Everywhere we look, we see it. From natural disasters and earthquakes, to murder, theft, disease, sickness, even rudeness and road rage; suffering is everywhere. It’s part of our everyday lives, whether on the news or in our bloodstream. All of creation groans with the despair and the pain of suffering. (Romans 8:22)
Suffering is hard, isn’t it? It’s definitely not fun. It comes at the worst times. It always knocks us off our feet and gut punches us while we’re down. And as we lay in the rubble we have one of two choices. The first option is to become bitter and let our pain harden us to the world and in doing so, helps us to form a protective skin against future hardship. Or we can choose the second option, which is to see Jesus shining through the wreckage of our lives and reach for him.
Reaching for Jesus after losing your child seems impossible, doesn’t it? All I wanted to do after the loss of our son was curl up in the smallest ball possible, pull the comforter over my head, and hide from the world… forever. But suffering is a strange journey. For even though we believe our anger and disappointment are driving us further away from Jesus, pain has a way of leading us directly to the Father. And it looks a lot like a cross.
If you don’t know Jesus, I would like to share his story with you. And if you do know him, it's always good to be reminded.
Jesus is the son of God. He is fully divine and fully man. He was born on earth by the virgin Mary on what we celebrate as Christmas day. Mary and her husband Joseph raised Jesus. When he grew up, he began his ministry. He traveled and preached and healed those who were sick. Many people put their faith in him, and others condemned him. Jesus was put on trial for calling himself the son of God, and he was found guilty in the eyes of man. Jesus was beaten, humiliated, and hung on a cross. He bled and died for the sins of the world. He died for you. He died for me. He died for our children. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I would no longer be condemned for our sins, but we could choose to put our faith in his saving grace, declare him as our savior, and he would grant us eternal life. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
The story of Jesus is a sobering one. Although I have had people in my life say they would give their life for me, Jesus is the only man to have actually done so. And his purpose was to redeem me.
Jesus knows what it is to suffer. He suffered for us, he suffered with us, and he suffered on our behalf. Our suffering leads us to Jesus because he is the finish line for pain and sin. Just before Jesus let out his last breath he declared, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) The redemptive work of Jesus was complete.
When I think about Jesus dying on the cross, my suffering doesn’t seem quite so staggering. But I do believe that our pain is one faucet of life that connects us to the Father.
This life is pretty wonderful, right? Somewhere along the way, as we navigate our good marriages, incredible children, big houses, and fancy cars, we can easily become disillusioned if you believe in God you will surely be blessed. And blessings do come from God. He loves to bless his children. But the Bible is very clear that God is both wonderful and fierce. He is mighty to save and mighty to destroy. He is a redeemer and judge. He sends us blessings and difficulty. Philippians 4:29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.”
Thankfully Jesus doesn’t leave us there. Jesus delivered us on the cross and continues to deliver us from our suffering. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10) Jesus promises to deliver us when we suffer.
So then we wonder, why do we have to suffer at all if Jesus will just deliver us? This is the piece of the journey that is hard to swallow. The death of our children should confirm our faith in Jesus, not drive us away from him. It should confirm our belief in his sovereignty, that he is in control and chose this life for us. It seems like a bitter fate, but I promise you the effects of it are sweet. To believe that God has purpose in our grief is freeing to the spirit. It lifts the weight of shame, and blaming ourselves, and helplessness to save. The purpose of the cross, and the purpose of your pain is always, and has always been, to save you.
Psalm 34:19 promises us this, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Every time.
As you walk through your grief, reach for Jesus and put your faith in him, because he has never stopped reaching for you. The power of the cross is enough to both ease your pain and to redeem you. Don’t be afraid to suffer for Jesus. It may not feel great now, but it is worth it.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18