Hebrews 12:1-3 New International Version (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Joy and suffering don’t seem to fit together. They evoke different reactions. If you ask people if they’d like to sign up for a lifetime of joy, most would say yes. If you offered suffering, many would run in the other direction.
I will be forthright with you. I hate suffering. I endure, I don’t delight in suffering. Jesus for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. I’m guessing, but I don’t believe He was laughing, singing, and having a party on the cross. The Bible tells us He was in pain.
Our sin was a heavy burden, a tremendous weight. His body was tired, worn out, beaten, bruised, and His flesh torn off His body. He heard the mockers. He saw those He came for and loved yelling, “Crucify Him!” People He walked with, taught, and served, abandoned Him in His hour of need.
The movies don’t do the crucifixion justice, we couldn’t stomach the true image of what sin cost Jesus. It cost Him not only physically, but relationally.
The only disciple present when He took His last breath was John. Where were the others?
Jesus suffered greatly.
If that were the end of the story, it’d just be sad.
That’s not the end of the story!
Jesus rose with all power in His hands. One mans sin cost the world greatly. The Son of God paid greatly to set things right. The gain far surpassed the suffering.
I’m in no way stating sickness, death, loss, tradgedy, and horrific events are to be celebrated. No way. None of the experiences I’ve had with sickness, loss, betrayal, burying loved ones, traumas, accidents….evoked celebration.
Here’s what I have learned.
1. God never abandons us during seasons of suffering. Never does He leave or forsake. He’s close to the broken hearted!
2. God’s comfort surpasses understanding.
The day we buried my mum, I felt a peace I can’t explain. I held my dad’s hand and felt concern for his heart. He’d loved the same woman for most of his life. He knew her longer than I had been alive. God gave me grace and peace. Losing a parent is awful. I lost my best friend. Yet, Jesus stepped right in to fill voids on my heart and life. I’m not a big crier, yet this season produced so many tears. Tears I know God bottled. During many days and nights of sorrow, God was there.
3. You develop empathy for others who are suffering or struggling.
4. You learn to lean on God in deeper ways.
5. God promises to bring good things out of bad situations. It’s not always immediate. Some things take years to heal (trust me I know). Yet the healing power of Jesus far exceeds our pain.
6. God gives us grace to get through and soar above the storms.
I’ve annoyed many people in life by maintaining joy in some pretty horrific situations. I’ve been called Pollyanna, fake, phony…I’ve learned that God works things for good. So, I don’t have to remain depressed or oppressed. I know from experience what it’s like to wallow in sorrow. I prefer the opposite, continual seeking of God’s face. I can draw from the well of His joy.
Jesus rose! I too can rise. So can you!
7. God will keep in perfect peace those who’s minds are stayed on Him.
It’s one of my favorite verses. I know when I feel overwhelmed, if I can get to a place of focusing on Jesus there’s a peace that comes. He gives beauty for ashes and joy for mourning.
Father, in seasons of intense suffering or pain, help us to see You. You are our comfort, peace, joy, hope, and love. You don’t delight in our suffering; I pray we see You want the best for us. I ask for abounding blessings, in Jesus mighty name.