The Comfort of Cruciform Love

image of syrian boy who drownedThe heart-wrenching picture of the drowned Syrian toddler and the follow-up stories with his father, the only survivor from the family: these are typical images of suffering that we see on the news. However, we also cannot pick up our local paper without seeing deaths from illness or accidents, and when we look on Facebook, we see friends and family dealing with grief and loss. Many of these friends are believers, and we wonder to ourselves (if not aloud), “Where was God?”

Some well-meaning folks may respond with “Well, God is in control,” or “God is teaching you something in this.” These responses are rarely helpful, and they keep us from realizing that we cannot make sense of evil, pain, and death by using reason. Instead, we must recognize that while evil and suffering exist, God is good and all-powerful in his love.

What we must consider is the way we define God as all-powerful. Humanly speaking, we think of power as control, and we can see throughout scriptures that God not only permits but desires free will from human beings. God allows vulnerability by rejecting control (when defined as coercion), though God also shows great power and authority through creation and great love through the cross.

On the cross God as Christ bore evil and suffering even as we do now, and in a sense, he shows us that enduring such pain can be healing and transformative though we may not see this perspective for a very long time. Galatians 3:13 says that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole’” (NIV). Author Bradley Jersak comments about this, saying, “This means that in his death, Jesus himself absorbs the curse of sin and death for all of us, sucking the darkness of the world into himself, where his own blood is the all-powerful, spiritual anti-venom that cleanses sin and overcomes death. Assuming the likeness of fallen humanity, he is able to heal it” (A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel). Jersak points out that Jesus doesn’t passively witness our suffering and ‘do nothing,’ but instead, he “enters the suffering, experiences the anguish, lives the sorrow for all, with all, for all the time…In love, he consent[s] to co-suffer with us in solidarity.” We are never alone in our grief; we are never alone in our suffering.

Though we may wish that our loving Father would wave a magic wand and prevent the grief and suffering we experience, we know that God’s heart has given humanity free will with the hope (the calm assurance?) that human beings will choose relationship with the Divine and each other. This free moral agency does not come without a price, but it is a price that God as Christ has demonstrated a willingness to share with us. The suffering we endure is not ours alone, and this is the comfort of cruciform love.

2 comments so far

  1. Tony Marra on

    I have been thinking about the very topic. This article expresses our questions about suffering in a very personal way…in Christ.

  2. Nan Kuhlman on

    Hi Tony,
    Suffering is very personal because whether we are suffering ourselves or watching others suffer our connection in Christ tugs at our hearts and we feel it. This “tug” is the very thing that often makes us the conduits for cruciform comfort to flow to those who are hurting, and it’s another example of how God participates with us through our humanity.

    Thanks for taking time to comment!

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