“In everything give thanks.” This is a hard quote to follow. So many times in our lives, we don’t feel like giving thanks. We are hurting in one way or another and we want it to stop. Some of us, during the course of our suffering will turn away from God. We will accuse Him of making us suffer or allowing us to suffer. How could a good God allow ME to go through all of this hurt? It is in these moments, that we are called to turn our eyes toward the cross and give thanks.
Remember his words “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” Mark 14:36. God calls us to unite our suffering with his. Look at the cross and know that he will lead you with his gentle hand through what seems like impossible circumstances.
As we gaze at the crucifix and see God hanging on the cross, hands and feet pierced by nails, ribs showing through bloodied skin, knees scraped, His side pierced by a lance, His head bleeding from a crown of thorns, and His face so sorrowful, it is a reminder of the supreme sacrifice and suffering Jesus paid for us.
Jesus, the God-man, fully divine and fully human, came to earth to live among us and experience what we as humans experience. In his short life on earth, He experienced every kind of pain and suffering known to man.
Early in His ministry, the spirit lead Jesus to the desert to be tempted by the devil. He spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting. It was at the moment of His breaking point that the devil came to Him. Knowing how hungry Jesus must be, the devil tempted Him with food. Imagine the hunger; pains, cramping and rumbling. I imagine Jesus thinking (as we humans would) “Please just turn one of those rocks into bread for me to eat. I am so hungry and weak. I can’t go on anymore.” Instead His response is “One cannot live on bread alone.” Next, the devil tempts him with calling down God’s power to save Him, the power to end His suffering. But again, Jesus does not give in to the devil. Instead, he responds quoting the ancient scriptures “It is written, you shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Lastly, the devil tempts Him with riches and kingdoms. Jesus could have everything if he would only bow down to the devil. But Jesus responds by saying “It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”In all three of these temptations, God is laying out a plan for us to respond to suffering.
We can not live by worldly desires alone. We must turn to God as He will always provide a way for us. We should not always expect the Lord to make everything “good” in our lives. We should not put Him to the test; always wanting happiness and never to suffer. Many times we ask God “Why me?, Why have you left me here alone?, I thought you were all powerful, why can’t you fix this?” Our focus should always remain on the goodness of the Lord and the trust that He will guide us even during times of great suffering. We need to trust that God would never allow suffering unless a greater good could come from it. Could God stop our suffering? Yes, but God allows it in order for us to draw closer to Him, to press into Him and realize we can’t “do” this life without Him.
Let’s look at the life of Jesus during his active ministry. Jesus felt every emotion we have felt; anger, betrayal, hurt, chastisement, sadness, joy, love, empathy, and suffering. He lost his best friend Lazarus. He wept upon seeing the suffering Lazarus’ friends and family were feeling after Lazarus’ death. Yes, Jesus wept. Jesus wept because He understands your grief at the loss of a loved one. He knows the gut wrenching pain you are experiencing at the thought of never seeing that person again and He wants to help you through it.
Now, fast forward to the Last Supper. This is where His suffering greatly intensifies. Not only is he betrayed by one of the twelve who hands him over to his accusers, but he is also betrayed by his most loyal follower, the one who will be called “The Rock”. Facing certain death, beating, and scourging, Jesus needed a friend to be there to comfort him, but instead his friend ran away and denied even knowing him.
Imagine how Jesus must have felt. Now, imagine when you feel you are alone in your suffering that God is there with you. Jesus is holding your hand, wiping your tears, and propping you up to take the next step. He knows exactly how you feel; the sadness, the abandonment, and the loss. He is there to rescue you. You only need to trust in Him.
Have you ever faced rejection? Have you ever felt that you can’t do anything right? Have you ever felt that the world was against you, that no matter what you did, you could never rise above your current circumstances? Jesus felt that too! Imagine being with him before the Sanhedrin. The lies and accusations being flung at him. Spit landing on his face. Someone striking his cheek. Another person calling him profane names and shoving a stick in his side. Jesus falling to the ground and being kicked by an angry stranger. Imagine rolling on the ground, writhing in pain, only to catch a glimpse of your mother weeping and unable to help you. What must a man feel like experiencing such horrible degrading circumstances? If you can relate, Jesus can too. Jesus knows your pain. He knows your frustration. He knows the depth of your sorrow. He knows your soul and he loves you with a love that can calm every pain and quiet every voice.
Have you ever felt physical pain; excruciating pain from some kind of injury or chronic pain from some kind of physical ailment? Is the pain sometimes so bad you just want to give in, you just want to give up? Jesus felt this too. In the garden as he was praying, the pain of knowing what he was about to go through was so great that he began to sweat blood. Can you imagine knowing that your skin was about to be ripped from your body during the scourging, that your skull would be impaled with thorns that would be beaten into your head, that you would have to carry a 300 pound cross to your death, that your hands and feed would be pierced by a thick rusty nail, that your side would be ripped open by a lance, that your shoulders would become dislocated and your skin would burn from the hot sun as you hung on a cross naked and gasping for air as your lungs began to fill with fluid? That is pain. That is agony. Jesus has been where you are. He knows physical pain of every kind.
Jesus provided salvation for the world through his suffering. During every step of his passion, he saw YOUR face and he loved you so much that he trusted in God’s will. He was willing to suffer that much for YOU and for me! And he would do it all again. He would do it every day of His life, over and over again for you. He loves you that much!
Allow Him to come down and meet you where you are. Let him reach down to the lowliness you are feeling and pull you up to meet him. He is the only one who can save you. He would never reject you. He loves you unconditionally. Feel his love enter your heart and allow that love to penetrate your soul. Trust in Him. Trust in his infinite love for you. Trust that His love is enough to carry you through any type of suffering. Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, I trust in you!
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” – John 16:33