In Biblical Theology of Suffering on Monday, we discussed the debate of whether God suffers or not. This went along with the book we have been reading, Where is the God of Justice?. This is a simple, yet very enlightening book that discusses so many aspects of suffering, including the idea of whether or not God suffer. Dr. Andrew Schmutzer was the professor who taught this lesson, and it was so interesting.
In our book, the author, Warren McWilliams, discusses the debate between whether or not God suffers with His creation. He declares that God is a suffering God, and that it is only because He suffers with us that He can actually help us. He inserted a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which said,
God lets himself be pushed out of the world on the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way in which he is with us and helps us. ...The Bible directs us to God's powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help.The fact of God suffering does not mean that He is in any way weak or unable to cope with things. Dr. Schmutzer put it very well when he said in class that unlike human beings, God's suffering does not make Him undone. Instead, it spurs Him into action and He is able to work in the situation. He does not allow Himself to be struck down by suffering, but rather He uses it in order to help and understand His people.
So what does this mean for us? If God really suffers, how does that affect our relationship with Him? In Dr. Schmutzer's view, there are 5 implications for the Christian and either our lives or our perspectives of God:
- "If God is truly involved in the lives of people, if he actually enters into and acts within time and history, and most of all, if he does so as the God of love, then such a God must, by necessity, experience suffering." - Thomas G. Weinandy, Does God Suffer?
- God's suffering can be expressed more as empathetic participation than mere sympathetic identification.
- God's love is not reckless or need-based, shot through with self-seeking and anxiety - God's emotion does not incapacitate him. While God does not suffer against his will, he does voluntarily expose himself to suffering.
- The theology of creation affirms that God remains in and with the contingent, the other-than-God - the world in its nature as world, and humankind in its autonomous but finite creaturliness.
- For people who have faced comprehensive traumas such as: starvation, domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse, and torture, there is a very practical aspect of clinging to a God who suffers-with.
This is huge. In the midst of intense suffering, we can be sure that God suffers with us, and not only sympathizes with our condition, but He knows exactly what is going on, and feels the pain just as we do. While He is not incapacitated, He still feels our emotions and is filled deeply with compassion for us, and this spurs Him on to help us.
Praise Him that we have a God who loves us enough to do that! Who are we, the sinful race that we are, to deserve something so great as that! His love overflows and abounds for us, even though we are wicked and depraved, deserving nothing.
Praise Him all creatures here below.