Grace in suffering and death

As I write these lines, I'm preparing to go to my uncle's funeral. He was feeling pretty bad for a while. Popularly, Benjamin Franklin's well-known phrase: "Only two things in this world are safe for us: death and the tax." I have already lost many important people in my life; including my dad. I remember seeing him at the hospital. He was in great pain and I could hardly bear to see him in such suffering. It was the last time I saw him alive. Even today, I'm saddened that I have no father left to call on Father's Day and spend time with. Nevertheless, I thank God for the grace we receive from him through death. Out of it God's kindness and compassion becomes accessible to all men and beings. When Adam and Eve sinned, God prevented them from eating from the tree of life. He wanted her to die, but why? The answer is this: If they had continued to eat from the tree of life, even though they have sinned, then they would live forever a life of sin and disease. If they had liver cirrhosis like my father, they would live forever in pain and illness. If they had cancer, they would suffer forever, with no hope, because the cancer would not kill them. God has given us death by grace, so that we can one day escape the earthly pains. Death was not a punishment for sin, but a gift that leads to true life.

"But God is so merciful and loved us so much that he gave us new life to Christ, who was dead through our sins, when He raised Him from the dead. Only by the grace of God have you been saved! For he raised us from the dead with Christ, and we now belong to his heavenly kingdom with Jesus "(Eph 2,4-6, New Life, The Bible).

Jesus came to this earth as a human being to free people from the prison of death. As he climbed into the grave, he joined all the people who ever lived and died and would ever die. However, it was his plan that he would get up from the grave with all people. Paul describes it this way: "If you are now risen with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God" (Col. 3,1).

The antidote to sin

We are told that suffering in the world worsens when we sin. God shortens the lifetimes of men, according to Genesis: "Then said the LORD, My spirit shall not always reign in man, for man too is flesh. I want to give him as a lifetime a hundred and twenty years "(1, Moses 6,3). The Psalms tell how Moses years later complains of the state of humanity: "Your wrath is heavy on our lives, so it is as fleeting as a sigh. Maybe we live seventy years, maybe even eighty - but even the best years are trouble and burden! How fast is it over and we are not anymore "(Ps 90,9f; GN). Sin has increased and people's lifetime has been reduced to a lower age from 120 years, as reported in Genesis. Sin is like cancer. The only effective way to deal with it is to destroy it. Death is the consequence of sin. Therefore, in death Jesus took our sins upon himself. He destroyed our sins on this cross. Through his death we experience the antidote to sin, his love as the grace of life. The sting of death no longer exists because Jesus died and rose again.

Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we look with confidence to the resurrection of His followers. "For as they all die in Adam, so shall they all be made alive in Christ" (1, Kor 15,22). This being alive will have wonderful effects: "And God will wipe away all the tears from her eyes, and death will be no more, nor pain nor scream nor pain will be more; because the first has passed "(Offb 21,4). After the resurrection, death will be no more! Because of this hope, Paul writes to the Thessalonians that they should not mourn like people who have no hope: "But we do not want to leave you, dear brothers, in doubt about those who have fallen asleep, lest you be sad as the others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, God will bring those who have fallen asleep through Jesus with him. For this we say to you in a word of the Lord, that we who live and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not preempt those who have fallen asleep "(1, Thess 4,13-15).

The release of pain

While we mourn the loss of beloved family members and friends because we miss them, we have the hope that we will see them again in heaven. It's like saying goodbye to a friend who goes abroad for a long time. Death is not the end. He is the grace that frees us from pain. When Jesus returns, there is neither death nor pain nor sadness. We may thank God for the grace of death when a loved one dies. But what about the people who have to suffer for a very long time before being recalled to the eternal home? Why have not they been allowed to experience the mercy of death? Has God left her? Of course not! He will never leave or give up. Suffering is also a grace of God. Jesus, who is God, suffered the pain of being human for thirty years - with all his limitations and temptations. The worst suffering he suffered was his death on the cross.

Share in the life of Jesus

Many Christians do not know that it is a blessing to suffer. Pain and suffering are grace, because through them we have part in the painful life of Jesus: "Now I rejoice in the sufferings which I suffer for you, and I reimburse my flesh, which is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for his body 'This is the church' (Kol 1,24).

Peter understood the role of suffering in the lives of Christians: "Because Christ suffered in the flesh, so arm yourself with the same sense; for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased sin "(1, Petr 4,1). Paul's view of suffering was similar to that of Peter. Paul sees suffering for what it is: a grace that we should rejoice in. "Praise be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Mercy and God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our tribulation, so that we may also comfort those who are in all sorrow, with the consolation with which we comforted ourselves be from God. For as the sufferings of Christ abundantly come upon us, we are also abundantly comforted by Christ. But if we have tribulation, it will be for your comfort and salvation. If we have consolation, it will be for your consolation, which will be effective if, with patience, you bear the same sufferings that we suffer "(2, Kor 1,3-6).

It is important to see all suffering as Peter describes it. He reminds us that when we unjustly experience pain and suffering, we share in the suffering of Jesus. "For that is grace, if someone bears the evil before God for the sake of conscience and suffers the injustice. For what is this glory when you are beaten for evil deeds and patiently bear it? But if you suffer for good deeds and endure it, that is grace with God. For you are called to do this because Christ also suffered for you and left you a role model, that you should follow his footsteps "(1, Petr 2,19-21).

In pain, suffering and death we rejoice in the grace of God. Like Job, when we see humanly, we experience unjustifiably sickness and suffering, God has not abandoned us, but stands by us and rejoices in us.

If, in your suffering, you are asking God to take it from you, then God wants you to be sure of his consolation: "Let My mercy be enough" (2, Kor 12,9). May you be a comforter to others through the comfort they have experienced.

by Takalani Musekwa


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