When my mother suffered terribly for several years with cancer, I heard some shocking comments like this: “It’s a shame and disgrace to God’s name that your mother is suffering with Cancer.” There were some people who felt that when we suffer, it makes God look bad and less people will follow him.
Maybe this is a conclusion that is logical and in the minds of many. But only a few would share such thoughts with others. Still, it is there in the minds of many.
But when Jesus suffered in the cruelest way possible, a Roman soldier made a public proclamation about him that was astounding: “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt 27:54) Then further: “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47)
Suffering can bring confusion, but it also brings clarity. Certainly that Roman soldier had heard about the claims of Jesus being the Son of God, the Messiah. Although these designations may have not made sense to him as a non-Israelite, he recognized a sense of divinity in Jesus.
On the cross, when one of the criminals mocked Jesus, the other one said: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Somehow, throughout the whole ordeal of suffering, this person understood the innocence of Jesus. Maybe the innocent suffer differently than the guilty.
In addition to that recognition, faith was expressed by this criminal as well. He said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Then Jesus affirmed him with these words: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43). His response was not just a fleeting interest in Jesus. Rather it was faith that was genuine enough to bring salvation.
None of us desire suffering in any way. But when we do, it’s good to remove fear and trust that God’s name will be glorified. It’s not a problem for unbelievers to know about our sufferings. This is part of life here on earth, and we have God with us as our comfort and strength. Then in the end, God will be glorified.
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