In the book of John, the author tells a story of Jesus' friend, Lazarus, who died. John 11:35 says that, "Jesus wept" over his death. Jesus, who was fully God, knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, still wept over the death of his friend. Through the example of Jesus weeping in suffering, I am comforted in the tears I shed over the death of my precious sister.
Just days before his death, Jesus spent considerable time praying to God. Matthew 26:39 says, "And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." Knowing the pain and suffering that He was to endure, Jesus prayed and asked God to take it away. But He also prayed to submit to God's will. Through Jesus example of praying in suffering, I am challenged to pray boldly for what I desire to happen, but to also pray for God's will and that I would submit to His plan.
As Jesus hung on the cross, Scripture makes it clear that He was suffering. Jesus didn't hide the pain or pretend everything was ok. Matthew 27:45-46 says, "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus was brutally honest with God and cried out to Him. I am comforted to know that I have the privilege of crying out to God in the midst of my suffering and knowing that He hears my prayers.
But the most comforting verse to me in the midst of my suffering and pain is Hebrew 12:2, which says "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Endured the cross.
Jesus was in excruciating pain. It was unbearable. The Bible does not say that Jesus hung on the cross with a smile on His face and pretended that everything was ok. Nor does it say that He downplayed the pain and refused to show any emotion to those around Him.
In each of these situations, Jesus suffering was evident to those around Him. He cried out to God. He begged God to take the suffering from Him. He wept over the pain of losing someone He loved dearly. He endured it. He felt every sting of pain and sadness. He experienced the depth of every painful emotion and did not run from it.
So, if you like me, are struggling with real, intense pain and suffering this Christmas, I pray you will endure it as Jesus did. I pray you will not run from the painful emotions of grief. I pray you will cry out to God. I pray you will weep. And most of all, I pray you will ask God for the ability to submit to His will in your suffering. I pray your enduring suffering will cause you to run to Christ and rest in the peace and comfort He offers.
Jesus endured the cross "for the joy set before Him" (Hebrews 12:2). I am not sure what joy will come out of my suffering, but I am confident that God will be faithful to do so. And I have a feeling He will far exceed my expectations in doing so!
Even in the midst of suffering, we celebrate God sending His beloved Son to earth to bring us the hope of eternal life with Him. In your suffering may you find hope and comfort from this song:
He is the song for the suffering
He is Messiah
The Prince of Peace has come
He has come, Emmanuel
Merry Christmas! May your Christmas be filled with the hope that Jesus brings.