“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8
Suffering in many cultures is typically looked upon as if the person is doing something wrong. In some faith-communities, suffering is typically viewed as the result of personal sin. Yet when one views the spectrum of the entire Bible one learns that is not true.
First there is Jesus Christ. As the writer of Hebrews states: Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. Jesus of course never sinned. In the beginning of his ministry, he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where he suffered physical exhaustion from lack of food and water. His suffering was not the result of sin, but the deliberate choice of obeying His Father. In his last days, he suffered death on the cross. Again, not because of his sin, but his deliberate choice to fulfill the Godhead’s plan of redemption.
Jesus stated in John 9:1-3 that a certain blind man was born sightless not because of sin, but for God’s glory. The Book of Job 1:1,8 states that God considered Job blameless (sinless) yet his entire world came crumbling down. He suffered physically, emotionally, and financially. Yes, many other religions and faiths have difficulty in believing God knows anything personal about suffering. Yet the Incarnation demonstrates what Jesus learned through suffering.
There are those in the Protestant ranks who emphasize the cross without an image of Christ because of the resurrection. However, those in the Catholic faith maintain a statue of a suffering Jesus on the cross as a reminder of the crucifixion. Both images are correct. Yet one-side likes to focus on one side of the spectrum and ignore the other. The fact is joy and suffering is a part of life.
To enjoy life in Christ is to admit the reality of suffering. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24 that his suffering is for the benefit of others in the Body of Christ. Yet even in suffering, Paul rejoiced in the Spirit that lived in him and help him through the pain. In I Corinthians 12:26, Paul writes that when one suffers in the Body of Christ, the entire Body of Christ suffers. Also, in Acts 9 Jesus is speaking with Paul (then Saul) asking why is Paul persecuting Him? Paul was persecuting believers, the Body of Christ, not the physical Jesus; yet Jesus’ reply was he was taking the pain personally when the Body of Christ is being attacked. Isn’t it the same when one member suffers within the Body of Christ? When one suffers, isn’t Jesus already there in Spirit? Doesn’t he recall what it was like walking in his physical temple? And as our mediator with the Father, doesn’t he groan with the Spirit working out what is best for all parties involved?
Yes, God created life to be enjoyed. Yet when one realizes that joy comes from the Spirit, not the physical surroundings that we live in, the more comforting it becomes to continue the journey knowing Christ is with us, empathizing in our suffering, and providing the means to move through the pain where God will be glorified and we will be acknowledged by our Creator for the faith we exercised in those moments of truth.
Our Great Empathic God: thank you for experiencing humanity in person. Thank you for knowing what pain and suffering is all about. Thank you for mediating between heaven and earth. Thank you for always walking with us through our suffering. Help us to have the courage and conviction to always trust in you. You have made everything possible through your life, death, and resurrection. You are victorious and triumphant in your ways. You learned obedience through your suffering. Help us to likewise learn to trust you and follow your lead no matter how ridiculous the decision is in the eyes of others. Help us to walk through our suffering and learn from it. Help us walk through our pain and glorify you through it. Help us baffle those around us by allowing your Spirit to reside in us full of joy and the fruit of your divine nature. No matter the circumstances, no matter the challenges, and no matter the results, help us enjoy everyday life in you for your glory. Forever and ever. Amen.
Yours In Christ,
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