What Consolation Is Christ to
By Yvonne Terry
Suffering is universal and timeless. All
people experience suffering at one time or another. No one is
exempt. Suffering moves in and out of our lives. According to
Suffering and Hope (1987), the
Christian experiences a basic tension between suffering and
We all know that life is a balance of
failure, suffering, and success.
Most of us not only struggle with the scope
of our individual suffering and success, but that of world
suffering. The global range of suffering impacts us all in some
way. One has only to turn on the television to learn of war or
starving children in Africa. In the United States alone, crime
has reached epidemic proportions.
Our exposure to suffering is a daily and
global reality. We learn of the suffering of women and children
on a daily basis. Beker believes that the situation of the world
outside of us directly impinges on the world inside of us that
of our private souls (Beker, 1987).
In an Apostolic Letter, Pope John Paul II
made a distinction between physical and moral suffering. He
based this distinction on the two parts of man. According to
Pope John Paul II, although passion (or pain) and suffering are
to a certain extent synonymous, physical suffering denotes that
the body is in pain, whereas moral suffering denotes mental
Having a personal relationship with Jesus
Christ is a great consolation to suffering. In this paper I will
discuss how women who know Christ as Savior, Redeemer, and Holy
Comforter can be consoled while suffering.
In the book
When Suffering Persists,
Frederick W Schmidt discusses some of the many reasons people
give as they try to explain suffering. Most of the reasons are
familiar to the Christian and non-Christian alike.
Some say we suffer because we sin. It is not
unusual to hear that persistent suffering is due to sin. Many of
us have heard sermons about the sinful nature of man. I suspect
that many of us have been told over and over again about how man
sins as he attempts to be God.
Others say suffering is God’s Will. God
uses suffering to teach us. Some people believe that suffering
can be a test of the virtue of patience. The trials in the Old
Testament of Job are well known. Many sermons have been preached
about Job. Although Job suffered greatly, he continued to trust
Many people will talk about Job’s story
while friends and family members are in the midst of suffering.
Most of us have heard more than a few times that God will never
put more on you than you can bear. “You can trust God not to
let you be tried beyond your strength” (I Corinthians
Some say we suffer because we don’t pray or
have faith in God. After 9/11, people flocked to churches
because they felt a need to pray and return to God. Although it
was short-lived, there was a new emphasis on prayer.
God doesn’t will us to suffer, but allows
us to suffer (Schmidt, 2001). In the Bible, suffering is
regarded as an intrusion into a perfectly created world. When
sin enters, suffering enters in the form of conflict,
corruption, pain, drudgery, and death.
“Then to Adam He said, “Because you have
listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree
about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from
it”; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat
of it All the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).
The work of Christ on the cross is to deliver
us from suffering, corruption, and death. Yet as Christians we
Christians suffer great losses and tragedies
just like non-Christians. They lose their jobs; their children
go to jail, and they endure illnesses and death. Men and women
of faith often struggle and wrestle with the idea of innocent
suffering. We have all heard the horrible stories of innocent
children being killed in a fire, or a father, a hard working
family man, shot by a career criminal.
Most Christians resist the demand for a
rational explanation. Original Sin is the answer that we have
found to be most useful during these times of suffering.
According to this idea, we are all sinners because of the sin of
Adam and Eve. Those who believe in the idea of Original Sin
believe that we are all sinners by nature. They believe that we
live in a fallen and sinful world.
Others have said that suffering should be
viewed as purification towards the good. Many people believe
that God allows us to suffer as a way to purify us. While it is
true that many people grow and develop spiritually as a result
of tragedy, can we believe that God chooses certain people to
suffer? It is difficult to accept the idea of God as a good and
loving father who sets up high and kills innocent children in
fires and kills hundreds of people through disease.
Most of us can come to terms with the
suffering of the guilty, but when the innocent suffer
“that’s another story. According to Elizabeth Moberly, in
Suffering, Innocent and Guilty.
“The acknowledgement of genuinely innocent suffering is
in fact a major intellectual and moral achievement, not
something to be taken for granted” (Moberly, 1978).
How do we as Christian women let Christ
console us in times of suffering? We can let Christ speak to us
through scripture in the Bible. The New Testament, especially
I Peter, Revelations, and many of the letters written
by Paul deal with the relationship of suffering and hope. The
early Christians met in small house churches and endured much
Although the early Christians were
prosecuted, they considered themselves to be special as they
waited for the coming Kingdom, which would defeat the hostile
powers of Rome. I
Peter deals with constant suffering. Beker says,
|Joy amidst suffering is possible because
the life and thought of these early Christians is
anchored in a tightly knit support group, the
house-church, that gives social and spiritual cohesion
to their lives, yields comfort in the midst of
oppression, and enable them to devise some strategies of
hope. They know the power of the spirit to be present in
their midst; the Spirit functions for them not only as
their foretaste of God’s final glory and kingdom
(4:14) but also as the power that enables them to
imitate Christ (1:2; 2:21-25) (Beker, 1987).
Just as the early Christians found comfort in
their support group and house-churches, we can find comfort in
God’s word in our support systems. Moreover, we need to read
and know God’s word so that we can know the power of the
spirit through prayer and worship. We too can be empowered by
the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our struggles.
The Book of Revelation focuses on the
topic of suffering with apocalypse.
Both I Peter and Revelation ask the
Christian to have patience and endurance amidst suffering. Both
these books deal with the coming Kingdom of God and the triumph
over evil and suffering. Both books also deal with worldwide
The theme of suffering and hope is a central
theme in Paul’s letters. Beker discusses the distinction Paul
makes between redemptive suffering and tragic or meaningless
suffering. Beker says that Paul’s response to the evil of
human injustice should guide our reflection and action on
suffering and hope.
Both suffering and hope must be
embodied and concretized by the “hopeful” suffering
of the church at the hands of the powers of injustice.
There can be no authentic hope in the church unless it
is willing to suffer for its hope in its daily life. For
just as suffering without hope degenerates into passive
resignation, cynicism, or despair, so hope without a
relation to suffering degenerates into false hope.
And so we confess with Paul: “It is
the Spirit himself bearing witness to our Spirit that we
are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs
of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer
with him in order that we may also be glorified with him
(Romans 8:16-17). As Christians we will suffer
because of our belief in Christ, but we will also share
Job’s pain and experience the mystery of human
The Pauline letters, which were written to
encourage the readers of biblical times, can be a source of
great comfort to today’s Christians. McGrath shares four
things that have been achieved for believers through the
death of Jesus Christ. Paul shares that believers receive adoption,
justification, redemption, and salvation
through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Adoption allows the believer to
receive the same inheritance as Jesus Christ, but we must also
share in his suffering. Often an understanding of this principle
can be a consolation to the believer. Paul affirms that
believers have been “justified through faith” (Romans
5:1-2). Christians who suffer can take some comfort in knowing
that God has forgiven them in spite of their sinfulness.
Paul’s basic idea about redemption
appears to be that the death of Christ secures the freedom of
believers from slavery to the law of death, in order that they
might become slaves of God instead (McGrath, 2001). This is good
According to McGrath, salvation has
been seen as of primary importance. Salvation is
deliverance from danger or captivity, including the idea of
being delivered from some form of illness. Both healing and
liberation are embraced by Paul’s notion of salvation. Paul
sees salvation as having past, present, and future dimensions
(McGrath, 2001). When we
think about salvation in this way, it allows the suffer to be
consoled in his present circumstance as well as it helps him or
her to look to the future based on hope in God.
How do we as Christian women let Christ
console us in time of suffering?
I believe that we have to have a personal relationship
with Christ based on the love of God. We learned in class that systematic
theology is grounded on the unconditional trust in God who saves
from evil through the incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth and the
work of the Holy Spirit in word and sacrament.
God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to
die on the cross for us. Reflecting on the suffering of Christ
can be a great consolation to Christians. We can look to the
future because we know that a new life is coming.
Based on my experiences, Christ suffering a
horrible death for us and that rising with all power provide a sense
of security. Although I suffered tremendously and experience
great pain after the deaths of my husband and son, I always had
hope that things would get better. This hope was based on my
relationship with Christ.
The story of the life and death of Christ
called me to try to imitate him and take my place alongside
others who were suffering or dying. The Christian life is a
process of being conformed to the image of Christ.
According to Robert Michiels, Jesus and Suffering- The
Suffering of Jesus, “although suffering and death can
cause great pain, when we focus on the death and resurrection of
Jesus, it can lead to a more fulfilled life in Christ.
Throughout the New Testament Jesus offered no
explanation for pain and suffering. Michiels says that in light
of Jesus’ suffering and death, we realize that suffering and
death are a mystery involving
us all. “And the God of grace, who called you to his eternal
glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will
himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (I
The Bible speaks to us about the love that
God has for us. Reading the scriptures, praying, and feeling the
love of God can be a great consolation when we are suffering.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16) As Christians knowing Christ can help us wait
for God's mercy and know that we will eventually feel better.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword? ,
| As it is written, For your sake we are killed all day long, we
are accounted as sheep for the slaughter, Yet in all these
things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans
Jack Graham, in
A Hope And a Future, says that
the Bible tells us clearly that our love for Christ and our
willingness not to give up, to maintain hope- to obey Him even
when things are difficult-does not arise naturally within us. We
love Him only because He first loved us (Graham, 2002).
The work of the Holy Spirit in word and
sacrament is a consolation to those who suffer. So many
scriptures speak to the love of God towards us. “The only
thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians
When we suffer, the love of Christ can be
experienced as we interact with other Christians. Our church
families and Christian friends can show the love of Christ by
their actions. For example, corporately many churches have
ministries to address the needs of the poor and needy. When
Christians and non-Christians experience the loss of family
members and friends, Christian friends are often there to
This fellowship is meant to help get the
person who is suffering through his or her present ordeal.
“This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his
life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our
brothers” (I John 3:16). Yes, the love of Christ is a
consolation to those who suffer.
How do we as Christian women let Christ
console us in time of suffering? We must look at suffering in
light of hope. Christian Beker in, says “the redemptive act in
the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with its promise
of the coming triumph of Christ is the hope that
Christians need in times of suffering. The resurrection of
Christ not only establishes the content of Christian hope by
pointing to God’s coming victory but also disclosed the
meaning of the seemingly tragic suffering of Jesus on the
This confidence in God’s victory can allow
us to hope for things to get better. We can express this hope in
many ways. It can be expressed in terms of
belief in medical research, preventive health measures,
food for the hungry and answers to the problems of the oppressed"
In fact James H. Cone, in
A Black Theology of Liberation, says that taking seriously the New Testament
Jesus, black theology believes that the historical kernel is the
manifestation of Jesus as the Oppressed one who’s earthly
existence was bound up with the oppressed of the land
In this way people who suffer as a result of
being oppressed can still have hope. Black theology, according
to Cone, does not deny that Jesus’ resurrection is the
“ultimate confirmation of Jesus’ claim to authority, but
says that the resurrection must serve to illuminate Jesus’
sole reason for existence: to bind the wounds of the afflicted
and to liberate those who are in prison" (Cone,
McGrath states that, “the sequence of the
cross and resurrection interpreted in terms of a present
struggle against evil, conducted in the knowledge of God’s
final victory over all suffering and that which causes it”
I have known people who while suffering some
terrible fate placed their hope in God. This hope was not only
for a promise of a better life in heaven, but their was hope
that things would get better here on earth. Most will agree that
it is very difficult to have hope in times of great struggle,
but Christians have Christ as a consolation to suffering. The
scriptures are full of passages that deal with hope. I know from
personal experience and
the experience of others in grief counseling with me that
hope that comes from knowing God is always with you.
Many counselors have reported that Christians
on average seemed to heal faster after great tragedies than
those with no religious beliefs. "Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord". (Psalm 31: 24).
"We rejoice in our suffering, because we know that
suffering produces perseverance, character; and
character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because
God has poured out hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given
us" (Romans 5:3-5).
Although Christians have Christ as a
consolation, it does not necessarily follow that we feel that we
have consolation right away. This hope that I speak of is based
on the belief that things will get better. I can tell you from
personal experience that it does not happen over night.
Beker himself says, “I, cannot however,
honestly surrender all human suffering to the wisdom of the
cross of Christ –as if the love of God entails confession of
his willful impotence” (Beker, 1987).
I believe as Beker does that the redemptive act in the
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with its promise of
“the coming triumph of God is the hope that Christians need in
times of suffering.
As Christians we must believe that evil will
not have the final say over God’s creation. Our confidence in
God’s victory will allow us to devise strategies to get us
through our suffering period. For example, a Christian who loses
his job will be upset or disturbed, but many times his hope in
God will help him make it through that difficult
Hope in a triumph God can help someone who
has experienced the death of a loved one embraces strategies to
help deal with the loss. Some of these strategies might include
prayer, grief counseling, helping others who suffer or reading
self help books. According to Beker, “a biblical theology of
hope provides- not withstanding its inherent problems-the most
adequate Christian response to the problem of suffering at the
hands of the power of death” (Beker, 1987).
McGrath discusses the connection
between the beliefs that Christians hold and the way in which
they live (and die) (McGrath, 2001). The very fact that one is a
Christian can be a consolation during suffering. Our belief in
the victory won by the resurrected Christ is reason for hope.
Jeremy Taylor’s book, The Rules and Exercises
of Holy Dying (1651) which was published in the year
of his wife’s death had several objectives which included the
|The Rules and Exercises of Holy Dying: In
Which Are Described The Means And Instruments of
Preparing Ourselves and Others Respectively for a
Blessed Death: And the Remedies Against the Evils and
Temptations Proper to The State of Sickness: Together
with Prayers and Acts of Virtue To Be Used By Sick and
Dying Persons, Or By Others Standing In Their
Taylor was interested in helping Christians
die with dignity and peace. The main way that Taylor suggested
Christians can deal with the fear of death is to contemplate the
hope that Heaven lies beyond death. It is interesting that this
book that was published in 1651is still applicable for many who
As I volunteer with the Hospice patients, I
have seen first hand how important the spiritual component is to
the total program.
Many times the only healing that a dying
person receives is spiritual. We, as Christian women, can let
Christ console us in a time of struggle through our hope in the
power of our resurrected Christ to overcome the evil in this
world. For the Christian there is a supernatural strength that
can empower every believer. The spirit of God can empower you to
bring hope to the hopeless, courage to the fearful, strength to
the weary, and joy to those who are sad.
“The New Testament is saturated with the
belief that something new has happened in the history of
humanity, in and through the life and death of Jesus Christ, and
above all through his resurrection from the dead” (McGrath,
2001). The theme of hope is always present even in the face of
death. As Christians we must live with this hope. In this way,
the gospel of Jesus is a consolation to suffering.
How do we as Christian women let Christ
console us in times of suffering? We look at the suffering in
light of faith in the relationship we have with God. Our faith
unites us to Christ and his victorious power.
Faith in the resurrection power of Jesus does
not mean facile consolation. According to Lambredt and Collins,
faith in the resurrection is not simply a soothing device, a
promise of pie in the sky. It means God redeems humanity in
spite of suffering. Our faith is in the relationship that we
have with Christ. It is believing that Christ suffered and was
resurrected. It is knowing that as we suffer, Christ suffers
with us. He is there to comfort us because of the relationship
we have with Him.
According to Schmidt, Jr., “In the
incarnation, through Jesus Christ, God identifies with human
suffering, affirms the surrender (kenosis) of divine
power, and comprehends and transcends our experience of
suffering through death and resurrection.” The Bible is full
of scripture about faith.
"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of
what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). When we suffer
and have faith we can hope for victory over our suffering. We
can feel certain that it will come because of our faith in the
We must look at the suffering we endure as a
mountain that can be moved by faith. "Have faith in God,"
Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to
this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea. And does not
doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen.
It will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you
ask in for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it
will be yours" (Mark 11:22-24).
I would like to give one caution concerning
Christian faith. Many Christians have prayed and had faith in
miraculous cures. If the loved one died or the illness continued
many were told that their faith was not real or strong. Some
grieving persons have been made to feel that God is powerless or
God does not love them. I believe based on my experiences and
faith that God loves his creation.
I believe that our faith is in the
relationship as opposed to the circumstance. In that way, if
your loved one dies as man is destined to do, our faith in God
tells us that He will suffer with us and send the Holy Comforter
to comfort us. "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and
perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the
cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the
throne of God." (Hebrew12: 2).
As Christians we live our lives believing in
the promise of a new life in the future when “Christ is all
and in all” (Col. 3:11). The future does not lie ahead
for the Christian, it is here already because of Christ. This
gives us faith and hope to endure based on God’s love.
In summary, Christ is a great consolation to
those who suffer. Christ died on the cross to save us. The
redemptive act in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
gained the victory over life and death. The work of Christ on
the cross is to deliver us from suffering, corruption, and
death. Christ’s death is to be understood as a demonstration
of the love of God.
The theme of hope can be found throughout the
New Testament. Among the biblical responses to suffering and
hope, Paul’s response is very impressive. Paul makes a
distinction between two dimensions of suffering as
suffering at the hands of human injustice and suffering at
the hands of the power of death. Beker states that Paul combines
a prophetic and apocalyptic response to suffering. Paul’s
response to human injustice evokes a prophetic response. He
calls the church to redemptive suffering in the world.
Paul gives an apocalyptic response to the
power of death. His response is grounded in the knowledge that
God has victory over death because of Jesus’ death on the
cross and his resurrection. God’s triumph will forever defeat
the evil power of death and suffering.
For Jurgen Moltmann, Christian theology
provides a vision of hope through the transforming work of God
which stands in sharp contrast to secular ideas of hope that
maintains and upholds faith and keeps it moving on. "If it
is hope that draws believers into the life of love, then it will
be hope that is the mobilizing and driving force of faith’s
thinking of its knowledge of and reflections as human nature,
history, and society" (McGrath, 2001).
Christ can be a great consolation during our
times of individual and or corporate suffering. The Holy
Spirit, which Lives in every Christian, gives us new energy
during prayer and worship. Although Christ sends the Holy Spirit
to comfort us during the storms of life, because we are fully
human consolation does not always come right away. We can,
however, have faith that joy will be restored because of our
relationship with Christ. When we as Christians focus on love,
faith and hope, Christ can be a great consolation to suffering.
Suffering and Hope. Grand Rapids.
Michigan” Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987.
Cone, James H. A Black Theology of Liberation.
Maryknoll, New York : Orbis Books, 1997.
A Hope And a Future. Moody Press,
Chicago, Illinois, 2002.
Lambredt, Jan and Collins, Raymond F.
God and Human
Suffering. Peters Press, Louvan 1989.
McGrath, Alister E.
Christian Theology: An Introduction,
Blackwell Publishing, University of Oxford, 2001.
Michiels, Robert, Jesus and Suffering-The Suffering of
Suffering, Innocent and Guilty.
Holy Trinity Church, London, 1978.
Schmidt, Frederick W. Jr. When Suffering Persists.
Moorehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pa, 2001.
* * *
Sister Grief: Defined and Conquered in Jesus
"Sister Grief: Defined
and Conquered in Jesus" is an engaging book that confronts
the universal experience of living with death and dying. The
author personifies the personal loss of loved ones as
"Sister Grief." The book, partly autobiographical, provides
a holistic plan for conquering grief through faith, through
a special relationship with Jesus. This plan is designed to
help navigate one through the grieving process. The book
includes personal stories, poetry, testimonials, letters,
practical suggestions, and strategies based on a love for
the divinity in one's life. Although the circumstances that
cause grief may be sad, this book is filled with love,
encouragement, and hope that lead one towards spiritual
health and wholeness.
* * *
* * * * *
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus
By Charles C. Mann
a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous
New Revelations of the Americas Before
Columbus, in which he
provides a sweeping and provocative
examination of North and South America
prior to the arrival of Christopher
Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched
but so wonderfully written that it’s
anything but exhausting to read. With
1493, Mann has taken it to a
new, truly global level. Building on the
groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby
The Columbian Exchange and, I’m
proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer),
Mann has written nothing less than the
story of our world: how a planet of what
were once several autonomous continents
is quickly becoming a single,
Mann not only talked to countless
scientists and researchers; he visited
the places he writes about, and as a
consequence, the book has a marvelously
wide-ranging yet personal feel as we
follow Mann from one far-flung corner of
the world to the next. And always, the
prose is masterful. In telling the
improbable story of how Spanish and
Chinese cultures collided in the
Philippines in the sixteenth century, he
takes us to the island of Mindoro whose
“southern coast consists of a number of
small bays, one next to another like
tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how
the spread of malaria, the potato,
tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar
cane have disrupted and convulsed the
planet and will continue to do so until
we are finally living on one integrated
or at least close-to-integrated Earth.
Whether or not the human instigators of
all this remarkable change will survive
the process they helped to initiate more
than five hundred years ago remains,
Mann suggests in this monumental and
revelatory book, an open question.
* * *
The Persistence of the Color Line
Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency
By Randall Kennedy
Among the best things about
The Persistence of the Color Line
is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the
positions about Mr. Obama staked out by
black commentators on the left and
right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel
West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley.
He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr.
Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism
regarding whether blacks should back
Obama” . . .
finest chapter in
The Persistence of the Color Line
is so resonant, and so personal, it
could nearly be the basis for a book of
its own. That chapter is titled
“Reverend Wright and My Father:
Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”
Recalling some of the criticisms of
America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s
former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with
feeling about his own father, who put
each of his three of his children
through Princeton but who “never forgave
American society for its racist
mistreatment of him and those whom he
most loved.” His father distrusted
the police, who had frequently called
him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr.
Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad
Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never
called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places
his father, and Mr. Wright, in
sympathetic historical light.
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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update 13 February