Shepherds Who Point Us to the Lamb

gethsemaneThere is no better time to talk about suffering than Good Friday, and our church body is blessed to have so many learned, compassionate, and insightful shepherds who know that the life of the Christian is one of taking up our crosses and following Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Take some time this weekend to watch, listen, and read the following as we focus on the suffering and death of our Lord:

Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller’s comments on Issues, Etc. about Sanctification and Suffering

Synodical President Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison’s video, “Suffering is Purposeful through Repentance”

and Rev. Dr. Gifford Grobien’s comments specifically to you, the barren:

When couples experience barrenness, with Job we should want to worship God and to say,  “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of  the LORD” (Job 1:21). But in the midst of the devil’s temptations such  faithful action and confession seem out of reach. We are distraught. There really isn’t any reason we can hear that will ease the questioning and the sadness. Once again, suffering has overshadowed the way things ought to be. Suffering overtakes even the faithful person. The cross looms and gives no reason.

Instead, the cross calls the church faithfully to follow. Faithfully. That is, even without seeing. Even without perceiving or  understanding. The cross beckons us to see suffering and to see deliverance through suffering. It does not explain suffering; but it promises deliverance from suffering. More than this, the cross of  Jesus Christ promises deliverance through suffering to fellowship with the one who suffered ultimately. The church is a fellowship of  suffering; a fellowship with the passionate One; a fellowship with God of the universe who nevertheless stooped to suffer not just with you, but for you.

Suffering, by its very nature, takes time. We, on the one hand, desire immediate results. We have our food through the drive-through, our information at the touch of a screen, our friends at the click of a  mouse. Even our sins are forgiven in a moment, at the Word of  absolution. That much is true. Yet suffering connotes experience. It  implies time. Deliverance comes after a time of suffering, and this time is not in vain. During this time we are sanctified. We grow in the love of God through the Spirit of God. We are sustained by this  same Spirit through God’s indomitable gifts, so that no temptation overtakes us that is beyond our ability. God is faithful, and with the  temptation he will also provide the way of escape.

Escape. Deliverance. God provides the way of deliverance from suffering. He conforms us to the cross so that we would die and live in Christ. God delivers from infertility. It takes time. It may take a  lifetime. But there is deliverance in the cross.

One of the ways to endure suffering as we await deliverance is to hear God’s Word and to pray. When we pray the Psalms we do both. God knows what it is to suffer, for He gives us psalms to pray even in  suffering–psalms of lament. Thus we pray the psalms of lament. Psalm  13: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” Psalm 59: “For the  cursing and lies that [my enemies] utter, consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules.”

Pray these psalms, knowing that the enemy spoken of is the devil, the tempter overcome by suffering. He is overcome by Christ’s suffering, indeed, but it is true that Satan is overcome in his work in our lives when we persevere through suffering. When we are afflicted, the root temptation is to curse God and turn away in unbelief. God is all powerful, so our affliction must be his fault! That is the temptation of Satan. That is the theology of glory. So, when we persevere in faith, in spite of affliction, the work of the devil in our particular circumstances is also overcome through the power of the Spirit in the Word.