In the OT, when a king was defeated, there was suffering + shame + loss. Stuff (even land for property that made life comfortable) was lost. People were chained (even hooked) and walked in shame to their exile and lived as losers. They suffered hardship – and for the Israelites, it meant God was not happy with them + certainly not with their sins that led to their suffering. There wasn’t much to be happy about in the defeat of a king.
But all this changes in Christ.
Christ, the ultimate King, came to suffer – willingly – for us. He was beaten + shamed on our behalf. He suffered + lost His own life for our sins. Then He came back alive. But that was true victory. Once and for all, Jesus defeated enemies (sin + death that ruin everything) we could never defeat. And when we look to Him in faith – for the 1st time or for the 77th time + say, “Jesus, I need you (again),” we get what was unimaginable to the OT sufferers. We get indelible grace – forever.
We get no condemnation + no more shame. Because all of our sins that brought judgment went into Jesus’s heart on the cross, there is no more condemnation for us. It was given to Jesus when He died for us. And because Jesus willingly died a shameful death on the Roman cross (being mocked by both Jews + Gentiles = the entire world of unbelievers), our shame also is no more. He took all the shame + ridicule we deserve + put them all to death when He died only to rise again to make sure they were buried for good.
Instead of God’s condemnation + shame, we get God’s grace + favor. We get God’s happy smile + not His angry face. Never. Christ’s suffering was sufficient. It was more than enough to take away all the shouting we deserve from God (and others, frankly) for our willful sins + pure stupidity with which we choose to go about our daily business – how we spend our money, how we parent our children, how we use our time, how we treat others (especially in our thoughts), let alone how we treat God who gave us everything we own. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
But what about our suffering?
We still suffer – greatly sometimes. Here’s wisdom from Elizabeth Elliott, who suffered much herself: He suffered, not that we might not suffer, but that when we suffer, we will become like him. NT saints suffer but the meaning of our suffering is radically different. It is never to pay for our sins. Jesus already took care of that. Our suffering is not about ruin but about gain. God doesn’t take us to the desert to scorch us under the sun or to freeze us in the dark. He takes us there to grow us. He teaches us how to grow our roots – real deep – until we find life-giving Water + become like palm trees in the desert that will never wither. And one day, there will be no more desert but only paradise.
God gives us suffering for an everlasting purpose. We become more like Christ – more thoughtful, wise, selfless, patient, enduring, hopeful, compassionate, loving.
Our suffering is not meaningless. Ever.