Matins Devotion: April 14, 2023
When Christians suffer, we don’t suffer the way the world does. We don’t suffer like the unbeliever who flails about with fear and doubt. Rather, we suffer with confidence and trust, knowing exactly who the God on the other side of that suffering is.
So when the natural man suffers, he considers his suffering to be a mystery to be solved. What kind of a god could allow this to happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? What lesson am I supposed to learn from this? What do I need to change to escape this suffering? For the unbeliever, suffering is punishment from a god who is angry at you, a god who is judging you for something, so you need to figure out what that something is. You need to figure out what behaviors you need to change in order to make God love you and lift His thumb off of you. You need to solve the riddle of your suffering by making yourself righteous and acceptable to God.
But for Christians, suffering is not a riddle to be solved. It’s cross to be carried and a strengthening to be endured. For Christians, there is no mystery. What kind of God could allow this to happen to you? The God who took on human flesh and suffered for you in order to cleanse you of your sins and win an eternity for you where suffering will never be known again. And through your suffering, God is blessing you to trust this promise even more. What did I do to deserve this? You deserve far worse than this, but will not receive the rotten fruit you sowed because Jesus took the punishment you deserved upon the cross. What lesson am I supposed to learn from this? The same lesson you learn in times of blessing and peace. To fix your eyes on Christ, the One who gives you peace with God. What do I need to change to escape this suffering? You have already escaped this suffering because you already have been changed. You were eternally changed when you received the bloody death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ in your baptism.
So for the Christian, when we endure suffering, we don’t need to frantically look around for hidden answers to incomprehensible mysteries. Rather, through that suffering, God is strengthening us because, through that suffering, God is inviting us to look at His face. And as the author of Hebrews tells us, the face God reveals to us through suffering is not the stern and terrifying face that Israel saw from a distance up Mount Sinai. No, the face God reveals to us is the loving and merciful one He has revealed to us at Mount Zion, the face He revealed through the once dead but now living eyes of Jesus Christ, the mediator of a new covenant whose sprinkled blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.