No earthly suffering is judgment on me.
What a wonderful, almost unbelievable statement! How incredible that I should experience no judgment on my sin! Can I believe that?
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1
No condemnation! None!
In the context of these articles, that means that neither are the sorrows of conception to be understood as judgment on us anymore. Real Sorrows? Yes, indeed they are. Really deserved? Oh yes, indeed they are. But judgment on us? Thank God, they are not! Our judgment has forever taken place on the cross of Calvary; our sin is forever paid for. Our righteous God never demands double payment for sin. Yes, we deserve judgment but that judgment has already occurred on the cross and we cannot be punished again.
The Bible teaches it. We are taught it from infancy.
Now in the midst of our real, personal suffering, the doctrine comes to life. Can it really be? If I so surely deserve my suffering, how can I not see it as judgment on me?
For the unbeliever, these sorrows are a judgment. They are already a temporal judgment on sin, precursor to full and eternal punishment to follow death. There is no other Biblical conclusion.
The sorrows of conception are a result of God’s curse upon the woman’s original sin. This curse and these sorrows carry one message: God’s wrath upon sin, God’s anger, God’s punishment. God must punish sin. God promised to punish sin both eternally and temporally. And God’s temporal punishment on the woman’s fall into sin is her sufferings as a wife and as a mother.
For the believer, this condemnation is gone. This is the truly amazing truth of Scripture. We, too, deserve to receive these sufferings in God’s wrath. We do still receive these sufferings. But God’s wrath is no longer in them! In His unspeakable, eternal wisdom, God has taken these sufferings which look just the same and made them into entirely different things. These same sufferings carry no condemnation at all anymore. They, too, are changed by God for the believer
into new things so that suffering by the world of unbelievers has nothing in common with suffering by believers.
We still receive suffering but receive it from the hand of love. No longer do we deal with an angry God. Oh, we know the reality of His anger. We know He cannot tolerate sin and is angry with the wicked every day. We know that He will not suffer sin to go unpunished. But His wrath on sin, even when it is we who sin, is no longer experienced by us. His wrath against our sin was borne by Christ!
And so, only His hand of love ever deals with us. Toward us He deals always as a Father, with tender, pitying love. Never does He deal harshly but rather as gently as He possibly can. In Christ Jesus, God loves us with a bottomless love.
Why then, if God loves us and controls all circumstances of our lives, do we still receive such suffering? The difficult but beautiful answer is: God sends these sorrows now only for purposes of blessing! The unbeliever has a miscarriage and experiences wrath while the believer who has a miscarriage experiences blessing instead. Oh, it may seem harsh—it is still suffering! But in reality it is all new. God’s motives and His intended results in our lives are the exact opposite of His motives and of the results in the lives of unbelievers. We believe this even when all circumstances contradict our belief; later on, we will understand and see what blessings God was bestowing on us. Now, as we suffer, we simply confess that God still loves us; later, we will see what love was doing in us. How hard it is to believe and confess that God’s love will send us suffering! How hard it is to believe that suffering can be anything other than wrath and judgment! Why is this so hard to believe?
At bottom, our reluctance to rest content in God’s mysterious ways is rooted in our pride. Our reluctance to find comfort in suffering, too, is basically sinful pride. We want our suffering to be experiencing God’s wrath. We want this because we still want to merit something on our own. How we resist in daily practice the truth that God saves completely! It is easier and more self-satisfying to feel that by various accomplishments, suffering included, we merit a little bit of His favor. Since suffering gives us merit only if it is judgment, we can hardly rid ourselves of this insidious error.
Pride has a second route of resistance, too, in our hearts. In Route 2, pride refuses to acknowledge that our new lives in Christ still contain sins which need eradication. I need no suffering, says this pride; I am so renewed I can get to heaven better on a road of ease and sunshine.
Be thankful that God does not succumb to our murmurs. Be thankful that He still in love sends us suffering, the perfect amount to each individual child of His. God willing, next time we will look at some of the blessings which God sends us through our suffering in His tender love.