WE WILL TRY to answer the question, "Does the Creator suffer also,
when the whole creation suffers? Does God take part in the woes of the universe that He
called into being? " We cannot see God, but, as He has revealed Himself in His Word,
we must cling only to that which the Scriptures say about God's sufferings.
According to Galatians 5:22 one of the fruits of the
spirit is patience. But patience is always connected with suffering. If God's
spirit generates patience, it is clear that patience is a part of His nature. The patience
that God's spirit brings about in a human is really a reminder of His superabounding
patience. In Romans 15:4 Paul mentions God's endurance. This is much the same thought. The
literal meaning of the Greek word is "UNDER-REMAINING". The basic idea is to
remain under a load or heavy weight. God's endurance is no sham-fruit. As everything in
Him is His very essence, His sufferings, which He bears patiently, are likewise a part of
His very being.
God's sufferings are caused by His compassion with
creation. The word "compassion" comes from the Latin and means
"with-suffer" or "suffer-together". Romans 8:22 shows us that the
entire creation groans and travails. The ecclesia of the redeemed, which is by the holy
spirit baptized into one body, also groans, awaiting the deliverance of the body. But also
the spirit that dwells in all members of the ecclesia is pleading for us with articulate
groanings. This sighing and groaning of God's spirit is a testimony of His compassion
(WITH-SUFFERING). Scripture shows us how the Lord had compassion on the people who had to
bear pain and sorrow.
|God Knew from the Beginning
Here one could enlarge and quote
passages containing the words compassion and mercy.
How deep the misery of chastised Israel went to the
heart of God can be seen from Hosea 11:8.
Paul calls God "the Father of pities" (2
Cor.1:3). This shows us that there is no suffering which He does not bear with us.
All suffering is in some way connected with sin. Paul
exhorts the Ephesian believers (4:30) : "Do not be causing sorrow to the holy spirit
According to Genesis 6:6, God regretted that He had
made humanity on the earth and was grieved to His heart. But He did not regret it in the
same sense as we do when something goes wrong. He knew from the start what was the secret
of His will. He does not create something only to regret it later, when He discovers that
it is a failure. His work is known to Him from the beginning. That means that God was
fully aware from the beginning of how things would work out.
His regret can only be understood in the light of the
next clause--it was grieving to His heart. He did not enjoy having to wipe out all these
sinners, but it was more merciful to do this than to let them go their own sinful ways.
Nevertheless it caused Him suffering. Everything that His creatures suffer hurts His own
heart, even the woes of the animals (Jonah 4:11).
Often the Scriptures speak of God's indignation. This
is a violent irritation of the mind, and is compared with fire. But we cannot simply
compare our anger with that of God. Our indignation does not do what is right before Him.
His indignation is His "no" to every sin and injustice. If we harbor sin, God's
"no" will also strike us. It is not a cool, objective matter, but flaming revolt
of His whole being against sin. To disobey His commandment means to offend Him and wound
His heart. Man's sin made a breach between him and his Subjector. From now on He remained
at a distance from sinful humanity.
|God's Wrath Coupled with Mercy
Many passages show us that God
withholds His wrath. Expressed in human terms, this means that "God suffers
the fire, that burns within Him". Isaiah 1:14 says that "My soul hateth your new
moons and your appointed feasts, they are a trouble unto me. I am weary
to bear them." And Isaiah 43:24 shows us God as a Worker Who performs slave labor.
"Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied Me with thine
But when God's wrath burns like fire, it is always
coupled with mercy. After Israel had ignored all His warnings through the prophets, He
gave His people up to judgment. Israel was deported out of the land and her cities
destroyed. But on the ruins of Jerusalem Jeremiah could call to the people: "For not
for the eon will the Lord cast off. But, though He cause grief, will He have compassion
according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve
the children of men" (Lam. 3:31-33). This must mean that it is contrary to God's
heart to cause suffering. The time of Israel's rejection He compares with a moment. See
Isaiah 54:7-8. This agrees with Psalm 30:5, "For His anger endureth but a moment, but
His grace for life".
All these words show us how God also in His wrath has
grace in view. According to Romans 9:22, He carries with much patience the vessels of
indignation. And Unveiling 6:12-17 describes how the future Day of His Indignation will
come over all humanity. The apostle is allowed to see how God does this. Seven messengers
have the last seven calamities in seven bowls and are ready when the time has come to pour
out one after the other. The bowls indicate that God's fury is distinctly measured. The
empty bowls are not being refilled. "For in them is consummated the furs, of
God" (Rev. 15:1).
THE SECRET SUFFERING OF GOD
"God no one has ever seen"
(John 1:18). Also His sufferings man cannot perceive. The word of prophecy alone reveals
them to us. In order to make us comprehend His sufferings He uses human language. He uses
the expressions for human sensations to describe what He feels. Otherwise we would never
understand this. But patience as we know it is only in the best instance a weak shadow of
God's inherent long-suffering. What is true of love is true of God. God is foregoing all.
God is enduring all (1 Cor. 13). Is there a greater Burden-bearer than God? Is there
anyone who suffers more and heavier than He? As He is perfect in everything, so also His
suffering is perfect. Human language is not able to describe His suffering adequately . So
the suffering of God -- this is the remarkable thing about it -- is mostly hidden from us.
THE REVEALED SUFFERING OF GOD
Jesus, the Son of God, sent into the
world, said this of Himself: "My food is that I should be doing the will of Him Who
sends Me, and should be perfecting His work". But this work is crowned through His
suffering. What one can see of God and His work, one has seen in His Son. We read in John
14:9: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father. "Whoever sees the sufferings of
Christ, then, perceives the sufferings of His Father.
In Matthew 26:38 we read that His soul was
sorrow-stricken to death, and in Hebrews 5:7 it states that in the days of His flesh He
offered both petitions and supplications with strong clamor and tears. And further in Luke
22:44 we read that He came to be in a struggle, and that His sweat became as if clots of
blood, descending on the earth. Do we recognize in this agony the countenance of God's
|God Suffered with His Son
"And some begin spitting on Him
and putting a covering about His face and buffeting Him". (Mark 14:65). In the same
way God lets Himself be spit upon, mocked and beaten.
John 19:1-3 says, "Then Pilate took Jesus, then,
and scourges Him. And the soldiers, braiding a wreath out of thorns, place it on His head.
"Did they not do all this to the Highest Himself? And further on (v. 17) : "And
bearing the cross Himself, He came out to the Skull's place "There they crucified
Him, and the malefactors". (Luke 23:33). The benumbing drink that might have
alleviated the excruciating pain a little, He refused. He wanted to suffer with full
consciousness. And God, Who suffered with Him, also knows no sedative.
Thus God gave up His Son, but the Son gave up His own
soul. He could have escaped His captors. He could have descended from the cross. He Who
delivered His spirit into His Father's hands, could, in the last moment, have seized His
life again and demonstrated by a spectacular miracle to the gaping mob His divine sonship.
But He did not do it. He drank the bitter cup to the last drop. And thus He hid His power,
but revealed His obedience unto the death of the cross.
Jesus placed Himself in His suffering form under His own word: "He who is beholding
Me, is beholding Him Who sends Me." (John 12:45). His sufferings are the revealed
sufferings of the Father. Jesus testified: "The Father is greater than I". Jesus
Himself was, according to Hebrews 2:10, perfected through suffering. But the Father was
always perfect, also in His suffering.
Can we realize a little of God's suffering? Simple knowledge leaves us cold. True
realization moves our innermost being. It fills us with awe and gratitude. To the
Corinthians, who knew a lot about God, Paul wrote, to their mortification, "Some have
an ignorance of God" (1 Cor. 15:34). And Paul's own goal was. "to know Him and
the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil.3:10). That
is to be our goal likewise, for thus we become imitators of God.
How the sufferings of the Son are connected with the still greater
sufferings of the Father is shown to us in the story of Isaac's sacrifice through Abraham.
GOD SUFFERS VOLUNTARILY
The life of Jesus stood under the
maxim: "Not as I will, but as Thou". He emptied Himself. He took the form of a
slave. He came to be in the likeness of humanity. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient
unto death, even the death of the cross. His suffering was voluntary. But His agony in
Gethsemane shows us what a struggle it was for Him to surrender His will.
That all of God's doings were wholly voluntary we do
not need to declare. If any power in the universe could influence God He would not be God.
If He decided to let His Son suffer, He chose to suffer Himself, because God was in
Concerning the Son we read Heb.10:5: "Lo! I am
arriving...to do Thy will, O God". In this will we are hallowed through the offering
of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. But this offering has two sides. God offered His
Son, the Son offered Himself. But it was God Who began. The offering was according to His
will. He decided first to give up His beloved One. And the Son bowed to His Father's will
by offering Himself.
SIN AND SUFFERING
The cause of all suffering is sin.
Without sin no (death, no evil, no pain, no clamor, no mourning. When God chore for
Himself to suffer, He did it because of sin. Therefore God decided to suffer, when He made
sin a part of His plan. Do we doubt that He did it? Does He not say in Isaiah 45:6-7 that
He created evil and darkness? Then, when we read this, we hesitate and say that He meant
only physical darkness and that evil could not mean moral wrong, but only misery
and distress. That is twisting God's Word to quit our own conceptions. We will accept this
solemn declaration of His will with all that it implied. If we, with our limited
understanding, cannot grasp this, it is because God's counsel is too marvelous for us.
When God created Satan, the
originator of sin, in order that He should introduce sin into His fair creation, He
decided to suffer all that this would bring about. We have the tendency to believe that
God only permitted evil, but it is only scriptural to say, that He created
it. This act was the grandest, most sublime deed that ever was done; it was the crowning
revelation of His love for His creatures.
Sin is an insult against God's majesty. He bears this
indignity. Sin is disobedience, disregard of His revealed will. He bears this offense. Sin
is defilement of His creation. He lets this uncleanness corrupt His handiwork. Sin means
torture for all creatures subject to vanity. God feels their pain, for He is the Father of
compassion. In the Son, Who had life in Himself, and nevertheless gave it up in death and
so made Himself subject to vanity, the Father Himself subjected Himself to vanity.
Terrible curses persecute the sinner. God Himself becomes in the Son the curse for us. The
ration of sin is death. In the Son, the only One Who was capable of tasting death in its
full horror, the Rather also tasted death. For who has seen the Son has seen the Father.
In relation to sin this means also for the Father to
suffer, suffer, suffer. These torments became revealed in Christ on the cross.
God's answer to our question: What did the creation
of evil mean for Him! is "The greatest sacrifice imaginable, which He offered in His
Son". The Son was made perfect through suffering. Now that the victim has been
slaughtered, God can wait for the fruit of His suffering. For the Son the harvest has
begun. Those who sow with tears will reap with joy.
AND THE SUFFERINGS OF THE CREATURES?
|The Glory of the Crucified Christ
Only darkness can teach us what light
is. Only through evil can we learn to know good. Only by suffering, and dying can we
realize the glory of life and health.
God wants us to really appreciate His gifts and thank
Him for them from the bottom of our heart. Therefore He leads us into darkness, lets us
feel the horror of evil, the terrors of His wrath and the hopelessness of death, but
behind all paths of misery and the curse stands His unchangeable love. And love
does not seek its own ends.
What joy and wonder can already be ours in this life,
when God opens our eyes to behold the glory of His grace in the Son, in the crucified
Christ. God foresaw Him as the Lamb that was to be slaughtered long before there were
messengers or men, long before there was any sin. We do not doubt that God Himself chose
to suffer long before there was any trace of sin. But God also saw in the Son the final
repudiation of sin. Through Him He will reconcile the world.
And so can we, even in this mortal body, still
sighing under pain and weakness, live in much closer communion with the Father than Adam
in paradise. He knew no suffering, no sin and bad conscience, but also nothing of race or
mercy. God's love was hidden from him. He could not cry like Paul: "The love of God
is poured out into our hearts. "He could not grasp what it means: "To me, the
first sinner, has mercy been shown".
And so the Scriptures testify to it,
that all our suffering leads to a glory that cannot be described. Without it that
superabundance of joy that God predestinated for us, would be impossible. Behind all pain
God Himself is standing, dealing out to us the measure of suffering we need, in order to
enjoy the greatest degree of bliss. But the cause of all suffering is sin, is evil. So now
we can see that, when God created evil, He achieved the masterpiece of His love. And this
love's excellency is revealed by the fact that it meant for God the bitterest of all
sufferings, made manifest in the cross of His Beloved.
NOTE: Because the author of this article did not have access to the manuscript of the
Concordant Version of the Hebrew Scriptures, the quotations have been taken from other