Thursday, March 20, 2014

Redemptive Suffering?!

            Peter tells us some rather interesting things about suffering. First, he says that we can bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because we are conscious of God. Then he claims that if we deserve our suffering we should not be surprised that it comes, however, if we are suffering for doing good then this receives God’s attention and commendation. Finally he teaches us that our suffering – following in the steps of Jesus – can actually turn out to be redemptive – bringing help and healing to others.

            None of that sounds like good news to us, because our preference would be to avoid any suffering at all costs. Our idea of God’s faithfulness is that he should prevent any pain or sorrow from coming into our lives, rather than walking with us in the pain and using our suffering to benefit ourselves or others. Yet as we experience more life, we come to understand that suffering is inevitable. It is helpful to know that it can also be beneficial.

            Jesus is the prime example of “helpful suffering.” While he did not want to suffer arrest, trial, beating and death, he was willing to pray “not my will, but yours be done.” After praying that dangerous prayer, he got up and faced the cup that he did not want to drink! It seemed like such a miscarriage of justice, for Jesus had committed no sin, yet was punished as if he were a criminal. It’s only when you understand that “by his wounds you have been healed” that the cross begins to make sense.

            Jesus did not die pointlessly. He did not die from a desire to end it all. He died resisting sin – but not his own sin – he died fighting the evil one. It was an ironic moment because at the death of Jesus the evil one thought he had achieved victory over God! But it was Jesus’ willingness to offer himself for the sake of others that doomed Satan and brought life to all people.

            “By his wounds you are healed!” Redemptive suffering. And when we follow Jesus in that path we will find that our suffering brings healing, too. We can allow God to use our wounds – our refusal to protect ourselves, our refusal to retaliate, our refusal to avoid suffering – to be the change that brings healing to others.

            I think it is safe to say that Jesus did not want to suffer. But he wanted to save you more than he wanted to avoid suffering. So he offered himself for us. By his wounds we are healed. Praise the God of grace and mercy. Praise the God who makes suffering redemptive.

- Kenny Payne

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