgment has been rendered and has gone out in the presence of all the enemies.
What comfort even suffering can become when looked through the Christological lens. Christ suffered and defeated death, once and for all the saints. However, at no time are we promised by our Lord that all will be peachy and that we will not endure suffering. But rather we are promised that our time of suffering is limited only to this side of eternity.
Let’s look at Christ’s words as he sends out the apostles in Matthew 10:16-23, 34-39.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Wow, if that’s what’s in store for those who will feed his sheep, what does he say about the sheep themselves? In Luke 9:23-25 our Lord tells us:
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
And in John 15:18-16:4 He speaks of the world’s hatred and the coming persecution:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. “And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
St. Paul in his second letter to the church at Corinth writes that he has an infirmity that was causing him to suffer. Did God relieve his apostle of his suffering? No He did not. . Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
So what does all this mean? Well, we are to believe God’s Word when he says all are made heirs of heaven by Christ’s work on the cross. But we also need to remember that our reward by undeserved grace on the account of Christ is on the other side of eternity. Our time of suffering on this side of eternity is short but there will be suffering. Suffering began with Adam and suffering will end when Christ returns.
And the while, when all this suffering is happening, whether it be an inoperable cancer or a hip bone that for some inexplicable reason started dieing a few years back, babies are being marked with the cross of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Sunday after Sunday our Lord feeds his suffering sheep through His spoken Word by His called and ordained servants. And with own Body and Blood, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, he feeds those same sheep. Through the hearing of this Word, Christ’s church grows.
And as long as Christ’s Church grows we should rejoice even as suffering goes on around us! If we keep our focus on Christ and His gifts, our suffering may not be pleasant, but it certainly becomes more tolerable.
Labels: Theology of the Cross