Our everyday life is peppered with both bright and dark moments, colouring our lives with various depths and intensities. As we toil through the struggles of living, which may rear its head in any form: a sickness, a failed test, a broken relationship, have we lifted our heads to the Heavens, yelling at the futility of it all? Or, if we don’t believe in a deity, have we mulled over it in the quietness of our hearts? When the music has ceased, and we are left to our own devices, have we ever felt frustrated by the mundane difficulties of daily life?
I suppose I can declare that as a Christian, I believe that there is a God who loves you; who has formed you and created you for a purpose. I can advocate for a God who is empathetic with the suffering of the world. But, I anticipate the sceptics’ refutation that this does not suffice: the concept of an all-loving God doesn’t deal adequately enough with the justice (or lack of) that so severely needs to be met out and restored in the world. The idea of an all-loving God is nice: it’s ‘nice’ to know that God is walking alongside me, but…how is He going to deal with the mess? Is He ever? Recently, I have been captivated by a different facet of the Christian God that doesn’t get enough talk-time. In the infinity of God’s wisdom; the insurmountable demonstration of His grace, He not only walks with us (even that would be sheer, undeserved grace), He repeatedly asserts that He is Holy, Righteous and Just. The complete demonstration of God’s love includes His wrath coming upon those who are not innocent, not righteous and not perfect. The bottom line is drawn to include all of us.
I preempt the sceptic’s response: But, how could God do that?! A brilliant question. I think this involves a redefinition of who we believe God to be, and in contrast, who we understand ourselves to be. Do we put God on trial, condemn Him by our limited knowledge and sentence Him using our crooked sense of justice? Or do we believe that everything we call ‘good’ stems from Him; that He is the ultimate form of justice and righteousness? If it is the former, I think we should see if we are in a position to assert that God should hold Himself accountable to us as mere creatures.
If it is the latter, we can move on to the next step: I think we have become so accustomed to the grace of God that we become offended whenever He chooses to exercise His justice. Our very breath is given by Him. But now, we see tragedies as capricious acts of God, and ourselves as no way worthy recipients of any form of suffering. However, I see a horrible double-standard in myself in deciding what is right and wrong. Something someone else has done is more wrong than anything I may have ever committed. Somehow, I am above my own law. And therefore, I acquit myself. Maybe all the suffering seems unfair to us because we are judging it against an ever-shifting plum-line – ourselves. The Christian doctrine on suffering is clear: All men deserve to die. Maybe the right question to suffering is: Why, then, am I still alive?
I think an apt quote by Sproul would be able to re-orient our questions on suffering.
“The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross. If ever a person had room to complain for injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused.”
― R.C. Sproul,
Yet again the Cross is our answer. When in the midst of suffering, let us persevere and look to the Cross and the Man who hung on it; when questioning the suffering around us, let us be blown away by the undeserved suffering of Christ, so as to be captivated once again by the grace, the wrath and the violent love demonstrated to us in Christ.