But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s plan will prosper in his hands. - Isaiah 53:10
When tragedy strikes and people suffer, the inevitable question is Why? Pain and suffering are so contrary to our wishes that when they arrive we are surprised and even affronted that such things could happen to us. But happen they do, and happen they will. Often the why question will not be answered to our satisfaction. Are we then to assume that suffering is meaningless? Should we conclude that we live in a ludicrous world that lacks rhyme or reason and scream our resentment or adopt stoicism with a stiff upper lip?
Scripture, while not giving all the answers we would like, certainly gives enough to assure us that suffering is neither meaningless nor without value. The greatest example of the deepest suffering is found in Isaiah’s account of the Suffering Servant (52:13–53:12). In the midst of this catalogue of the servant’s agony we are told, “It was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief” (53:10). The sheer brutality and obscenity of the servant’s suffering makes us shudder, but the thought that it was “the Lord’s good plan” certainly raises the question Why! Fortunately, we are not left to speculate. His life was “an offering for sin” (53:10). There was a reason for the suffering of the servant: to take care of the problem of sin.
While sin is often passed off as unimportant, Scripture shows that sin is an affront to God, meriting death and eternal separation from him. No human being could suffer the consequences of sin—eternal death—and survive to be introduced to fellowship with God. So it was necessary for a sinless substitute to bear the penalty in order that sinful man might be forgiven and reconciled to God. That is what the servant, the Lord Jesus Christ, accomplished when he died on the cross to take away our sin. It was agony producing atonement. And the benefits have flowed to all the redeemed and will continue to flow until time is no more.
No suffering of ours will ever procure redemption for another (see Ps. 49:7-9, NIV); no pain we endure will ever cleanse another sin-stained life. But if God intended the suffering of the servant, perhaps we can perceive the possibility that God will bring good that we would not otherwise have experienced out of our suffering (see Rom. 8:28). This should drive us deeper into dependence on God and stimulate in us a deeper compassion for those who are suffering.
For Further Study: Isaiah 53:2-12