September 14, 2019

Finding Jesus When Suffering Finds Us

By Grant Nixon

If you were to google “new, more comfortable” you would find articles announcing a new, more comfortable keyboard with shorter keys for maximum comfort, a brand new shoe technology that fills the soles of shoes with tiny beads that are said to be “the most comfortable walking experience ever experienced,” or even an important medical device used for cancer screening that was designed with the patient’s comfort as a top priority. 

Comfort is important to us. It is something we pursue and value as highly as anything in our lives. 

When my wife and I flew to Israel a couple years ago my primary emotion was not awe that soon I would walk where Jesus walked, or gratitude that I got to spend the next 10 days experiencing this with my wife, or even amazement that I was hurtling through the air in a metal tube at 700mph while watching Netflix. Instead my primary emotion was frustration that my seat didn’t recline more than 2 degrees and I couldn’t stretch out my legs because the middle seats were apparently much cheaper. 

Comfort matters. And if we are honest with ourselves we would admit that most of us live comfortable lives. 

But as much as we may pursue comfort, suffering finds us. 

Most of us have suffered as we have said goodbye to loved ones far too soon. We have suffered as relationships have gone horribly wrong and where there was once affection, care and consideration there is now only mistrust, anger and hurt. We have suffered as we have watched our most precious dreams for our futures transition into faded memories of a life that we will never get to live. We have suffered through life-altering diagnoses that we never anticipated and can not change. We have suffered as we have helplessly watched the injustice of our world harm those we love the most. 

Suffering finds us. 

And the problem is that because we have lived such comfortable lives, we haven’t developed a robust theology of suffering. In other words, most of us spend so much time pursuing comfort that when suffering hits we don’t know how to pursue Jesus. 

So when suffering finds us where do we find Jesus?

Next to us. As a brother. 

In Hebrews 2:11, we are told that “he (Jesus) is not ashamed to call them brothers.” And that’s how Jesus relates to us in suffering – our brother. 

Now if anyone reading this has brothers maybe you are thinking, “But brothers don’t always stick by you when times get tough.” And unfortunately that can be true of our earthly brothers but it’s not true of Jesus. 

Jesus is our brother in suffering because he became our brother though suffering. 

Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 

This verse is not implying an imperfection in Jesus but rather is referring to a  perfection or completion of a task. 

His task to become our merciful and faithful high priest was completed through his suffering. 

And his task to become our brother was completed through suffering. 

In your suffering, you can find Jesus next to you because he became a brother in suffering. He knows how to walk with you through any path of suffering because he’s already walked every path of suffering. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian and pastor who had left a comfortable academic post in New York to suffer in a Nazi prison after being captured and convicted in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. As he waited to face the gallows he occupied most of his time by writing. He wrote many important letters, ideas and books in that prison cell including maybe his most important work “The Cost of Discipleship.” But one of the most hope-bolstering things he wrote was not written in a letter or a journal, instead it was scratched on a small scrap of paper, “Only the suffering God can help.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was scratching out the truth of Hebrews that day. And that scrap of paper from that Nazi prison written on by a condemned man is testifying to us today that in the middle of suffering we don’t have a far-away God uninterested in our suffering, instead we have a God who has suffered as we have suffered and desires to walk with us and help us as a dear brother. 

Even though Bonhoeffer would be executed only weeks before the war would end, perhaps he wasn’t mostly thinking of the resurrection to come in prison but instead was thinking more of the cross. 

Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus “endured the cross.” The empty tomb shows us that He has the power to overcome all suffering – and he will one day. 

But the cross shows us that he has the endurance to carry us through all suffering – and he does. 

When you suffer, look to the cross and you will find your enduring brother. 


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