Suffering: The Wildness Of God

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    “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
    “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

    This famous exchange is from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It casts Christ afresh in our minds. It usurps any notion of God’s domestication.

    God is not a tame lion. He does not always rescue us from suffering and grief in this world, but he is always present with us, redemptively, within it. His wildness is his incomprehensibility, his might, his otherness, his seeming disregard for what I believe I deserve. And, above all, his wildness is his goodness. Lewis revisits this idea in a beautiful passage from another book in his Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy.

    “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

    “Then it was you who wounded Aravis? . . . But what for?”
    “Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

    God is good, and he desires us to share in his life. His life does not conform to our lives. Ours must conform to his. So we suffer. We have sorrow. And our angry whys fill the heavens like locusts. Life is broken; we are broken—suffering is a result of that brokenness. That brokenness is not bigger than God or his grace, however, so he redeems suffering, and he asks us to accept our own suffering in order that we might be more configured to Christ. Though we can ask the whys, we do not, we cannot, redeem our suffering by explaining it away—as if God saved us that we might not have grief in this life.

    Jesus understands our grief. He is no stranger to suffering. So let us come before him in silence when we suffer. Let us offer up our suffering to him, that it might bear the fruit of redemption in our lives and in our world. Christ did not become incarnate, grow to be a thirty-year-old man, minister for three years, and then die for our sins—all without a care. He suffered even as we suffer—and a quiet life of obedience lived out in community describes the majority of Jesus’ life.

    Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that suffering ceases to be painful in our patient acceptance of it, that we shouldn’t try to alleviate our suffering, or that we ought to get warm fuzzies from it. We groan. We ache. We cry. This is not some perverse asceticism or masochism. But this whole life-on-earth gig is a package deal, and it comes with sorrow.

    We must listen to how Jesus responds to the suffering around him, and how he responds to his own suffering in the Gospels. For example, the story of Lazarus’s death teaches us about our relationship to suffering, and God’s activity within it.

    Then Jesus wept. . . . But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?’ . . .
    Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” (John 11:35, 37, 40).

    Jesus wept. Did you know? Do you understand? The danger in all our whys is that we fail to see Jesus weeping next to us, fail to hear him say, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

    He’s the King, I tell you.

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