Does God suffer because of man?


Even though this might be difficult for us to understand, God does indeed suffer and experience mental pain when He sees that we suffer. Every loving father or brother would feel mental anguish when he observes that his children or brethren suffer innocently or because they go the wrong way and inflict pain upon themselves as a consequence. Even more so, God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son–the firstborn among many brethren–suffer when they see that we experience pain and anguish and despair.

As we will see, God the Father suffered when Jesus Christ had to endure torture and an excruciating death on the cross. We must never forget that God the Father GAVE His Son to die for us. Both the Father and the Son gave the supreme Sacrifice for the sins of man, so that the world would not have to perish, but could inherit eternal life (John 3:16).

We all know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. Many biblical passages prove this fact. He suffered in the flesh and died for us so that we can have everlasting life (compare Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Acts 5:31; 13:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 2 Peter 1:11; 1 John 4:14).

But God the Father is ALSO called our Savior (1 Timothy 1:1; 2:3-6; Titus 3:4-6; Jude 24-25). This is the case because by giving His Son to die for the world, God the Father made salvation possible for mankind. 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us that the Father was “in” Christ–and so, He experienced mental suffering when His Son suffered. Notice what we wrote in our Q&A on Zechariah 12:10 (which passage states that people “will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn…”):

“… the Father suffered when Christ suffered. Even though Jesus Christ was pierced, it was God the Father who GAVE His only begotten Son to DIE for the world (John 3:16). We read that the Father was IN the Son (2 Corinthians 5:19). He experienced the Son’s suffering as well. When the Son was pierced, the Father was pierced too in that sense–God the Father who loved the Son felt the pain and suffering of His Son; He suffered WITH Christ; He felt the piercing as Christ did. Today, in the same way, both the Father and the Son feel also our pain and suffering when we go through severe trials (compare 2 Corinthians 1:5).”

It is true that for a brief moment the Father forsook Christ on the cross (Matthew 27:46). This happened just before Christ died (see verse 50), because at that time, He was carrying, symbolically, the sins of all of mankind (compare John 1:29), and the Father, being of purer eyes than to behold iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13), turned His eyes from Christ, as unrepented sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). But as mentioned, this only lasted for a short moment. Apart from this, the Father was with Christ and in Christ throughout His human life (John 16:32), including during His trial, torture and the hours of His crucifixion. As Jesus suffered in the flesh, the Father suffered with Him in the Spirit.

Christ had not committed any sin. He was not punished for any sin of His own. As His loving Father, God suffered with Him, experiencing the pain when His innocent Son was rejected by man, and when He was brutally beaten and murdered, to give His life for the sins of the world.

God the Father and Jesus Christ suffer with us today, when we are suffering innocently. As the Father lived in Christ, so the Father and Christ live today in us through the Holy Spirit (John 17:20-21). God never feels indifferent about our suffering. We read that the death of His saints is precious in His sight (Psalm 116:15).

The Old Testament confirms the fact that God grieves when His children suffer. This is the case when they suffer innocently–for righteousness’ sake–or when they suffer because of their sins.

Notice Judges 10:15-16 (Authorized Version):

“And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was GRIEVED for the misery of Israel.”

Note, too, this remarkable statement in Isaiah 63:7-9:

“I will mention the lovingkindness of the LORD And the praise of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses. For He said, ‘Surely they are My people, Children who will not lie.’ So He became their Savior. In all their affliction HE WAS AFFLICTED, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old.”

Sadly, ancient Israel did not repay God in kind. Rather, we read in verse 10: “But they rebelled and GRIEVED His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them.”

In Isaiah 65:2-3, we read more about the fact that God suffers or is hurt when we sin. He says: “I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; A people who provoke Me to anger continually to the face…” Luther renders the phrase, “who provoke Me to anger” as, “who HURT me.” Menge says: “who continuously provoke me in a HURTFUL way.”

God suffers spiritually and mentally when He sees us turning from His commandments and going the wrong way, knowing that this will cause us pain and misery. We read that God chastens every son whom He accepts and receives (Hebrews 12:5-6). He wants us to learn not to sin, but to live righteously. Jesus reiterates too that He rebukes and chastens us because He loves us (Revelation 3:19).

When people do not respond to God’s love and correction, He is grieved. We read in Psalm 95:10: “For forty years I was GRIEVED with that generation, And I said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.'” Compare, too, Psalm 78:40.

Continued disobedience and rebellion caused God to repent or regret or feel “sorry” that He had made man, being “grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6). Even then, we should always remember God’s great love and mercy for man (compare Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:5, 15; Romans 9:22).

As God suffers when He sees man–His creation–sinning, so we, in whom God’s Spirit dwells, must have the same compassionate and grieving attitude towards others who go the wrong way, because they have not yet realized that in doing so, they are bringing misery upon themselves (compare Jeremiah 8:21). We read in Amos 6:6 that God is angry with those who “drink wine from bowls, And anoint [themselves] with the best ointments, But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” Compare, too, Ezekiel 9:3-4.

And so, we must never cease, but we are rather to increase in our efforts to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God in all the world as a witness, knowing that this is a necessary requirement for Jesus Christ to return (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) and to set up the kingdom of God here on earth, when there will be no more misery and pain.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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