The world is full of suffering. We know this. If you haven’t experienced some level of physical or emotional pain, you will. As Christians, one of the most powerful aspects of our witness is the ability to get alongside those who are hurting and broken and to offer them the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, there are some Christians who seek to perpetuate a false gospel that promises a pain-free life, if we would only be able to live perfectly. They refuse to recognize the weight of suffering that can beset any one of us, at any time. They alienate those who are distressed. When we turn away from the suffering, we turn away from Jesus Christ himself.
One of the most misguided elements of this thinking can be rectified when we study the very life and death of Jesus. He took on a finite human body and entered into the realm of emotional, physical and spiritual turmoil. He was absolute divinity. And yet, he was persecuted, disowned, rejected, and eventually tortured and murdered in the most brutal fashion.
Still, some Christians believe that suffering is to be ignored, rejected, or even criticized as a mere “lack of faith.” There is one phrase for this type of thing: “false gospel.”
Tim Keller, pithy as ever, summed it up perfectly in a recent Facebook post:
The basic premise of religion–that if you try hard to be good, things will go well for you is wrong. Jesus lived perfectly yet suffered.
When you become a Christian, you are not promised an easy, prosperous life (John 16:33). Does God give us good things? Absolutely. All the beautiful gifts of life; family, a job, health, Church life, a home – these are all blessings from above.
We should give God the thanks and praise for when we are living in abundance, but we should understand that this is not as a result of anything we have done. It is all of grace. And it can all be taken away.
What about when things go wrong? Well, we can rest in the knowledge that Jesus Christ can identify intimately with our pain – he bears the scars of the greatest earthly trial in the history of mankind. Through it all, He promises to be with us. That will always be enough.
“And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20