Thursday, July 11, 2013

Theology of Suffering

I've thought a lot over the past couple of months about what it means to have a theology that can bear up under the weight of significant hardship. For a while now, I think I've had a hidden fear that if things got bad, my doubter-heart would buckle and I would either shake the fist at God, or be crushed by the pain. There have been many days of lament and so many tired times since everything started with Watts. More than the last 5 years combined, I'd imagine. We have felt ragged and threadbare, trying to keep our eyes up to see the 3 feet in front of us (most of the time, that's what we can manage). I think my fears of personal collapse would have come true if there wasn't space for hardship in our view of God. In all of that struggle, I have been more grateful than ever for a theology that not only bears the weight of trouble, but sees suffering as an expected and central part of it.

What if we believed this cancer was the result of some wrong decision we'd made? Or due to a lack of faith?

What if we thought God was apathetic and just watching the suffering of us and so many we've met?

These views just wouldn't hold up for me. Instead, I see a truer theology in words like these:

in the Abbey of Gethsemani
There's a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll
In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold.
He's kneeling in the garden, silent as a stone,
All his friends are sleeping, he's weeping all alone.
And the Man of all Sorrows never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought...

(Andrew Peterson, The Silence of God)

It's the Suffering Savior of Isaiah 53, the Empathetic God of Hebrews 4. In this season with new depths of trial, I'm drawn to this compassionate God, and to his promise not that he will spare us from hardship, or even explain it all, but that he will not leave us alone in it. A promise to be spared trouble would not be believable, and to be alone in it would be hopeless. But thank God for a Gospel that says, expect that trouble will come and that I know the pain you feel and will be with you in it.


  1. My heart has been touched once again by yours & Hannah's pure honesty. I pray for you all you guys

  2. I needed to read that. Thanks so much for sharing! I always fear seasons of life like what you guys are in right now. But thank God - that He will not have us in those seasons alone.

  3. the song was written by Michael Card

  4. Michael Card did record it on his album "The Hidden Face of God", but it was written by Andrew Peterson (and it's on his album called "Love and Thunder"). We had the great honor of Andrew coming to our church back in February for a benefit concert for Watts. He introduced this song and told the story of how he wrote it. I've been wanting to post it (someone recorded it for us) and maybe now I will. Such a great song!

  5. It is a great song, and I really appreciate this post as well. I wanted to ask whether you would mind if I used your picture of the statue from the abbey. Of course, I will be sure to tell people where it came from.

  6. Hi Tucker, thanks for your comments. I actually didn't take that picture, but found it online just searching around. Hope that helps!

    1. Oh, really? Here is the only place Google could find it on an image search, so I just assumed it was yours. Thank you... and (slightly late) congratulations on Watts's second birthday!


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