I have been thinking and reading about suffering: the cause of suffering, the inevitability of suffering, the fruit of suffering. Our choice to sin created suffering, because sin is death; when we sin, we partake of death; we wound ourselves, as surely as if we stuck our hand into a fire or piece of machinery.
Jesus partook of our suffering and death to save us. He brings us back to life from our spiritual death (and our physical death, for that matter), but we don’t completely escape the pain and suffering of our sin in this life – as you have noticed.
Few people feel comfortable to admit they are suffering. Possibly we feel that only those imprisoned and tortured for their faith are qualified to say that, but the Bible talks about “suffering hardship,” which comes in many forms. The Bible also tells us that all who follow Jesus will suffer persecution. Mental or emotional pain can be just as painful (or more so) than physical pain, and I believe that real suffering comes to all of us in some way or other.
Paul talked to Timothy quite a bit about suffering, telling him to suffer hardship for the gospel. Romans 8:16-17 tells us that we are children of God and goes on to say that we are joint-heirs with Jesus and if we suffer with Him we will also be glorified with Him. He suffered for us; we suffer with Him and enter into His glory.
In the book of Acts, the disciples rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for their faith. Our own troubles and suffering may not seem to be tied directly to our faith. In fact, at times our suffering may be caused by our bad choices, but I believe that no matter what the cause, if we will turn to God, He is there. He knows suffering, and He came to earth to enter into our suffering with us – into your suffering. Saints through all the ages tell us that this is so. Their report (and mine also) is that they found Him in suffering: often not believing in or feeling His presence themselves, until they had gone through the trial, but sooner or later, they see Him or hear Him or feel Him – or possibly just know somehow that He was there.
In truth, if we will let it, the very suffering itself can draw us closer to Him, making Jesus and His comfort and Himself so much sweeter. For those of us who have embraced Jesus, the suffering Servant, “weeping is for the night but joy comes in the morning.” As Job said, when God has tried us, we will “come forth as gold.”
This week may have been a hard one, but the Sabbath can be a little touch of the eternal morning that is coming – a morning when there will be no more pain and suffering and when all tears are wiped away.
On the earth, we may not escape suffering even on the Sabbath, but it is a time when we are commanded to rest. In that resting we are freer than at other times, perhaps, to seek and find the One who is acquainted with grief, the One who bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, and was “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:3-5).
In the fellowship of His suffering, with you and – best of all with Him!