[This Words of Grace was originally posted on April 3, 2012.]
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
How can we believe in the love of God when there appears to be so much evidence to contradict it? The apostle Paul spells out in Romans 5 two major means by which we become sure that God loves us. The first is that he “has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (v. 5). The second is that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). How, then, can we doubt God’s love? To be sure, we are often profoundly perplexed by the tragedies of life. But God has both proved his love for us in the death of his Son and poured his love into us by the gift of his Spirit. Objectively in history and subjectively in experience, God has given us good grounds for believing in his love. The integration of the historical ministry of God’s Son (on the cross) with the contemporary ministry of his Spirit (in our hearts) is one of the most wholesome and satisfying features of the gospel.
What the Bible does not solve is the problem of suffering, but it gives us the right perspective from which to view it. Then, whenever we are torn with anguish, we will climb the hill called Calvary and, from that unique vantage ground, survey the calamities of life.
What makes suffering insufferable is not so much the pain involved as the feeling that God doesn’t care. We picture him lounging in a celestial armchair, indifferent to the sufferings of the world. It is this slanderous caricature of God that the cross smashes to smithereens. We are to see him not on a comfortable chair but on a cross. For the God who allows us to suffer once suffered himself in Jesus Christ, and he continues to suffer with us today. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over that mark we boldly stamp another mark—the cross.
For further reading: Romans 8:28-39
John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), p. 267.