Suffering and the Cross

I’m currently in Chicago, Illinois at the Moody Pastors’ Conference. I have the opportunity to teach a few workshops and present a couple songs. It’s been a joy to meet some folks who have been reading Worship Matters. I even ran across some old GLAD fans. Of course, most GLAD fans I meet are on the older side.

I sent in all but one chapter of the rough draft of my book to my editor this past Saturday. I’m hoping to finish the last chapter tonight. It’s a chapter addressed to pastors. It’s harder to write than I anticipated. There’s so much I want to say to pastors about the significance of their role in leading worship. Worship is a pastoral function before it’s a musical one. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the predominant view in many churches.

In any case, here’s another portion from my rough draft. It’s from the chapter called, “To proclaim the Gospel.” I’m describing how one of the effects of biblical worship is a desire to declare and demonstrate the effects of the cross in our lives. In this portion I’m talking about how the cross relates to our suffering.

I’m not sure I’ve ever suffered a day in my life. But I have had the privilege of knowing families that deal graciously with ongoing, chronic pain and suffering. I worship God with some of them every week. There’s Luke and Kriscinda whose son, Micah, was born with an aggressive brain tumor. There’s Steve and Mary, whose son, Ian, was in a car accident on the way to work and has been in a coma for months. There’s Ken, who lost his wife to cancer this past year. There’s Drew and Diane, a precious couple who have been caring for their son, Reid, for 20 years. He can’t feed himself, and requires someone to oversee his every need. I can’t relate to what any of these dear saints have experienced. But I know this. Every one of us at some point will confront rejection, disappointment, loss, or tragedy. It might be emotional, physical, material, or relational. How can we be sure God understands?

We can be more than sure. The God we worship is “acquainted with grief.” Grief of a nature that we will never have to experience if we have trusted in the saving death of Jesus Christ. Grief that one author described as “the scream of the damned.”  As bad as my suffering may be, our Savior has suffered more for my sins, that he might bring me to God (1 Pet. 3:18).

The cross assures us that our suffering is not purposeless, blind, unfair, or random. God has taken the most horrific event in all of history – the savage crucifixion of the Son of God – and transformed it into the supreme display of his glory and grace – the redemption of countless undeserving rebels. I tried to capture that thought in the song “Glory of the Cross.”

What wisdom once devised the plan
Where all our sin and pride
Was placed upon the perfect Lamb
Who suffered, bled, and died
The wisdom of a sovereign God
Whose greatness will be shown
When those who crucified your Son
Rejoice around your throne.
Copyright 2000 Sovereign Grace Praise.

Christ’s suffering means all our suffering now has profound meaning. We can rejoice in our trials because we know God is using them to prepare us for the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). We can be comforted that our sufferings have caused us to run to God for strength. We can thank God that our sufferings demonstrate God’s love for us, rather than contradict it (Rom. 8:35-39). We can be encouraged by the fact that we worship the One who has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Forever.

3 Responses to Suffering and the Cross

  1. Paul Martin May 22, 2007 at 8:17 PM #

    O, the glory of the cross!

    Just finished preaching Job for the flock here in Toronto, and was so encouraged by the thought of suffering Job interceding for his three friends (the miserable comforters who did not understand God). Then how this points to Jesus who interceded for us by His sufferings… and still bears the scars in order that we never forget how great is His love! “The greater Job,” if you like.

    Thanks for the post, Bob. Always great to read what you are thinking!

  2. Brendan Beale May 22, 2007 at 11:23 PM #

    Thank you so much for this blog, and especially for this post. Even though I agree with you that I probably haven’t truly suffered a day in my life, God spoke through your words profoundly to my immediate situation of discouragement. Thank you for taking my eyes off of myself and putting them back where they belong- on our glorious God and Savior who suffered for us at Calvary. To Him be all glory forever!

  3. Gabriel Gagnon May 23, 2007 at 11:20 AM #

    Wow, I can be so selfish. These saints that you mention have gone through a lot more then I have and it’s an encouragement to see that they continue being faithful.

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