It seems to me that God uses “unit studies” to train us; currently I am observing one of suffering. The persecuted church, many with disease, the death of loved ones… It is good then to know that the God I serve is not a far removed God, but one who understands each and every form of suffering intimately, and cares deeply for us in our times of pain.
Isaiah 53:3-6 speaks of Jesus, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
I can’t think of a single type of suffering Jesus did not personally endure. He was rejected by those He loved, mocked, abused – beaten in fact beyond the point of even appearing human, and ultimately crucified in the most gruesome way known to the Roman world, on a cross!
Jesus cried when his dear friend Lazarus died. Even though He was about to raise him back to life, he still allowed Himself to feel the grief and pain of not only personally losing a loved one, but walking through the suffering with dear friends who were grieving the loss of their brother.
But His greatest suffering must have come when he permitted every sin of the world, all at once, to come upon Himself. He assumed our guilt. Each of us know the suffering of wrong personal choices. Imagine being held responsible for Every Single Person Who Ever Lived’s wrong choices! Jesus bore the whole world’s sin while hanging in physical agony on that cross. What a burden of suffering that must have been! And then to have even His Heavenly Father be unable to abide with Him, but turn His back. In his absolute darkest hour. Alone.
Our Savior is indeed well acquainted with suffering, and He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He will walk trough every moment of pain we will ever endure, right beside us. He will never abandon us. We have a mediator in Christ, who is always present! He understands our pain, and wants to carry the burden for us. We need only release it to Him and trust Him, that in our suffering He is working good. He has a plan and a purpose for each of us. Perhaps it is through the sufferings we encounter that we begin to look more like the one we love, more like Jesus.