If God Loves Us, Why Do We Suffer?

We all have that moment. The pain is so concentrated that even thinking back on that situation or that place makes you ball your fists in anger, tears springing to your eyes. Nearly every night, I lay in bed, and I pray in an attempt to accept that moment in my life. I say that God had a purpose, that I am better for the suffering, and that He is in that moment with me. But the tears still threaten to fall and the fingers still curl at the memory of feeling so absolutely helpless. Beyond all else, I wish I could justify that time in my life, but I cannot. Instead, I entertained other thoughts, trying to explain why those unjustifiable days ever had to happen. 

Does God love me? Yes, I double checked. The Bible mentions His never-ending, omnipotent love many times. Besides just that, I knew logically that He loves me. If He did not love me, why would Jesus have ever come to save me? That made me pause. God loves me, and I suffer. God loves Jesus, and Jesus suffered. If God is the very definition of love and His love includes pain--maybe my definition of love is wrong. 

"In this was manifest the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."--1 John 4:9-10
In First John, God gives His definition of love. His love does not need reciprocation ("Not that we loved God, but that He loved us,"), and that explains how God can love everyone all the time, despite humanity's constant rejection of His affections. But God's love is also described by His action of sending Christ to us for our redemption. 

In all three accounts of Divine love, suffering is present. God loves us--we suffer. God loves us--Christ suffered. God loves us--He suffered and is still suffering. Human love, weak love, is opposed to all suffering. True love, Perfect Love, accepts suffering. When we estranged ourselves from God, He chose to buy our freedom back and to redeem us no matter the personal cost to Himself. His love was greater than His suffering, and His love saw beyond His own suffering. In the same way, Christ loves God the Father entirely, but He was willing to estrange Himself from His Father on the cross in order to rescue us. His love was stronger than fear and suffering, but it was not excepted from it. 

In all honesty, I never want to suffer again. However, living a life devoid of pain would be a life devoid of God's love. To understand God, to know Him as intimately as I can, I must understand suffering. I have heard people say God makes us suffer because He can or because He wants us to feel the pain He experienced--of course not, no lover desires pain for the object of their affection. The suffering we experience in pursuit of God is not spitefully or frivolously dealt. It is carefully measured out and given to bring us into a deeper and sweeter love with the Godhead. 

In the Scriptures, Christ carries the scars of His suffering even after His resurrection. To me, His scars say: "I know you must suffer in this world, so I have chosen to suffer too". Because of our fallen nature, our world is a horrific and painful place. It is impossible for us to live within it and not feel the pain we have caused in what God had once created perfect. Knowing we must feel such pain, Christ chose to take all our sin nature upon Himself, suffering through every trial we will ever face. The scars in His hands and side are precursors to the scars on our hearts. When we get to Heaven, we will look at our Saviour and see that every ache of our heart matches a crack in His. He made the ultimate action of unity--Divine God, above pain, choosing the pain of His beloved. 

Knowing that, pain becomes a hallowed place. For every moment we suffer is a moment shared with Christ. In suffering, we are united. Our suffering is the pain of the entire Godhead poured out at the cross. Only there at the cross, the epicenter of eternity's greatest pain and eternity's strongest love, will our love for our Father grow far deeper, far stronger, and far sweeter. 

When I think back on that unjustifiable moment, I know I did not feel God there with me. I did not hear God's voice or see His hand in the Bible. I felt alone and completely abandoned. The only presence I felt was the presence of pain. Little did I know then, that the presence of pain is one that all three Aspects of the Godhead are not only acquainted with but are known too. 

My desire is to know God as intimately as I can this side of heaven. If God's next step towards that dream is teaching me the truest definition of love--love strong enough to suffer--than I am desirous to learn. It may be that the closest I come to seeing God with these mortal eyes is through the reddened lens of suffering.  


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