Comfort in suffering

We live in a world of suffering. The city of Mariupol in Ukraine is a graphic example of great suffering. The constant indiscriminate bombardment of Mariupol by Vladimir Putin’s soldiers has reduced a beautiful city to rubble. Civilians trying to leave the city have repeatedly been hindered by continued shelling from the Russian army. Hundreds of men, women and children have been trapped for weeks in appalling conditions in underground bunkers and tunnels under the Azovstal steelworks.

Russian soldiers are also suffering. Their President and their senior officers have no regard for the preciousness of the lives of their soldiers any more than they do for the lives of the Ukrainian people. The Colonel-General in charge of the port’s destruction has been nicknamed the Butcher of Mariupol. In a call intercepted by the Ukrainian intelligence services he demands that a junior officer be punished, saying, “Look at that scum standing there, showing me his unhappy face, his stinking mug. Why is he still serving? If you’re the head of a unit, then step up to the plate. Why has his face not been messed up? Why has his ear not been cut off?”

In the face of such human wickedness and cruelty it is important to remember who God is. He sees and knows all things. He is not indifferent to the sufferings of people in his world who are helpless to resist evil people. He is just and righteous and will call everyone to account for the things they have done in this life. All people will appear before him in judgement. Immediately after we die, each of us will be judged by God, and he who is the Judge of all the earth will do what is right.

Jesus, God’s eternal Son, understands what it means to suffer at the hands of sinful people. He can comfort us when we suffer. A modern hymn says, “Come and see, come and see, come and see the King of love. See the purple robe and crown of thorns he wears. Soldiers mock, rulers sneer as he lifts the cruel cross, lone and friendless now he climbs towards the hill. Man of heaven, born to earth to restore us to your heaven. Here we bow in awe beneath your searching eyes. From your tears comes our joy, from your death our life shall spring, by your resurrection power we shall rise. We worship at your feet where wrath and mercy meet, and a guilty world is washed by love’s pure stream. For us he was made sin, O help me take it in. Deep wounds of love cry out, ‘Father, forgive.’ I worship, I worship the Lamb who was slain.”