I believe that everything in the universe was created by God, therefore, I believe the entire universe exists to display the glory and grace of God. Now it might be simpler to say that the entire universe exists to display the greatness of the glory of God, but the Bible is more specific. The glory of God shines most brightly, most fully, most beautifully in the glory of His grace. But how is that true in something so horrible like Good Friday. How does suffering display God’s glory and benefit us?
God’s Creation was to be enjoyed by His creatures through experiencing His love and grace. But since the Fall, sin and suffering entered the world. But it is for that reason, Jesus came into the world, to suffer and die to save undeserving sinners like you and me. If that is true, then a stunning truth is revealed, namely, suffering is an essential part of the created universe in which this great sacrifice and deed can be most fully revealed. In essence, suffering is an essential part of the tapestry of the universe so that the weaving of grace can be seen for what it really is.
The ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory and grace of God by suffering in Himself to overcome our suffering. The suffering of the innocent and holy Son of God in the place of utterly undeserving sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the greatest display of the glory of God.
When God put everything into motion, it was to display His glory and grace. There was no Plan B as some like to think. There were no “midcourse corrections.” Good Friday was the moment for which everything in the universe was planned. There could be no greater display of God’s glory and grace than what happened at Calvary. Everything leading to it and everything flowing from it is explained by it, including all the suffering in the world.
So as we contemplate the suffering and death of Christ, what benefits did the suffering of Christ have for us? And how does our understanding of suffering affect how we see God and our lives?
The first thing we discover is that through His suffering, Jesus took on the wrath of God for us. As Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” The wrath of God that should have led to our eternal suffering fell on Christ. Glory and grace through His suffering.
Secondly, He bore our sins and purchased our forgiveness by His suffering. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” This was a fulfilment of Isaiah’s words in 53:5 where it says, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” The sin that should have crushed us were placed upon Jesus. He received suffering so suffering could be removed from us.
Thirdly, Jesus suffered so we could receive perfect righteousness from Him. In Philippians 2, we read about Jesus, the suffering servant. In 2:7-8, we read, “He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” According to Romans 5:19, that act of obedience, enduring suffering on our behalf, led to many counted as righteous.
Fourthly, through His suffering, Jesus defeated death. Death is something almost everyone fears. Christian or not, there is a sense of dread when we think about it. But because of Jesus, it is defeated. Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” We can, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 declare, “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Suffering led to victory.
Fifthly, Jesus’ suffering took care of Satan’s power over us. In Colossians 2:14-15, we read, “[The record of debts against us] he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” When our sins were nailed to the cross, the only weapon Satan had against us, our sin, was cancelled. Our condemnation is based on unforgiven sin but Christ suffered so that it could be stripped from Satan.
Sixthly, Christ’s suffering purchased the ultimate healing for us. Many read Isaiah 53:5, “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” to refer to physical healing. Although I do believe God has the power to physically heal, this act of Christ brought so much more. As Revelation tells us, the ultimate healing will be when the new heaven and earth are revealed. John writes 21:1-5, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” I think all of us can look forward to the day when God restores all, including these bodies we inhabit. No more “death, mourning, crying or pain” because the Lamb suffered on our behalf.
Finally, through Christ’s suffering, we will be brought to God. Jesus told His disciples, “I go prepare a place for you…” This is the hope of the Christian. As 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” The ultimate achievement of the cross is not freedom from sickness and suffering but fellowship with God. This is what we were made for and only became a reality through the suffering of Christ.
But this still does not answer the ultimate reason why suffering exists. Throughout the Bible, we see numerous people who suffered. One of the stories that stand out in understanding suffering is the man born blind in John 9. The disciples asked Jesus whose fault it was that this man was born blind. People believed their suffering was based upon sin – either their own sins or their parent’s. Jesus answered their question with a statement that reinforces the truth of Jesus’ own suffering, “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
When we look at people like Joni Eareckson Tada or Mark Talbot, we see people, who in their own way, have suffered greatly, yet are able to rejoice in God. Their lives have been “enriched” as they rested in God’s love and grace in spite of their circumstances. As easy as it is to look at our situation and mockingly say, “Where is God,” as Christians, we have a hope that lifts us above all suffering into the presence of God.
The ultimate purpose of the universe is to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. Jesus’ suffering was the greatest display of this. He suffered so undeserving sinners might be redeemed and God glorified.