The Cross needs to be at the very center of our discussion of pain and suffering. The Cross is the greatest symbol of pain that we can have. It is because of the cross that we can know that even in the midst of the greatest tragedy of our lives, God is still there, loving and caring for us. The Cross symbolizes that even God experiences pain.
I am not talking about the pain Jesus suffered when he was crucified. Don’t get me wrong, that was real and immense pain that Christ experienced for us. No, the pain I am talking about is the pain the whole Trinity experienced because of the Cross, the pain God knowingly experienced in order to have a relationship with us.
When God decided to create people with free will He set Himself up for pain. God wanted creatures that would love Him. Love cannot be created, love has to be chosen, and so God created people with the ability to choose love. That also means that God created people who could choose to reject Him and to love themselves or something else. For God to be loved He had to take the chance of being hurt.
The cross symbolizes God’s effort to extend His love to people. The cross should remind us the cost God paid to create people who have the ability to choose accept His love or rejection Him. The cross also symbolizes the hurt God experienced when fellowship amongst Himself was interrupted. The Father, Son, and Spirit had always experienced fellowship. When Jesus died, taking on our sins that fellowship was interrupted, because of the sin Jesus bore He couldn’t have fellowship with God.
Consider Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death:
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,* lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”*
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”*
Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.
The Roman officer* and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:45-54; NLT).
I believe this provides evidence that God was hurt when Jesus died. The death of Jesus was much more than Jesus dying physically. As the praise song Here I Am To Worship says; “I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.”
God has not insulated Himself from pain and suffering. He created us with the full knowledge of what it would cost Him, and He still chose to give us life. What this means is that God decided that pain was an acceptable cost for the relationship He wants us to experience with Him.