A Grain of Wheat: A Theology of Suffering

By Gregory Sund on March 28, 2016

Editor’s note: The Sund family, Greg, Stephanie, and their three children first served in Kibuye, Burundi, through a nine-month internship beginning in Fall 2014. Greg was the only anesthesiologist/critical care physician on a team of medical missionaries at Kibuye Hope Hospital, which is a teaching hospital that serves a rural area of Burundi. The following was written after completing the 9-month internship in Burundi. The Sunds currently live in Bellingham, Wash., where Greg works as an anesthesiologist. The family is currently preparing to return to Burundi for long-term service.


“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” — Albert Pine


“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” — John 12:24


There is a cycle found all throughout nature. This is the cycle of death and rebirth. I am extremely hesitant to call the last nine months our family spent in Burundi a “sacrifice.” It was a joy for us to be in Burundi, to live next to these families that are sacrificing not months but years and decades. It was a joy to see so much of the beauty of Africa.  I often enjoyed the work I was doing in the hospital. But there was some level (however small) of sacrifice involved in this work, and it seems to me that sacrifice of this sort involves this pattern of death and rebirth.  Certain comforts of life in the U.S. had to be forgone and sacrificed in order to enter into this work.


Even as I write this I am on a train traveling through the Swiss Alps looking out the window at one of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen. And what I see is fields of grass and forests of trees all born out of this cycle of death and rebirth. Every tree I am looking at started with a seed, buried under the soil, under the cover of darkness, which one day sprouted above ground and grew over years and years into an object of beauty and glory. But without the time spent buried and in darkness, the beauty would never have come to be.


This cycle of death and rebirth I believe is part of God’s plan for creation and also of His plan for our rescue.  Without the sacrificial death and burial of Jesus Christ, there would be no hope, no true life, no glory.  It was this cycle of death and rebirth that has led to glorification of Christ, which He has called us to trust in and to hope in.  According to His own testimony, out of His death and His resurrection, we are given a new life, an eternal life.


And so, we take what we have, and we bring it to God and we offer it back to Him, knowing that He will call us to sacrifice and suffer, sometimes in dark places, but that out of the ashes of any sacrifice will rise new birth, new life, and fruit. And we thank Him for the beauty of His plan, and for letting us play some small part in His story.


“But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.”


–Isaiah 53:5



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Gregory Sund

About Gregory Sund

Greg grew up in Vienna, Va. He attended the University of Washington and earned a B.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He then attended medical school at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and served a residency at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. He completed a cardiac anesthesia fellowship at Emory University. Greg served as an Elder for Redeemer Church in Bellingham. Greg and his wife Stephanie have three children: Ella (’04), Mekdes (’05) and Biniyam (’09).