On Suffering and Christ our Cornerstone

WENDY ALSUP|GUEST

“I’m so sorry.”

Many of us have heard these words from someone delivering life altering bad news. I’ve heard it more than once – the kind of news that turns your life on its side. With one sentence, your world gets tipped. The floor of your former life is now a wall. The wall is now a ceiling. Furniture is toppled. Everything seems out of place. How do you find your footing in this new toppled version of your previous life?

In John 14, Jesus sat with His disciples, preparing them for their own lives to be turned on its side. He was about to die, and despite teaching them about His coming death, He knew they would be shaken. They hadn’t understood or accepted that He came to die, as Peter’s rebuke of Jesus in Matthew 16:22 showed. Yet, Jesus had compassion on them and gave them a sweet promise in John 14:18 to sustain them in the coming days when everything they thought they understood about Christ would be turned on its side.

“I will not leave you as orphans.”

Jesus said He would send them a Comforter, a Counselor who would remind them of the teachings of Christ. In fact, the Apostle Paul calls this Counselor the very Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). The same power that rose Christ from the grave would indwell and empower Jesus’s disciples (Eph. 1:19-20). That same power indwells us.

Through several rounds of the kind of life altering news that turns everything on its side, the Spirit of Christ has reminded me of the teachings of Christ, particularly that He is our sure foundation, our Cornerstone. This is a truth we desperately need when everything is toppled by unexpected news.

Jacob was the first to refer to God as our Rock (Gen. 49:24). As he spoke his final words over his sons before his death, Jacob stops at Joseph.

“The archers attacked him, shot at him, and were hostile toward him. Yet his bow remained steady, and his strong arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.”

Joseph’s life was turned on its side. He lost all that was familiar to him. He was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. As he seemed to find footing in Potiphar’s house, he lost everything all over again when he was thrown into prison. Yet, despite these hostile attacks, his bow remained steady. By the strong hands of the God of Jacob, the Rock of Israel, Joseph found footing. Joseph flourished despite circumstances that should have destroyed him.

The prophet Isaiah tells his listeners in Isaiah 53:1, “Look to the rock from which you were cut, and to the quarry from which you were dug.” This Rock, who is our foundation, catches us when we slip and fall. He holds us fast when we lose our footing.

Scripture also calls Jesus the cornerstone, the sure foundation (Acts 4:11). The cornerstone is the chief foundation stone in a building, pivotally placed to bear the weight of the other stones. Like modern structures built to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, this cornerstone sets the foundation of a structure that can withstand the storms that seem to turn our lives on their side. Though we seem battered and shaken, we are tethered to something immovable. We are anchored to a Rock that does not give way in the storm.

If you are struggling to find footing in new hard circumstances, you have not been left alone to navigate this. God left us a prayer in Ephesians 1 that is especially comforting when we, in theory, know things that are true about our God but are not yet feeling it in our reality. Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers that God would enlighten them, that He would open their eyes to the amazing, sustaining truths Paul had told them about in the previous verses. The deep theology Paul taught in the earlier verses of Ephesians 1 were true whether believers in Ephesus felt it or not. But Paul prayed that the light would be turned on and that they could see and know these truths personally. This is my regular prayer when it seems impossible to find footing in the harsh circumstances of a life turned upside down. I encourage you to make it yours too. You have not been left in the dark to figure this out on your own.

Eph. 1:18-19: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.”

About the Author:

Wendy Alsup

Wendy Alsup loves encouraging women to engage theology for themselves. She is the author of several books including Practical Theology for WomenThe Gospel-Centered WomanBy His Wounds You Are Healed, and Companions in Suffering. She also teaches math at a local community college and is editor at theologyforwomen.org. She lives in Saint Matthews, South Carolina, with her two sons.

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