"We cannot close our eyes to the reality of suffering, for it is the reality chosen by the one we name Lord and Christ. And the path he walks here is the one he bids us to follow." —Theodore W. Jennings, Jr.
If you're like me, you sometimes dream of a God who gallops into the scene on His white stallion, shoots up all the bad guys, and then rides off into the eternal sunset with everybody in town saying, "Wow, who was that mysterious God?" And then (in my dream) everybody is knocking down my door begging me to share the Gospel with them so that they can have this God on their team too!
It doesn't appear to work that way. "Bad guys" come in many forms today, and bad guys bring suffering of many kinds. It might be physical, emotional, or even spiritual. And no, Jesus doesn't scare them all away. Suffering was His reality; suffering is our reality.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses… Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. — Hebrews 4:14-16
I think God may even allow suffering to gently move us toward Jesus so that we can identify with Him. That's a deep thought, and it's definitely worth thinking about as we enter the week leading to Easter. Our suffering is a shared experience with Jesus—something that can bring deeper intimacy in our relationship with Him. He may not rescue us the way that we wish, but in His goodness, I believe He offers some things far more valuable. He invites us to "approach the throne of grace" and “receive mercy.” He’s really offering Himself to us, welcoming us into intimacy through shared suffering.
Dear Jesus, I ask You to open my heart and my mind this week. Use my suffering to help me more closely identify with Your suffering, so that we can share these experiences in unity. I do need Your mercy and grace in my time of need. I thank You for becoming a human so that You can sympathize with my struggles. Thank You that I can enter into Your presence with confidence because of what You have done for me on the cross. Amen.
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