Man's main concern with the dark fact of suffering is not to find an explanation: it is to find a victory. It is not to elaborate a theory; it is to lay hold upon a power. Even if you possessed the answer to the riddle; even if you had it written down to the last detail and could say, "There is the full and final explanation of the problem of pain," that would not be enough, would it? For the pain itself would have to be borne. And that is why God gave us Christ.
We are so apt to think of God as standing outside the sufferings of this world, apart and aloof in the untroubled serenity of heaven. But when I look upon the cross; when I grasp that the Sufferer hanging there is not just another martyr dying for his faith, but God incarnate, then my heart sees that God is not outside the tears and tragedy of life. In every pang that rends the heart of man, woman, or little child, God has a share. God is in it with you, and you are in it with God—that is the message of the cross on the mystery of suffering.
There was victory at the cross for Christ. Focus on the picture: what do you see? It looks, at first glance, pathetically like defeat. But you do not see the cross aright at first glance. You have to gaze and gaze again. Those who do that make a marvellous discovery. They see, not Christ the pain-drenched Sufferer, but Christ the mighty Victor. They see the blackest tragedy of this earth becoming earth's most dazzling triumph. Listen to His own words: "No man taketh [My life] from Me…. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18). Hark to the ringing shout that broke upon the darkness: "It is finished!" Is that defeat? Yes, it is; but not Christ's defeat—certainly not that! But the defeat of suffering, the defeat of the mystery of evil and of all the dark tragic powers of life.
If evil at its overwhelming worst has already been met and mastered, as in Jesus Christ it has, are you to say that it cannot happen on the infinitely lesser scale of your own life, by union with Christ through faith? That is the only answer to the mystery of suffering, and the answer is a question—"Will you let God in to reign?" The answer is not a theory. It is a life. It is a dedicated spirit, a fully surrendered soul. May that answer be ours!
—James S. Stewart, condensed