Our parents warned us that life would not always be easy. Sometimes we think we should not suffer, but we all know how unrealistic that is. Often when we suffer, it is at our own hands, yet sometimes we suffer unjustly at the hands of others.
Just think of all the ways in which our lives are accompanied by pain, grief, and disappointment.
In this season of Lent, we reflect especially upon the sufferings that we endure because of sin. These sins bring grief and pain into our lives and the lives of others. They condemn us before the one, true, righteous God.
Jesus himself shed tears over the effects of sin in this world. When his friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept.” He wept because sin brought death into the world. He wept because his friend’s life had ended. He wept because he was confronted with peoples’ unbelief even at the tomb of Lazarus.
We also see the fallout from sin when we suffer from broken hearts. We have broken hearts from broken relationships. We have broken hearts from seeing loved ones suffer and die. We have broken hearts because we have miserably failed each other and God. We have broken hearts because we have caused God to suffer.
We suffer physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes God allows this so we become more dependent upon him. Maybe we have a heart illness, cancer, or even an imbalance of brain chemistry. Our physical bodies bear the marks of life in a fallen world.
There is psychological and psychiatric suffering. This occurs in even the strongest of us. It is no indication of a weak person. Martin Luther, for instance, went through bouts of depression. He was also known for his times of high productivity that we might today call “mania.” Yet God used him, as he has used countless others, to be a tremendous blessing to us.
God uses those who are weak, for in our weakness, his strength is made manifest.
Emotional suffering can stem from physical or psychological illnesses, or just the disease of the human condition. Just think of the emotional suffering that accompanies the death of a loved one. How does one get over the death of a parent, spouse, child, or dear friend? In truth, we never do “get over” them, and rightly so, because we carry the love for them in our hearts until the day that we too shall pass from this valley of tears.
In time the intensity of our sorrow may diminish, but their memory continues.
Into this world of sin, broken hearts, physical ailments, and psychological suffering, our Lord of grace descended. He came into our hurt and sorrow. He knows well all of the pain that we face. He bears our grief, he feels our sadness, for he endured all of these and more.
We carry all of this brokenness inside of us, but our Savior carries us in our brokenness. He will not leave us destitute. He will not leave us alone with our broken hearts. Indeed, God loves the brokenhearted. As Isaiah says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound… to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
We do not suffer alone. For when we suffer, Christ stands in the midst of our pain. He feels all of our sorrows, all our grief, every pain. When we suffer, we partake in the sufferings of Christ. He suffered every pain that we will ever know.
Amid our sorrow, in the darkest of nights, we are not alone. Our Savior stands vigilant, guarding us against the darkness.
On the last day, all who are found to be in Christ Jesus will rise from the darkness of their slumber to dwell in the light of our God, to live the resurrection life free of all suffering.
"The night is far gone; the day is at hand." – Romans 13:12a