by Hans Kaser

WE WILL TRY to answer the question, "Does the Creator suffer also, when the whole creation suffers? Does God take part in the woes of the universe that He called into being? " We cannot see God, but, as He has revealed Himself in His Word, we must cling only to that which the Scriptures say about God's sufferings.

       According to Galatians 5:22 one of the fruits of the spirit is patience. But patience is always connected with suffering. If God's spirit generates patience, it is clear that patience is a part of His nature. The patience that God's spirit brings about in a human is really a reminder of His superabounding patience. In Romans 15:4 Paul mentions God's endurance. This is much the same thought. The literal meaning of the Greek word is "UNDER-REMAINING". The basic idea is to remain under a load or heavy weight. God's endurance is no sham-fruit. As everything in Him is His very essence, His sufferings, which He bears patiently, are likewise a part of His very being.

       God's sufferings are caused by His compassion with creation. The word "compassion" comes from the Latin and means "with-suffer" or "suffer-together". Romans 8:22 shows us that the entire creation groans and travails. The ecclesia of the redeemed, which is by the holy spirit baptized into one body, also groans, awaiting the deliverance of the body. But also the spirit that dwells in all members of the ecclesia is pleading for us with articulate groanings. This sighing and groaning of God's spirit is a testimony of His compassion (WITH-SUFFERING). Scripture shows us how the Lord had compassion on the people who had to bear pain and sorrow.

God Knew from the Beginning

       Here one could enlarge and quote passages containing the words compassion and mercy.

       How deep the misery of chastised Israel went to the heart of God can be seen from Hosea 11:8.

       Paul calls God "the Father of pities" (2 Cor.1:3). This shows us that there is no suffering which He does not bear with us.

       All suffering is in some way connected with sin. Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers (4:30) : "Do not be causing sorrow to the holy spirit of God".

       According to Genesis 6:6, God regretted that He had made humanity on the earth and was grieved to His heart. But He did not regret it in the same sense as we do when something goes wrong. He knew from the start what was the secret of His will. He does not create something only to regret it later, when He discovers that it is a failure. His work is known to Him from the beginning. That means that God was fully aware from the beginning of how things would work out.

       His regret can only be understood in the light of the next clause--it was grieving to His heart. He did not enjoy having to wipe out all these sinners, but it was more merciful to do this than to let them go their own sinful ways. Nevertheless it caused Him suffering. Everything that His creatures suffer hurts His own heart, even the woes of the animals (Jonah 4:11).

       Often the Scriptures speak of God's indignation. This is a violent irritation of the mind, and is compared with fire. But we cannot simply compare our anger with that of God. Our indignation does not do what is right before Him. His indignation is His "no" to every sin and injustice. If we harbor sin, God's "no" will also strike us. It is not a cool, objective matter, but flaming revolt of His whole being against sin. To disobey His commandment means to offend Him and wound His heart. Man's sin made a breach between him and his Subjector. From now on He remained at a distance from sinful humanity.

God's Wrath Coupled with Mercy

       Many passages show us that God withholds His wrath. Expressed in human terms, this means that "God suffers the fire, that burns within Him". Isaiah 1:14 says that "My soul hateth your new moons and your appointed feasts, they are a trouble unto me. I am weary to bear them." And Isaiah 43:24 shows us God as a Worker Who performs slave labor. "Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities".

       But when God's wrath burns like fire, it is always coupled with mercy. After Israel had ignored all His warnings through the prophets, He gave His people up to judgment. Israel was deported out of the land and her cities destroyed. But on the ruins of Jerusalem Jeremiah could call to the people: "For not for the eon will the Lord cast off. But, though He cause grief, will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men" (Lam. 3:31-33). This must mean that it is contrary to God's heart to cause suffering. The time of Israel's rejection He compares with a moment. See Isaiah 54:7-8. This agrees with Psalm 30:5, "For His anger endureth but a moment, but His grace for life".

       All these words show us how God also in His wrath has grace in view. According to Romans 9:22, He carries with much patience the vessels of indignation. And Unveiling 6:12-17 describes how the future Day of His Indignation will come over all humanity. The apostle is allowed to see how God does this. Seven messengers have the last seven calamities in seven bowls and are ready when the time has come to pour out one after the other. The bowls indicate that God's fury is distinctly measured. The empty bowls are not being refilled. "For in them is consummated the furs, of God" (Rev. 15:1).


God Uses Human Language

       "God no one has ever seen" (John 1:18). Also His sufferings man cannot perceive. The word of prophecy alone reveals them to us. In order to make us comprehend His sufferings He uses human language. He uses the expressions for human sensations to describe what He feels. Otherwise we would never understand this. But patience as we know it is only in the best instance a weak shadow of God's inherent long-suffering. What is true of love is true of God. God is foregoing all. God is enduring all (1 Cor. 13). Is there a greater Burden-bearer than God? Is there anyone who suffers more and heavier than He? As He is perfect in everything, so also His suffering is perfect. Human language is not able to describe His suffering adequately . So the suffering of God -- this is the remarkable thing about it -- is mostly hidden from us.


       Jesus, the Son of God, sent into the world, said this of Himself: "My food is that I should be doing the will of Him Who sends Me, and should be perfecting His work". But this work is crowned through His suffering. What one can see of God and His work, one has seen in His Son. We read in John 14:9: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father. "Whoever sees the sufferings of Christ, then, perceives the sufferings of His Father.

       In Matthew 26:38 we read that His soul was sorrow-stricken to death, and in Hebrews 5:7 it states that in the days of His flesh He offered both petitions and supplications with strong clamor and tears. And further in Luke 22:44 we read that He came to be in a struggle, and that His sweat became as if clots of blood, descending on the earth. Do we recognize in this agony the countenance of God's love?

God Suffered with His Son

       "And some begin spitting on Him and putting a covering about His face and buffeting Him". (Mark 14:65). In the same way God lets Himself be spit upon, mocked and beaten.

       John 19:1-3 says, "Then Pilate took Jesus, then, and scourges Him. And the soldiers, braiding a wreath out of thorns, place it on His head. "Did they not do all this to the Highest Himself? And further on (v. 17) : "And bearing the cross Himself, He came out to the Skull's place "There they crucified Him, and the malefactors". (Luke 23:33). The benumbing drink that might have alleviated the excruciating pain a little, He refused. He wanted to suffer with full consciousness. And God, Who suffered with Him, also knows no sedative.

       Thus God gave up His Son, but the Son gave up His own soul. He could have escaped His captors. He could have descended from the cross. He Who delivered His spirit into His Father's hands, could, in the last moment, have seized His life again and demonstrated by a spectacular miracle to the gaping mob His divine sonship. But He did not do it. He drank the bitter cup to the last drop. And thus He hid His power, but revealed His obedience unto the death of the cross.

Jesus placed Himself in His suffering form under His own word: "He who is beholding Me, is beholding Him Who sends Me." (John 12:45). His sufferings are the revealed sufferings of the Father. Jesus testified: "The Father is greater than I". Jesus Himself was, according to Hebrews 2:10, perfected through suffering. But the Father was always perfect, also in His suffering.

Can we realize a little of God's suffering? Simple knowledge leaves us cold. True realization moves our innermost being. It fills us with awe and gratitude. To the Corinthians, who knew a lot about God, Paul wrote, to their mortification, "Some have an ignorance of God" (1 Cor. 15:34). And Paul's own goal was. "to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil.3:10). That is to be our goal likewise, for thus we become imitators of God.

God Cannot be Influenced

How the sufferings of the Son are connected with the still greater sufferings of the Father is shown to us in the story of Isaac's sacrifice through Abraham.


       The life of Jesus stood under the maxim: "Not as I will, but as Thou". He emptied Himself. He took the form of a slave. He came to be in the likeness of humanity. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. His suffering was voluntary. But His agony in Gethsemane shows us what a struggle it was for Him to surrender His will.

       That all of God's doings were wholly voluntary we do not need to declare. If any power in the universe could influence God He would not be God. If He decided to let His Son suffer, He chose to suffer Himself, because God was in Christ.

       Concerning the Son we read Heb.10:5: "Lo! I am do Thy will, O God". In this will we are hallowed through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. But this offering has two sides. God offered His Son, the Son offered Himself. But it was God Who began. The offering was according to His will. He decided first to give up His beloved One. And the Son bowed to His Father's will by offering Himself.


       The cause of all suffering is sin. Without sin no (death, no evil, no pain, no clamor, no mourning. When God chore for Himself to suffer, He did it because of sin. Therefore God decided to suffer, when He made sin a part of His plan. Do we doubt that He did it? Does He not say in Isaiah 45:6-7 that He created evil and darkness? Then, when we read this, we hesitate and say that He meant only physical darkness and that evil could not mean moral wrong, but only misery and distress. That is twisting God's Word to quit our own conceptions. We will accept this solemn declaration of His will with all that it implied. If we, with our limited understanding, cannot grasp this, it is because God's counsel is too marvelous for us.


God Created Evil

       When God created Satan, the originator of sin, in order that He should introduce sin into His fair creation, He decided to suffer all that this would bring about. We have the tendency to believe that God only permitted evil, but it is only scriptural to say, that He created it. This act was the grandest, most sublime deed that ever was done; it was the crowning revelation of His love for His creatures.

       Sin is an insult against God's majesty. He bears this indignity. Sin is disobedience, disregard of His revealed will. He bears this offense. Sin is defilement of His creation. He lets this uncleanness corrupt His handiwork. Sin means torture for all creatures subject to vanity. God feels their pain, for He is the Father of compassion. In the Son, Who had life in Himself, and nevertheless gave it up in death and so made Himself subject to vanity, the Father Himself subjected Himself to vanity. Terrible curses persecute the sinner. God Himself becomes in the Son the curse for us. The ration of sin is death. In the Son, the only One Who was capable of tasting death in its full horror, the Rather also tasted death. For who has seen the Son has seen the Father.

       In relation to sin this means also for the Father to suffer, suffer, suffer. These torments became revealed in Christ on the cross.

       God's answer to our question: What did the creation of evil mean for Him! is "The greatest sacrifice imaginable, which He offered in His Son". The Son was made perfect through suffering. Now that the victim has been slaughtered, God can wait for the fruit of His suffering. For the Son the harvest has begun. Those who sow with tears will reap with joy.


The Glory of the Crucified Christ

       Only darkness can teach us what light is. Only through evil can we learn to know good. Only by suffering, and dying can we realize the glory of life and health.

       God wants us to really appreciate His gifts and thank Him for them from the bottom of our heart. Therefore He leads us into darkness, lets us feel the horror of evil, the terrors of His wrath and the hopelessness of death, but behind all paths of misery and the curse stands His unchangeable love. And love does not seek its own ends.

       What joy and wonder can already be ours in this life, when God opens our eyes to behold the glory of His grace in the Son, in the crucified Christ. God foresaw Him as the Lamb that was to be slaughtered long before there were messengers or men, long before there was any sin. We do not doubt that God Himself chose to suffer long before there was any trace of sin. But God also saw in the Son the final repudiation of sin. Through Him He will reconcile the world.

       And so can we, even in this mortal body, still sighing under pain and weakness, live in much closer communion with the Father than Adam in paradise. He knew no suffering, no sin and bad conscience, but also nothing of race or mercy. God's love was hidden from him. He could not cry like Paul: "The love of God is poured out into our hearts. "He could not grasp what it means: "To me, the first sinner, has mercy been shown".



       And so the Scriptures testify to it, that all our suffering leads to a glory that cannot be described. Without it that superabundance of joy that God predestinated for us, would be impossible. Behind all pain God Himself is standing, dealing out to us the measure of suffering we need, in order to enjoy the greatest degree of bliss. But the cause of all suffering is sin, is evil. So now we can see that, when God created evil, He achieved the masterpiece of His love. And this love's excellency is revealed by the fact that it meant for God the bitterest of all sufferings, made manifest in the cross of His Beloved.

NOTE: Because the author of this article did not have access to the manuscript of the Concordant Version of the Hebrew Scriptures, the quotations have been taken from other versions.


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