“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”
I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep cross the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.”
God is unbelievable. The Bible is unbelievable. The Gospels are unbelievable. Jesus is unbelievable. Not because they cannot by trusted and therefore must be false, but because they contradict our human nature and instincts as storytellers so much that if they could not possibly have been created for literary or moral purposes. The Bible contains far more honesty than we like. It contains far more justice than we are comfortable with. It also contains far more wisdom than we are even able to fathom.
The God of the Bible never acts out of consideration for our feelings, interests or desires. The God of the Bible ONLY acts on behalf of what is true and what is just. Therefore, when we need correction, He gives it. When we need instruction, He gives it. When we need compassion and gentleness, He gives it. When we need discipline, He gives it. In fact, God challenges us to believe the unbelievable in regards to His approach to discipline and suffering. Through Jesus we no longer have to fear punishment from God, but suffering persists. Why? If the suffering is not a sign of God punishment, what is it?
The purpose of our suffering or hard times has one purpose and one purpose only. It is ONLY to see God as sovereign and us as entirely fallible. As Jesus is Emmanuel and therefore with us in any and all situations, the purpose of the suffering is ONLY to move us to seek the face of Jesus, to take up His grace in order to carry us through the storm. But let us never forget that suffering will persist. Bearing the name of Christ not only means that suffering will persist but that it will inevitably increase.
But in the face of increasing suffering we are never to disown the name of Jesus by interpreting our hard time as the divine punishment only Jesus has any right or claim to. We were not and are not punished because Jesus already was. Therefore, the suffering we experience is present with us to reveal the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And in His name and because of His Lordship we will prevail amidst the suffering and we will see His face in the storm. The presence of God in our lives through Jesus does not yield to suffering and sin. It overcomes sin and suffering entirely. Jesus rose on the third victorious over sin and death proclaiming, “Where, O death, is your sting? Where, O death, is your victory?” God allows suffering to a degree of such intensity that to create such a God out of thin air would not only fail to appeal to anyone but would be mocked rather than worshipped. While one side of the world writhes back in disbelief in the face of God’s grace and compassion, the other writhes back in the face of God’s justice. The only message relevant to the entire world is a message that is true to both sides of the world. In Jesus, truth is united at the cross, revealing God’s grace and justice simultaneously. The extent of both God’s grace and His justice are truly unbelievable, but in Jesus they CAN be believed and they CAN do more than we think.