My Suffering Produces Followers of Jesus

Our God is a suffering God. We see his suffering throughout the Bible. [1]  It begins with Adam and Eve, people he created for enjoyment and relationship, but who both rejected God choosing to follow a selfish path. Later God chose the nation of Israel to be his people. Again they not only rejected the Lord but held him in contempt and twisted his good intentions to look malicious. Then later in the New Testament at the death of Jesus we see the suffering heavenly Father as well as the suffering Son. It is in the cross we have the template for making disciples. Here God demonstrates his willingness to suffer in order to love another through the laying down of His life so that another can have life.

The suffering of God overflows into the life of his followers. Paul writes:

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”  (2 Corinthians 1:5).

The overflow of the suffering of God produces offspring of “like heart.” It is said that “life begets life” but in God’s economy “death begets life.” Only as I die (willingly laying down my life for another) are disciples made. Jesus told his disciples:

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me…  (John 12:24-26).

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.  (John 15:12-13)

[1] See Terence E. Fretheim, “The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective” (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984)

2 thoughts on “My Suffering Produces Followers of Jesus

  1. Thanks, Lewie, for your post.

    I have seen how this is true in my own life. As our community was preparing to lay down our lives financially for another family, I realized this: the measure of suffering I share with someone during the trial is proportionate to the measure of joy I share with them when victory/relief is granted.

    I believe this is true because it is seen in the life of Jesus. He has been given the ultimate place of joy–sitting “at God’s right hand”–because he endured more suffering than any other being in history. As Hebrews states, Jesus “endured the cross” because he knew joy would be his ultimate reward. What is particularly astounding and miraculous about his death is that, as Paul says in Romans 5, he died while we were sinners–still his enemies! If “greater love has no man than this: that he lays down his life for his friends,” then it can only be a divine and supernatural love that compels someone to die for their enemies. As Paul says in II Cor. 9, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

  2. Paul,
    I love your insight about the proportion of joy to suffering! One thing I did not mention that is similar to your insight, is that suffering produces in my heart a love for God and a love for people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *