God & Suffering: A Prepositional Study (After)

Editor's Note: Ryan concludes his series exploring the reality of suffering from a prepositional understanding. Each post in this series relates God to suffering using a different preposition. This is the fifth and concluding concluding. You can catch the other parts in this series below. All parts of this series were originally posted as a single article in its entirety, written by Ryan Lister, Ph.D., in the Fall 2015 edition of Western Magazine and is posted per their permission. All rights belong to Western Seminary. Thanks, Western!

Suffering makes us covet. We are tired of the tears.  We long for a better world inoculated from the pain.  And God has made this possible through the suffering, death, and resurrection of his Son.  

This place we call home, then, is not our final home.  We are sojourners and exiles awaiting a better, heavenly city (1 Pet 2:11; Heb 11:13-16).  The world as we know it is not the way it was supposed to be and, in God’s unfathomable grace, this world will not be like this forever.  This place of suffering, shame, and shortcomings is but a dash on the timeline of eternity.

We know this because the Lord graciously pulls back the curtain of the future to prepare, comfort, and encourage his people. And what do we see when He shows us the end? Well, simply put, God wins. Not evil.  Not suffering.  But God in the fullness of his glory shows himself to rule and reign forever.  

And because God wins, his people win.  The fallen world, with its fallen people, is restored.  The creation we know will be surpassed when the heavens and earth meet.  The times when it seems suffering and evil have won—like the darkness of Good Friday—will give way to a new and better Paradise, where sin and suffering have no authority and no future.  God will correct our fickle assumptions that the prince of the power of the air really rules from this world by casting him into the bottomless pit (Rev 20:3).  The Suffering Servant returns to make all things right again, to do away with pain once and for all, to usher those with faith in his vicarious suffering into the new creation, all with a sword that comes from his mouth (Rev 19:15; 21).  

Many of the things we think vital to the human experience—including suffering and pain and sin—will be shown to be obsolete.  God is coming to wipe away the final tears from our eyes so that we may see his world as it should and always will be (Rev 21:1-4).

Until then, let us hold fast to the prepositions he has given us.  Take hold of God and his promises that He rules before our suffering, is over our suffering, stood in the midst of our suffering, works through our suffering, and will reign after he has dealt with our suffering once and for all.  And don’t let go.  

PART 1   PART 2   PART 3   PART 4   Part 5

Ryan Lister is a husband, father, blogger, author, and professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives. Follow him on Twitter!


image credit belongs to Bastien Grivet: http://fav.me/d7mrqv