A benefit of suffering

A quote today on suffering and trouble, for family and friends, and thoughts therefrom.

“I believe the hard-heartest, most cross-grained and most unloving Christians in all the world are those who have not had much trouble in their life. And those that are the most sympathizing, loving and Christlike are generally those who have the most affliction. The worse thing that can happen to any of us is to have a path made too smooth. One of the greatest blessings the Lord ever gave us was a cross.” –Charles Spurgeon

The younger generation and the city-bred may have little idea of what it means to be “cross-grained.” To cut a piece of wood across the grain with a handsaw is the hardest angle; it’s easier to cut with the grain. So a cross-grained person would be a difficult, contrary person. (I found a dictionary entry for “cross-grained:” difficult to deal with.)

Spurgeon was a famous English Baptist preacher of the XIX Century, and quite a Calvinist. Here, he speaks true.

The quote is not really a good answer to the question of the reason for suffering, the why behind pain, for which, this side of heaven, there may be no good reply, and certainly no complete one. But it does serve very well to hint at the value of suffering in our lives and how affliction may be used constructively and redemptively.

As always, the Lord Jesus shows us the way. When we would begin to doubt the goodness of God and his interest in us, we have but to look to the cross and discern that God uses pain to redeem. He did that in Jesus’ life and death, and he will do it in ours.

Not by chance is Jesus described as “one who experienced pain” and he who “carried our pain” (Isaiah 53:3-4 NET).

Of the Hebrew word behind the verb “carried,” the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says,

“The root is also utilized in contexts with deal with the bearing of punishments or penalties. Jeremiah laments that the Jerusalemites have sinned as had their fathers, hence must bear the penalty for violating God’s covenant with them (Lam 5:7). The most important context in which this root occurs is Isa 53:4-11. Here the coming servant, Messiah, lifts up and takes upon himself man’s sicknesses and bears the weight of his worrisome sorrows. Nothing could more graphically portray the vicarious sacrificial work of Christ who bore the penalty for man’s sin so that man may receive God’s righteousness and stand justified before him.” (1458)

If our will is to do the will of God, he will use our pain, in a secondary sense, to bring relief to others who suffer.

We will be, in Spurgeon’s words, more sympathizing, loving and Christlike — if we decide to permit this role of pain in our lives and if we consider it as suffering with Christ for the good of others. (Elsewise, we will become grumpy old men and women.)

May it be so!

On what happened at the cross, see Richard Mansel’s forthcoming book, The Most Important Question.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

3 thoughts on “A benefit of suffering

  1. The quote from Spurgeon was right on. Your analysis was well stated too.
    I know we don’t go in for the “God makes us suffer because we have sinned” philosophy because we know that Christ suffered for all of our sins, to keep us from that torment.

    On a lighter note, I am currently in the process of re-reading the book of Job. I know somewhere in there that there must be some reference to shingles.
    Job was a much better man than me.

  2. God reminds us in the pain of shingles,
    That life is not a bunch of merry jingles.

  3. These words remind me that the “true” way is rarely the “easy” way. Perhaps that’s why “easy” is not always satisfying.

What do you think?