In the first century, one of the reasons many people rejected the idea that Jesus was the Messiah was because he suffered and experienced pain.
We humans can often think that the presence of pain means the absence of God—back then or now. Some people continue to think that suffering—whether it be at the hands of a global virus, or at the hands of a crazed gunman—must mean that God isn’t near.
But Jesus is the greatest and most perfect example not only of God being with us, but being with us distinctly in our pain, and experiencing pain with us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian, professor and pastor who was imprisoned in World War Two for his opposition to Adolf Hitler. In a letter from prison in July 1944 he wrote that “only a suffering God can help.”* We worship and serve a God who knows what it’s like to suffer, and who is with us and helps us through that very experience of suffering.
In Romans 8:26 Paul writes: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
God is not in an ivory tower above the clouds twiddling his thumbs. He is walking along side us—strengthening us and guiding us—with his own wounds and tears.
The presence of pain does not mean the absence of God. And in fact, “only a suffering God can help.”
God is with us in our hardship, helping us through it, and drawing our eyes to a hope-filled day when all suffering will be a distant memory.
By Matthew Ruttan
–Today’s devotional is connected to my most recent sermon: “Where is God in a pandemic?” Click here to access YouTube or audio-only download options.
–*Quote from : Dietrich Bonhoefer, Letters & Papers from Prison (SCM Press: London, 1953), 122.
–Bible quotes are from the NIV.