(31) suffered . . .

Jesus’ suffering had depths to it that I shall never fully understand. As an artist suffers when vandals destroy his work, so God must suffer while men wreck his world. But God’s heart aches mostly for the wrecker: who have cheated and ruined themselves. God suffers when we suffer. When I hurt someone, God winces. As an erupting volcano brings to light the ageless, deep, hot core of the earth, so Jesus’ suffering gave us a glimpse of the perpetual suffering of God’s “eternal cross.” The Lamb of God was slain “before the foundation of the world.” Most of my life I’ve been making God’s life hell! All along, I’ve been God’s problem of suffering, and yet I’ve been asking him to explain to me the problem of suffering!

It’s hard to understand why he lets us all go on this way. Mankind couldn’t have been more cruel and heartless to him than that Calvary time. Why did he take all that torturous treatment rather than strike us down? He said he had forgiven us! I-le had the power right then to wipe us off the face of the earth, but he did nothing. He really must have forgiven us! He certainly postponed judgment. Mankind lives from day to day under God’s mercy. The cross stands in history like a great dam up in the mountains, holding back the waters of doom that might have roared down upon us and our frail little fripperies. God chose to suffer in himself rather than to smash us.

But why did he choose to forgive us? Because he loves us? There may be more to it than even that. To make a world where love and goodness would have any value, God had to leave men free to hate and destroy —which they did in spite of laws, governments, and teachers. Yet God did not move to disarm them or reduce them to will-less, harmless robots. None of the suffering caused by human sin could have happened if God had not decided to make and maintain a world of free men. Once I heard a man say bitterly, “God should be punished for making such a world as this! He should be made to come down here and suffer what we have to suffer.” He had forgotten that God has come already in Jesus and exposed himself to the terrible abuse of human freedom. God has taken responsibility for our woes, accepting personally the consequences of the kind of world he had created. He suffered for our sins, although we are the ones who are guilty, not he. He withheld judgment and passed no sentence on us. We are still free to be ourselves in these days of grace.

By coming in Jesus, God gave us the means to make our ways and world a delight instead of the same old torture. He made his own life available to us, to rescue us from the misery of sin and death. But when a rescuer swims out with a lifeline to seamen on a battered wreck, he must suffer through the same pounding seas that roar over the seamen. God in Christ was suffering as he brought through to us what we needed to save us from ruin. Why did Jesus suffer? In two words—for me!