Let me ask you some questions: Do you believe that Jesus was fully human during his time here on earth? Do you believe thus that He would have experienced hardship and difficulties? Do you believe that He had to suffer for any reason?? Do you believe that He had to suffer before His death on the cross i.e. would it have made any difference if He could have died a death any other way that would still have achieved what the Cross did for the purposes of our salvation? And if you say yes to most or all of those questions, do you then believe that God didn’t love Him or else He would never have allowed His precious only begotten Son to go through all that suffering?
If you work through that argument to a degree, and take it one step further – if you are in a place of suffering right now, do you consider that God doesn’t love you and that’s why you’re having to cope with such difficult trials and pain? Do you reckon that Jesus was somehow so different to you that He wouldn’t have felt what you do, or was spared the worst of the pain and suffering somehow in His divine nature? Do you feel abandoned by God when you find yourself suffering for whatever reason because no matter how much you pray He doesn’t remove the problem?? Do you have any right to expect to not undergo pain and suffering in your life any the less – do you think you are somehow better or greater than Jesus that God should spare you from what He wouldn’t spare His own Son?? Regardless of the purpose of it, Jesus’ suffering was every bit as tough and painful for Him as ours is for us!
In church last Sunday our sermon was on His Love and how it relates to suffering, and the point was very well brought out through the situation of Lazarus’ death. This was a man whom Jesus is said to have loved – and there are only a few that that is actually stated specifically of in scripture – John being one of the others. But Jesus obviously had a very special connection with, and love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Yet when Lazarus died and the women sent Him a message to say so, He didn’t rush to be with them. While He would most likely have known the fuller purpose of this death, and that He thus had to delay his trip to them, how do you reckon Mary and Martha were feeling?? In their eyes, they knew He had power to overcome everything including death; they may have fully even recognised Him as God in human form. And they knew He cared deeply for them so why the delay and the lack of response. Not even a message to say He knew and was on His way. Nor did he attend the funeral. Nothing. But He knew what they couldn’t see. That there was a bigger purpose in their brother’s death than they could know, but which He would use to God’s Glory. When He arrived they almost castigated Him for His delay in telling Him that if He’d been there Lazarus would still be alive! We don’t get told the tone of their voice, but you could imagine they were perhaps none too happy with the situation – lost, bewildered, and perhaps even downright angry. Much the same emotions that you may go through in your own suffering and trials.
Yet we see that His purpose was perfect, and that in the final outcome of Lazarus being “resurrected” they were given a greater insight to who Jesus was, as well as having their own faith encouraged beyond anything that they might otherwise have had or could have imagined. There were probably many lessons learnt through that experience that they and many around them could never have learnt otherwise.
And so it is with us – when God lays trials on our doorstep, and some can be truly horrendous such as those the ‘suffering’ church go through regularly – they provide us with opportunities to show those around us who don’t know Him that He provides more than the world ever could to enable us to overcome and be stronger afterwards than we were before. Trials in our lives are often mirrors through which others may see God. But more than that, they are times when He is sometimes much closer to us than we can imagine even if we don’t feel it.
Most regular readers of this blog know that I live with a raft of chronic pain conditions, and have certainly had various times when my pain has overwhelmed me to collapse, yet I can honestly and happily say that I would go through the very worst of those times all over again, in order to experience the incredible lessons I learnt and the awesome beautiful power of His Presence in the midst of them. The worst times truly were in some ways the best, as the more I sought Him the more He gave me, and while He didn’t remove the pain I learnt that lesson that Paul also had to – His Grace is utterly, completely and fully sufficient for ALL my needs. I have been so incredibly blessed through my disabilities, for not only has God raised me spiritually to new heights, but He has also provided me with incredible opportunities to help others, learn more, and be blessed with all manner of things – too many to list here. The only downside I find is that people tend to call me “brave” which I hate – I’m no more brave than the next person. It’s purely and only because of God’s Grace that I can deal with what He asks me to, and each person’s burden is indeed tailor made for them IF they allow Him to create it. So many people today who don’t know Him add on multiple layers of grief to their trial/burden and eventually collapse under it’s weight. Jesus meant what He said when He told us that His burden is light – and with Him walking beside you, you will make it through whatever He asks you to deal with. Suffering always has a purpose – and you may never see what that purpose is until long after the trial is over – but instead of railing against God for asking you to deal with it – give Him the Glory and you will overcome!