Suffering and the Mask of God

Miroslav Volf writes an affirming response to Ajith Fernando’s article “To Serve is to Suffer” beginning by quoting Martin Luther :

Thus God wears the mask of the Devil, and the Devil wears the mask of God; God wants to be recognized under the mask of the Devil, and he wants the Devil to be condemned under the mask of God.

Volf:

Suffering is an essential mark of Christian life, but suffering is not its goal. Sheer, unadulterated and unselfconscious joy is the goal of Christian life, and often enough its present reality.

So how should we view and respond to God in the midst of personal suffering?

Suffering and death are the Devil’s work; they are the Devil’s mask hiding the divine face, as Martin Luther put it. When suffering and death befall those we love, we hover between the rage of rebellion and the somber serenity of surrender. We rage against GOd as if he were the Devil himself. (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!”) Or we are drawn closer to God and closer to what truly matters in life. (“Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”) Often we do both of these seemingly contradictory things at the same time. Ultimately the challenge is this: to recognize God even “under the mask of the Devil” and to seek to conquer evil with good by sharing in the suffering love of the redeeming God. Joy will follow as surely as Easter Sunday followed Good Friday.

Amen. God help us in this wasteland.

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