Suffer, suffer, suffer: why oh why did God set it up this way?

It’s two weeks to the day when I slipped on the ice and did a face plant into the road requiring eleven stitches in my nose alone. Three days after that happened I fainted twice from low blood pressure and off to hospital again where among the tests I was given was a test for Covid, and yes I had Covid too, that hit me while I was already down with a raging sore throat, relentless coughing and deep fatigue.

But that’s just my little tale of woe. Much bigger and much worse things are happening to other people. Canada was supposedly at war as a War Measures Act was voted in to deal with protesting truckers. Russia is at war wth the Ukraine, and countries all over the world are at war with their governments and their police state restrictions. The working class is at war with the stuffy elites, truth is at war with lies and propaganda, free speech is at war with censorship, respect is at war with smear campaigns, integrity is at war with hypocrisy, and transparency is at war with hidden agendas.  

And who suffers the most? The little guys, of course, as always, who are losing hope and patience as governments rip away their jobs, bank accounts, businesses, crucial stages of childhood development for their kids, friendships, family relationships, and worst of all, trust in just about every institution that had given us decades of peace and security. For the little guy it’s been suffer, suffer, suffer – suffering personally, suffering for family and friends, and suffering globally in the news every day. And all this over one tiny virus and trillions of dollars spent with little to show for it but misery we’ll be paying for way into the future.  

If only we could get back to “normal,” right? Get back to chatting with friends over coffee, building up a family business, not walking on eggshells around easily offended people, and governments actually listening to the people who pay their wages. Instead we’re having it shoved in our faces yet again that suffering is the underlying story of our history as humans. Which raises the question, that if God truly is the one who created us and our human experience, then why did he set it up this way? 

The first person to learn the answer to that question was Jesus, who “In the days of his earthly life, offered up petitions and urgent supplications with fervent crying and tears to the One who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his unfailing determination to do his Father’s will,” Hebrews 5:7.  

So we know Jesus suffered greatly too, to the point that, like Paul, the pressure was “far beyond his ability to endure,” 2 Corinthians 1:8. He could not cope a moment longer. He felt like he could die any second as his heart gave out. He was giving up, slipping away into the blackness of despair (verse 9). 

So why did God set it up this way, even for his own Son?

Paul’s answer was, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead,” verse 9. God set it up this way so there was no choice for Paul but to turn to God in desperation to catch him and lift him up and out of his downward spiral into hopelessness. And it was the experience of extreme suffering that taught Paul that – that God really could and would save him from that awful feeling of death.  

Jesus learnt the same thing too, because “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered,” Hebrews 5:8. He too learnt that there was only one way to survive his whole being spinning out of control into oblivion, and that was turning to the God he was so determined to obey, and trusting him to see him through. And again and again, just like Paul, Jesus experienced very personally “being heard,” and feeling himself being lifted in the nick of time, so to speak, from falling over the cliff edge.  

How else does God make himself so real to us than that, though? Paul got to the point he knew God would deliver him again and again whenever he felt like death was swallowing him up. And Jesus learnt that too, so that whenever we feel like death is swallowing us up, he can now be the One lifting us up (Hebrews 5:9-10), making himself real in our experience as he raises us from the dead again and again too. 

And that now puts us in the wonderful position of being able to tell other people with absolute certainty that God will lift them up when they turn to him (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). And this too is why God set it up this way.  

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