Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Communing with God by Suffering His Absence

The apostle Paul said his goal was to know Jesus Christ in the fellowship of His suffering and the power of His resurrection. I don’t think he was referring to two alternating experiences, as if he had some power days and some suffering days. Rather, he knew Christ in both of these ways at the same time. This is a bit of a mystery and a paradox. I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed it beautifully in this passage from chapter four of The Cost of Discipleship:

“Suffering means being cut off from God. Therefore those who live in communion with him cannot really suffer. This Old Testament doctrine was expressly reaffirmed by Jesus. That is why he takes upon himself the suffering of the whole world, and in doing so proves victorious over it. He bears the whole burden of man’s separation from God , and in the very act of drinking the cup he causes it to pass over him. He sets out to overcome the suffering of the world, and so he must drink it to the dregs. Hence while it is still true that suffering means being cut off from God, yet within the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, suffering is overcome by suffering, and becomes the way to communion with God.”