Monday, March 27, 2017

Escape to the Suffering Savior

“I can't take much more of this,” I uttered after Heather and I checked out of the emergency room a week ago. I was in the hospital more times than I could count. A dear friend of mine had to have surgery after a part of his body once again failed him. After that, plus multiple visits to the ER and urgent care with my own family members, I was exhausted.

I desired relief. I desired peace. But hard moments continued to come. These ER trips added to a season of significant hardship. The exhaustion gave way to a rushing wave of anger and shame as I was reminded again of the all that I have been wading through. Trauma, broken relationships, unmet expectations, a surrounding culture that seems to hate anything Christian day by day. Add to the indwelling sin that so easily entangles, it feels like each day is another tidal wave coming to sweep me off my feet. I plead to God, pleading that He would at least let me catch my breath.

“Why would you do this to me!? Don't I deserve a reprieve!”

It was about that time that I read this in the book “Experiencing the Trinity,” by Joe Thorn:

As a Christian you can not only expect affliction, but you can also expect a kind that is unique to the people of God. You will suffer for your faith and face many obstacles in following Jesus. And in all of your suffering you are called to look to Jesus in His suffering not only for how it saves you, but also how it guides you.”

How did Jesus suffer? He was mocked and scorned. He was falsely accused, corruptly tried, and unfairly judged. The immortal, everlasting God, was subject to human frailty. And then He underwent His Father's wrath for the sins of all mankind...none of which He committed.

And how did Jesus respond to that suffering? He did not seek retribution against His enemies. He didn't repay an eye for an eye. And He didn't curse God. He trusted Him to the point of death. Why? Because He knew that God's plan to defeat evil, sin, and ultimate suffering would win out.

This challenges my soul. I had a rough week or two. It's been compounded by a rough 10 months. Jesus gave up heaven. He gave up eternal comfort. He paid every cost imaginable. He suffered in every way.

He was tired. He was weary. His friends betrayed him. His enemies slandered and imprisoned Him. His body failed him. His Father judged Him. And He responded in sinless perfection, so we would not have to suffer the same wrath that Jesus took on. He is the one we look to in the midst of suffering.

This doesn't mean we minimize our pain. Far from it. Rather, we ask Jesus to carry our burdens for us. We rest in His loving arms knowing that He is our refuge, our shelter in the midst of pain and hardship. And when things get harder, we plead all the more for help. All the more for relief. And we press in, finding joy in knowing the Savior in the midst of deep trials.

I hope I don't have to visit someone in the hospital again very soon. I hope I can catch up on lost sleep. I hope my relationships will be restored. I plead for God to transform the hearts of those who hate Christianity from dead hearts to ones that live vibrantly. But even if those things don't happen now, I can rest assured knowing God has won. The victory is assured. My suffering is temporary. Because of this, we can move forward in faith. Call out to Jesus, and give Him the burdens and suffering you are carrying.