John 11:1-49 and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
As we continue to think about suffering, I know that some who are listening to this are desperate to make sense of the extreme trials you’re dealing with. You just want them to stop. You are weary and almost at the end of your endurance. I do not know your particular circumstances or if they will ever change, but I do know that Jesus understands.
I know that because Christ chose to come as the Suffering Servant. He was rejected, He was betrayed, He suffered unjustly and people spoke unkindly against Him without cause. He knew what it was like to face extreme pain and an agonizing death. He knew what it was to be separated from a loved one, and what it was to have to bear the consequences for other people’s misdeeds. Throughout His entire life, His circumstances did not change either – but He endured it all because of His love for us and in order to accomplish God’s purposes.
The problem is that God doesn’t always work according to our timing, and often things take a lot longer than we would like. A perfect example of this is the raising of Lazarus in John 11. People understand that Jesus had compassion for the dead man’s family and friends, but whenever I teach about Lazarus being raised from the dead, I am asked the same question: When Lazarus’ sisters sent for Jesus, why didn’t He go right away? Why did He wait three days? He could have healed him and they would not have gone through the grief of his death!
What many people do not realize is that the raising of Lazarus was the event that finally caused the religious leaders to decide to put Jesus to death on the cross. The Scriptures tell us that from that moment on, the rulers sought the means and the moment to kill Him. It was a crucial turning point. And for that turning point to be reached, Jesus had to delay answering their call. Lazarus had to die in order for the miracle of his resurrection to occur; and no matter what things looked like at the moment Jesus delayed going, God was in control, working everything according to His great plan of salvation.
Often times in the midst of suffering we only really see part of the story. We can’t understand all the purposes God has or see all the ways He is working. And that makes us anxious about every detail. But the Bible promises that one day we will know fully, even as we are fully known. Then everything will make sense. In the meantime, God doesn’t stand apart from our suffering. He meets us in the midst of it and will be with us no matter how long it lasts. And He gives us a testimony to share with others that can all be used for great good in the end.
Paul describes God and how He works in our suffering in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. He says God is “… the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” I mean think of it: if you want a mentor what better person than someone who has suffered greatly and yet who still holds to the goodness of God?
Suffering can be a lonely thing, especially when it lingers. We can easily draw in upon ourselves, isolating ourselves from God and from each other. But that is not the way to find help and peace. We must look for God’s comfort and open ourselves to Him. Then we must look around us for those who are also suffering and share with them what we ourselves have received from God.
None of us would sign up to suffer if we had a choice! However, God can use it for His glory and the ultimate good of many, if we let Him!
May God bless you!