How does the suffering God give us hope?

This week I’ve been expanding on how Moltmann’s book The Crucified God calls us to rethink everything in light of the revelation of God we see in the cross of Christ. I introduced this concept here and expanded specifically how this relates to Moltmann’s understanding of omnipotence and divine weakness (with a little help from Barth and Bonhoeffer) here.

Below is another audio clip from the Emergent Village Theological Conversation with Jürgen Moltmann, where he answers the follow up question of “how does the suffering God give us hope?”

In a culture that glorifies success, we must learn that God is present with the lowly and the forsaken. However, the point in emphasizing the suffering of God is not that we might despair and lose hope. Quite the opposite! It is through the suffering Christ that we come to experience the presence of a God who is with us in the midst of our suffering; and because this suffering Christ has been raised from the dead we can have hope for a good future in which one day God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28).  As Moltmann says here, “Every theology of the cross must end in a theology of resurrection.”

(I’ve included an almost-complete transcript of the audio below the video…)

E.V. I think one of the challenges in doing pastoral care is that people want this God who is very powerful… how do we communicate the idea of a God who is vulnerable on the cross in our churches?

J.M. By preaching the presence of Jesus Christ instead of talking about a God apart from the life and the destiny of Jesus Christ. When I in my younger years had problems with God, Jesus came and solved these problems. So the theodicy question is a problem people have with God but they do not have these problems with Christ. Therefore without Christ I would certainly be an atheist as the other members of my family because looking into human history I am not convinced that there is a God who has everything under control. Looking into nature with tsunami and earthquakes etc the idea that a God exists and that this God is love to human beings and the rest of Creation would never have occurred to me. I am only convinced of the existence of God and that this God is love by Jesus. Therefore, I do not like the general talk about a God. There are so many “gods”, good and evil.
E.V. I find that when I speak to people as a pastor of a God who is suffering with them there is a sense of disappointment because they feel like they are in a situation where they have fallen into quicksand and I’m telling them that the person they are waiting for to rescue them is in there with them. And what they really want is for someone to pull them out. How does the suffering God give us hope?
J.M. First of all, the suffering God is a compassionate God, the God who is there in your distress and in your situation. He is not far away from you because he is compassionate and suffering with you. On the other hand, the outcome of the crucifixion of Christ was the resurrection of Christ, and the new life and eternal life. Therefore, I trust that the God who has compassion with me and bears me will also bring me into resurrection and life. So the suffering God is only the one side. The other side is the resurrecting God, the joyful God. A God who cannot be with you in suffering cannot rescue you and save you from death.
In my early books I was always one-sided. Only with the wisdom of growing older you become more than one-sided. But to make a point you must be one-sided, in an ongoing dialogue with the opinions of others. In a debate you are always one-sided, otherwise you would kill the debate. So the more I think about it, every theology of the cross must end in a theology of resurrection (I think I learned this from Paul Ricoeur). Two remarks of Paul in the letter to the Romans: How much more is grace than sin, and, how much more is the resurrection than the crucifixion. How much more is opening the future where you see no way out. So the joy of God and the joy with God at the end is certainly greater than the long way of suffering and grief before.


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