Throughout the years, God has brought me back to understanding what it means that Christ learned through suffering. He suffered on the cross and transcended it to minister to the thief next to Him so much so that he was converted prior to death. While He lived, He was mocked, scorned, ridiculed and disrespected. And yet, He persevered. He was also abandoned emotionally by those He needed the most: His disciples. They fell asleep while He was praying His submission in the garden just prior to His crucifixion.
What did Christ learn? He learned what it’s like to be us. He learned what it feels like to be faced with physically and emotionally impossible challenges and yet know it is God’s will for us to face them. He learned how vital it is for man to be connected to God in ways that He couldn’t emotionally grasp as God Himself.
Have you ever wondered how Christ could be on that cross and still be focused on His purpose? I learned something about that years ago when I was newly single between husband number one and never should have been and husband number two that I can’t live without.
We had a great singles group in our fellowship, and we were close and constantly interacted during the week. One of the guys called me just after I got home from one of the worst days of my working life that resulted in a horrific migraine. Sounds, light and moving were painful. All I could do was groan. The phone rang, and I dutifully answered it, praying for God to give me strength and make a difference for whoever it was on the other end. When I answered the phone, I let the guy know how bad things were physically and asked if we could have the talk later. He persisted and proceeded to tell me about something he thought was urgent, a woman issue. I groaned inwardly because I thought he was clueless and insensitive, but I listened and sought to help him resolve his issues. Looking back, though I was by no means on the cross like Jesus was, I shared His experience of transcending the situation because of love, because of concern for another person.
Through the years, that kind of experience has been repeated many times. I have been in personal anguish, perhaps grieving the loss of a loved one, and yet God helped me to transcend myself to be Him to others. He helped me to realize I follow Jesus in that regard. And I am humbled and grateful. Perhaps that’s part of what James meant when he told us to count it all joy when we fall into various trials.
There’s purpose in suffering. I know I don’t like to suffer, but I appreciate its fruits. It changed and matured me in ways other experiences haven’t.
Pastor G and I pray you have a new perspective on suffering and its value in your spiritual life. May God help you to see others through His eyes in spite of what’s going on in your life. Then you, too, can be like Jesus.
copyright 2013, Pastors George and Sharon Billington, All Rights Reserved