Encountering Jesus in Our Suffering
The memory of my suffering and homelessness is bitterness and poison. I can’t help but remember and am depressed. I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait. Certainly the faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:19 (CEB)
In last Friday’s reflection on Lamentations 3, I began wrestling with the question, “What enables us to keep on trusting in God’s faithful love when our lives are stung by suffering?” In that reflection, I suggested that Scripture is one way the Lord encourages us to trust in him even when our lives are hard. Today, I want to point to another source of encouragement, the most important one of all.
I’m thinking of Jesus Christ. More than anything else, more than anyone else, he helps us to remain faithful even when our lives are filled with pain. For one thing, when we are hurting, we know that Jesus understands. He experienced the discomforts and discouragements of this life. He was, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic vision, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Thus, he can sympathize with us in a profound way (see Heb. 4:15).
Jesus is God’s answer to the problem of suffering. He doesn’t provide a definitive answer to philosophical questions. If anything, Jesus creates even more questions. Why would God become human in Jesus? How is it possible for God to suffer? Why did God choose to suffer rather than to obliterate suffering? We’ll never fully answer questions like these. But, we have in Jesus God’s response to our suffering. He sees it. He feels compassion. God shares our pain, even as he shared our humanness in Jesus. God is with us when we suffer. Jesus makes this clear. And, sometimes, our suffering is a path for us to walk more deeply into the life of knowing Jesus. Even more, though, Jesus took on horrible suffering in order to bring about its ultimate end. Because of his death, the power of sin and death has been broken. Ultimately, God will triumph. His kingdom will pervade all creation. Sorrow and suffering will pass away.
How can we know this? Because Jesus did not remain in the tomb. He was raised from the dead, a sure sign of God’s victory. Thus, the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope when life is hard.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How has Jesus helped you when your life has been hard? What might it mean for you to live in light of the cross and resurrection of Jesus each day? At work? At home? Among your neighbors? With your friends?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, how I thank you for becoming fully human, for entering into the pains and sorrows of this life, as well as its delights and joys. Thank you for knowing how it feels when I am exhausted, lonely, or in pain. It encourages me to know that you understand, and that you are with me always.
Yet, even more, I thank you for entering into human suffering in order to vanquish it. Your death was not the end. After Good Friday, there came Easter. After suffering, victory. After death, the fullness of life. How thankful I am, Lord, for the hope I find in your resurrection. Help me, I pray, to live with this hope today.
All praise be to you, Word of God Incarnate, Savior, Lord! Amen.