Ancient Greek poet Aeschylus rooted his philosophy of learning in the hard ground of suffering. He wrote the words that Robert Kennedy quoted to an Indiana crowd on April 4, 1968, as he announced the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
“Wisdom through the awful grace of God.” Wisdom at great cost. In other settings, the wisdom Job gained might sound like truisms or even clichés, but when we suffer, they become the lifelines to which we learn to cling.
Elie Wiesel was among the prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp forced to watch the execution of a young boy. As the boy died, a choking voice behind him sobbed, “Where is God? Where is God?” Wiesel’s 15-year-old heart could find only one answer, “God is there, hanging on those gallows.”
There is something true in Wiesel’s observation. In the final analysis, the cross is God’s answer to the problem of suffering. On the cross, God entered into suffering with us and forever redeemed it. Peter Kreeft rightly said, “Jesus is the tears of God.”
Henri Nouwen concluded that God liberates, not by removing suffering from us but by sharing it with us. Jesus is “God-who-suffers-with-us,” most clearly seen in the cross of Christ. Perhaps that is why George MacLeod wrote:
Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write his title in Hebrew and in Greek and in Latin; at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died. And that is what he died about.
The reality of the suffering Savior as “the God-who-suffers-with-us” prompted John Stott to say, “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 a real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”
God loves us with an everlasting love. Followers of Christ can embrace this with hope and confidence and can offer it to a world suffering more than we can imagine. We do not offer creeds or ideologies, theories or theologies. In the end, we offer Jesus, “God-who-suffers-with-us.”
Want to read more about Job, suffering, and the love of God? Here are some further resources from Our Daily Bread Ministries (ourdailybread.org) and Discovery House (dhp.org):
Let God Be God: Life-Changing Truths from the Book of Job by Ray Stedman, Discovery House
Broken Things: Why We Suffer by M.R. DeHaan, MD, Discovery House
If God Is God Why Do Bad Things Happen? Os Guinness on the Problem of Evil (Video) Day of Discovery: dod.org/dod2254.html
Our Ultimate Refuge: Job and the Problem of Suffering by Oswald Chambers, Discovery House