So where does all of this mean to us? Much more than can begin to be said here! Books have been written on this and an excellent one is Celebrating the Wrath of God by Jim McGuiggan. Here are a few jumping off places.
- It should temper the way we think about our Father. God’s goal for man is not happiness but life. (He’s not against happiness, it’s simply not at the top of His agenda for us). We must not mistake Him for a magic genie whose primary purpose is to cater to our constant requests or provide us with lives resembling endless vacations. Such a view is immature at best and idolatrous at worst. No responsible parent thinks of treating their child that way and neither does God. He loves us too much not to call us to something higher, nobler, and deeper! He will bring pain and suffering in order to bring us life.
- It should change the way we think about our Savior. In the person of Christ, God stepped into our world. As a human, He experienced the pain and suffering we know. But more than that, He tasted death for all of us (Hebrew 2:9). He did this in order to bring us radical life, resurrection life, life beyond the curse. Although we still live in a world of pain and suffering, we will live even if we die (John 11:25). Jesus died to bring this life into our world and He lives to sustain it (Romans 8:34).
- It should move us to bear and share with the world. The world has no answer for the pain and suffering of life. Richard Dawkins speaks us a “universe of blind physical forces,” where mankind is left to dance to the music of DNA. We know better! But the world doesn’t need us to (merely) post our answers for them. Following Jesus’ example, it needs us to enter their pain and and earn the right to share our story.
In closing the post, I can’t help but think about Joseph. A lot of bad things came his way (he was sold into slavery, accused of sexual advances, put into prison). Although he had done nothing to deserve these things, it doesn’t appear that he spent any time bemoaning his difficulties or injustices. He trusted God and sought to make the best of his situation. After many years, Joseph’s situation was reversed and he was highly exalted. When his brothers sought his forgiveness for the wrong they had done to him, Joseph told them that though they had evil in their intent, God had meant it all for good (Genesis 50:20). I’m sure we’d be right if we looked at things that way and lived out our assurance in a similar manner as he did.