Christian Suffering, Part. 2: Redemption is Better

This is part 2 of Emily Moore’s essay on suffering…

This statement implies a basis of comparison.  Would it be better if suffering and evil had never entered the world, and we lived in a state of perfect innocence before God?  Bring to mind the Garden of Eden, Paradise, the beauty of creation and an unbroken world where death is completely foreign.  Would it be better for us if Adam had never sinned?  After all, as established in the last reason, if there were no sin, there would be no suffering.

In some sense, there is no way to make this comparison, since none of us have ever experienced a perfect state of innocence and sinlessness like Adam and Eve.  But we do it all the time anyway, every time we imagine with Frodo from Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, “I wish none of this had ever happened!”

Part of the reason God chose to allow sin and suffering to enter the world must include the unique way His gracious character may be displayed.  A world without sin and suffering would also be a world without redemption.  When we experience redemption from suffering, we understand a completely new depth and quality of grace and of gratitude.  We have been given salvation through Jesus Christ that sinless angels long to look into (1 Pet 1:12).

There is a crucial distinction to make here.  While it is true redemption must assume a prior condition of suffering, that does not imply God is dependent on suffering to make His glory known.  Since God is completely autonomous, He is not in any way required to display His merciful and gracious character through suffering.  He is not the author of any kind of evil; instead, He uses the consequences of our evil actions for good (Genesis 50:20). In the wisdom of God, He chose the path of redemption because He saw that it was the best possible way to fulfill His good and loving purposes.

But how can we know that redemption is better?  Ultimately we must trust the absolute goodness of God.  But one basis of hope is found in the resurrection (Phil 3:7-11).  Resurrection trumps life without death.  To describe how excellent the resurrection will be, 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 provides a comparison between Adam and Christ.  The natural (in Adam) is trumped by the spiritual (in Christ). Since this comparison brings into view not Adam as fallen but Adam as merely created, we can infer that the redemption of Christ in eternity will be even better than the state of innocence before the Fall.

But another beautiful reason that redemption is better lies in our eternal security.  If we are in Christ, our status before God doesn’t depend on us anymore.  While Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden before the fall, their relationship with God was conditional, based upon their behavior.  If they chose to rebel against God, they would die.  If they chose to obey God, they were permitted to continue enjoying life with God.

We, on the other hand, are already dead in our sins (Eph 2:1-3).  There is nothing we can do to regain God’s favor.  In God’s great mercy and love, He saved us through Jesus Christ (Eph 2:4-9).  Because our relationship to God is no longer based on our behavior, our salvation is irrevocably secure.  If we are resurrected from the dead through faith in Christ, and justified by His work, there can never again be any debt against us.  Praise God for the immeasurable riches of His grace!