The God Who Suffers, Overcomes, and is Victorious

By Keith Boyette

April 15, 2022

Photo by Francesco Alberti on Unsplash

How are you doing as we approach the conclusion of one of the busiest weeks in the church year – Holy Week? For pastors, the week often seems like a marathon as we sprint from one service to the next and often multiple services in a single day. Laity are confronted with the challenge of attending multiple services through the week, significantly increasing the time they spend at services in a typical week.


For me, one of the most challenging aspects of Holy Week is the whiplash of emotions. From the joyous celebration of Palm Sunday to encountering Jesus’ call to servanthood on Holy Thursday, to the darkness and grief of Good Friday, to the silence and sense of abandonment on Saturday, to the surprise and joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, my emotions feel like they are on steroids.


And in the midst of the busyness – we are launching the Global Methodist Church in a matter of days. I have tried to slow things down as I have journeyed through Holy Week. Morning devotions have always been an important part of my spiritual disciplines. One of the resources I draw upon is an app called “My Daily Office.” In addition to guiding me through morning, midday, and evening prayer, I am prompted to read scriptures for the day according to a daily lectionary. The readings from scripture track with the Christian year and thus the readings for Holy Week draw from scriptures pertinent to what we are remembering and celebrating.


The psalms are particularly poignant when viewed from the perspective of what Jesus is experiencing as he moves from the Upper Room to the Garden to the Roman Fortress to Golgotha — betrayal, false accusations, ridicule, rejection, despair, abandonment, incredible suffering, and death. As I have read the psalms this year, I have slowed down. I have read the words aloud. I have read them from the perspective of Jesus. I have tried to place myself in the psalms. I have allowed the Holy Spirit to speak deeply to my spirit. My appreciation for what Jesus endured for me – for us – has grown and deepened.


Another aspect of this year’s Holy Week has been the reality that innocent people are suffering and dying all around us. Each day, we are confronted with the horrors of war emanating from Ukraine. The barbaric actions of the Russian military demonstrate a depth of evil that is difficult to comprehend. I will never forget the pictures of civilians – men, women, and children – slaughtered on the streets of Bucha or the relentless shelling of Mariupol denying civilians a path to seek refuge, trapping them without food, water, medicines, and so much more necessary for life. I cannot unsee apartment buildings reduced to rubble, a theater decimated where at least a thousand people, many just children, were sheltering because they could not escape the war, or lines of people waiting to receive meager rations of food intentionally attacked for no other purpose than inflicting terror and suffering.


I could recount other horrors being experienced by people because of the brokenness of creation – mass shootings in a subway and in a mall, the devastation following severe storms here in the U.S. and in the Philippines, and on and on. We certainly live in a world where “all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present moment” (Romans 8:22).


All of this threatens the faith of many in a gracious, loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God. Why does God stay His hand? When will God make things right? When will He visit His judgment upon this rebellious world?


On the first Good Friday, I know that Jesus, God’s only Son, encountered in all its force the brokenness, suffering and evil of this world. God knows what we are enduring. He experienced it Himself in the person of Jesus. And as we experience the devastation that sin and rebellion has wrought for humanity, we know our God, because of His love for us, took the full force of that sin and rebellion upon Himself on that cross of Calvary. He has entered into our suffering, and He is present with us in our suffering. Jesus daily makes intercession for us. The sufferings of this time are nearly unbearable, but God accompanies us. He is not a distant, unengaged God. He has taken our sufferings – even our sins – upon Himself and He has redeemed us. Our future is not defined by this present reality.


That is why today is called “Good Friday.” The grand reversal is underway. The years that the locusts consumed are being restored seven-fold (Joel 2:25). What others intended for evil, God intended for good (Genesis 50:20). We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them (Romans 8:28). We know the rest of the story.


As we finish this day, we mark time with Jesus awaiting the dawn of Easter morning chronologically and spiritually. As one preacher declared, “Sunday is coming!” We affirm with Paul, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18). “With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:21). “We wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:23).


Not only has our God fully entered into our suffering, but our God has gloriously overcome it. We join with all the host of heaven in proclaiming the reality of the resurrection and we see evidence all around us of the God who is making all things new. So be encouraged. God is faithful to fulfill every one of His promises. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Shout “Hosanna” for our God saves!

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Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chairperson of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church. He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.


East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.

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