redemptive consequences of suffering pt. 2
This week my back has been hurting when I sit or lay down. Don’t worry; I sit for a living and I rest by laying down, so it has been as convenient as you can imagine. It’s more like a large plate of discomfort with a couple sides of pain. I have Web MDed and Googled plenty to have digested a few self-diagnoses, as well.
Thankfully my health has not threatened me much in the past, and I’ve only one broken bone to my name. But when I am faced with pain, even chronic subtle pain that robs me of both my ability to focus and of sleep, I realize my vulnerability in ways that I couldn’t otherwise. As my tolerance for pain and even discomfort is little, my prayer life suddenly takes off, as I commune with my Creator more regularly, more soberly, and more eagerly…aware of His power and ability to intervene. I am sobered to my need and dependence on Him. In some ways, this is redemptive because it takes my broken lens and corrects it into focus. There is beauty and goodness in that, even though I wish my back was not bothering me.
My brain also goes to memories of friends or loved ones who have walked long roads of physical suffering more frequently or severely and I think, “How did they manage to get through that?” It opens my eyes to the suffering and the limitations people face every day. My empathy meter goes up when I have had a taste of their experience. Isn’t that true of us all? We are mostly ignorant to the pain of others until we have been asked to endure something similar.
I love that our God is one who came to empathize with our humanity. He came to save and rescue by living a perfect life in a broken and painful land. He came and experienced suffering, endured the doubts of his friends and followers, experienced rejection and mockery from the crowds, and was beaten and hung on a cross to the point of death. He experienced separation from His Father and cried out, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27 :46) and “If there is any other way, take this cup from me, but not my will but Yours be done.” (Matthew 26:39)
This fascinates me and reminds me of Hebrews 4:15 that reads, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” I like that it speaks to Jesus as one who empathizes with us and reminds us that He walked among us. First, I thought it was speaking of suffering, that He lived here and can understand the suffering we endure. While that is true, the text says He can empathize with our “weaknesses.” Hebrews speaks to that and how Jesus was tempted in every way but is without sin. To me, this means it was NOT sinful when He cried out to His Father and questioned Him. This is interesting to think about, as Christians often feel they have to surrender to God’s will without taking it up with Him first. We can be real with the suffering we face and real with our Father. Then we can remember who is ultimately in charge. We can wrestle and plead for relief and then surrender our will to Him.
Mollie Johnston Souza is a Counselor for The Barnabas Center. She has her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee where she majored in Spanish as well as her Master of Arts in Christian Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is especially passionate about helping individuals who are working through grief, doubts, trauma, relationships, anxiety, depression, self-esteem/identity issues, seasons of loneliness, family of origin issues, and divorce.