Good Friday Meditations – Suffering Love

Good Friday Meditations: Suffering Love

Our first introspective reflection on the atonement of Christ deals with the problem of human pain and suffering. This atonement model was developed in the 20th century, though traces of it can certainly be found throughout the history of the church and also—as we will see—in both the writings of the prophets and the apostles. In some sense, it found its fullest and clearest expression in the midst of the horrors of World War II, as many of the 20th century theologians who advanced this understanding of the atonement (like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example) were directly shaped and formed by the terrors of the holocaust.

The Model of Suffering Love

Metaphorical Reflection: 

When the child of a compassionate and loving mother suffers, the mother naturally stands in solidarity and empathizes with her child. In a mysterious sense, she participates in the child’s suffering and experiences her child’s pain. The agony of the child becomes the agony of the mother. When the one who is beloved suffers, the lover suffers. Love always suffers for the other under the conditions of pain and agony. 


God is a God of suffering love. He is not indifferent and apathetic towards our suffering, for indifference is hatred. It is radical and passionate love that compels God to suffer with us and for us. We see this in both the incarnation (Phil 2:6-8) and the cross (Matt 27:46). The God of suffering love—God in Christ—stands in solidarity with us, participates in the human condition, and experiences the totality of human pain and suffering in the midst of the brokenness of human history.

For God, this is part of his redemptive plans. God takes on human pain and bears our suffering in order to overcome it. He assumes the flawed, finite, frail human condition in order to redeem it! On the cross, God suffered with us and for us, and he continues to be moved by love and compassion to grieve and agonize with us through the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26).

Biblical Meditations:

  • Isa 52:13-53:4 (God in Christ bore our pain and profoundly experienced our suffering)
  • Heb 4:14-16 (He empathizes with our weaknesses, and he experienced our condition)
  • Rom 8:18-39 (God, through the Spirit, continues to suffer with us; his redemptive love reaches to the depths of human despair—even to death and god-forsakenness, which is why nothing can separate us from his love)


  • 2 Cor 1:5 & Rom 8:17 (the Christian is called to participate in Christ’s suffering)

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