04 Apr Words of Grace – John Stott “The Cross and Suffering”
“I want to know Christ . . . and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” Philippians 3:10
The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love. Philip Yancey has gone further and uttered the unutterable that we may have thought but to which we may never have dared to give voice. He wrote in his book, Where is God When it Hurts? “If God is truly in charge . . . why is he so capricious, unfair? Is he the cosmic sadist who delights in watching us squirm?”
Instead, Scripture assures us that our God is a suffering God, being himself far from immune to suffering. We need to see him weeping over the impenitent city of Jerusalem and dying on the cross. I venture to quote something I wrote in The Cross of Christ:
I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as “God on the cross.” In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.
For further reading: Hosea 11:8-9
John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), p. 269.