alien righteousness

Suffering – J. van Genderen & W.H. Velema

 Taken from Concise Reformed Dogmatics by J. van Genderen, W.H. Velema in the chapter entitled God’s Providence: Governance.

3. Suffering in light of the Bible. In the preceding reflections we already ended up at Christ’s cross and resurrection. Those who ignore what God has done in Christ find no way out.

No one has ever suffered like the Man of Sorrows. He was not spared in any way. This illuminates that suffering of those who are his. Precisely when they must suffer, they may find themselves close to their Savior, in his suffering and dying but also in his victory. Nothing will be able to “separate [them] from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:35-39).

There are in the Bible plenty of examples of believers who were profoundly concerned about suffering. They were preoccupied with it before the face of God. The psalms of lamentation frequently contain complaints about the evil committed by people, but even then the psalmists look upon God and say, Why, O God? Lamentations not only refers to enemies, opponents, and persecutors, but also says: “The Lord was as an enemy.” It is immediately added that he “is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him” (Lam. 2:5; 3:25). The prophet Habakkuk starts out with: “O LORD, how long…?” He ends with: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 1:2-3; 3:18) (312)

     

    d. Bavinck further mentions strengthening and confirmation. When he is hit hard, Job says: “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). He replies to his wife: “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). In the midst of his suffering has a bright prospect: “My redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25). It brings Job closer to the Lord, as appears from the last chapter of the book: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee” (Job 42:5).

    e. A further point is that suffering serves as testimony to the truth. In Acts 5 we read of the apostles, who had been imprisoned and flogged, that they were glad “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:41). This is the suffering Christ’s sake that the Savior has given to his followers as their prospect. They share in Christ’s suffering (1 Peter 4:13-16). Precisely when the church is a church under the cross, the Lord grants comfort and strength. Paul says: “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:5).

    f. Suffering is therefore also glorification of God. Here we think of Paul and Silas, who having been flogged and imprisoned, pray and sing praises to God. The other prisoners listen to them (Acts 16:25).

 

Even when we see the suffering of believers in the light of the cross of Christ, must can remain incomprehensible and enigmatic. Job did not receive an explanation of the questions that perplexed him, but he did receive indeed a satisfactory reply. Everything changes for the children of God when they listen to the voice of their Father and live out of his hand. For Christ’s sake the bitterness is removed from their suffering.

Psalm 22, the psalm of. “My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?” is also the psalm of “but” (nevertheless): “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Ps. 22: 1,3). It is a psalm of the bitterest suffering, but also a psalm that ends with a song of praise.

God can be encountered in the sanctuary (Ps. 73:17). The one surrenders to his leading. The poet of this psalm testifies to surrender, security, and trust, and looks forward to God’s glory (Ps. 73:23-28).

Suffering leads to glory. Here come to mind Bible words such as Romans 8:18: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (see also 2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Suffering, like evil, does not belong to creation as God will it. At the completion of his work of re-creation they will no longer be there. Through the suffering of this life we look forward all the more strongly to the new world where tears and death, mourning, complaining, and pain will be things of the past. (Rev. 21:4) (312-313)

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