Suffering is among the most difficult things for us to understand in the ‘why’ of things, but we live in an imperfect world, at times, under imperfect circumstances, with our imperfect bodies.
Note from Kip…
It’s a bit trite to say our suffering now is only so we will appreciate the blessings He has in store for us. While this may be partially true, the real reason is that corruption was introduced into God perfect creation and from that corruption, all of creation is subject to the effects of it.
Mom used to tell me before I was disciplined that she was applying the discipline because she loved me. I responded and told her with tears in my eyes, “I wish you didn’t love me quite so much!”
While many can sympathize few if any can truly empathize with the pain and discomfort you are experiencing. Only one can truly do that, Jesus. He feels that which we experience when His Spirit lives within us, the pain of a corrupt world is magnified in Him as that which we practice counter to His grace must be covered by His grace.
Empathy vs Sympathy
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15 (CSB)
Jesus came to set us free from many things. Sin was the central objective of His mission, to remove that which separated God from us
A portion of that was so that God could experience all things human. This passage in Hebrews is talking specifically about the temptations we experience.
The translation uses the word ‘sympathy’ but a better word would have been empathy. While sympathy is an understanding of another’s plight. On the other hand, empathy experiences the plight of another.
I had to do a word study on the original word used for sympathy in this verse and it does say to feel the pain of another, it’s so much more than just to be aware of it, so the more accurate word would be ’empathize’.
But in addition to that, Jesus came to us in human form so that He could both redeem us, but also fully experience all that we do. Yes, the temptations, but also the joys, the frustration, the anger, the happiness, and yes the pain.
Not only to sympathize with us but to have empathy with us.
Pain and suffering come in different forms. Rare is the life that is not impacted by these afflictions of the flesh.
Not only did Jesus seek to experience that which we experience, but He also took direct action to address the affliction of the masses He came in contact with.
Now Jesus began to go all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Matthew 4:23 (CSB)
Physical pain and suffering were not all that was addressed. Jesus healed the spiritual side of humanity as well.
Also, demons were coming out of many, shouting and saying, “You are the Son of God! ” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.
Luke 4:41 (CSB)
We can be assured that He understands the pain from the internal battles we suffer in our minds, regardless if they are medical or emotional.
Jesus even speaks to the source of our pain and suffering the very sin that introduced the cause of this corruption in our world.
There is one story that I treasure so much in the Gospels of Jesus. It is regarding the woman who the scripture says was simply ‘a sinner’.
It is apparent from the context that her sin was obvious and that those around her knew of it by the blatant demonstration of her sin. She washed Jesus feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair and then anointed His feet with perfume.
Such a personal thoughtless expression of love she imparted upon Jesus, but the Pharisees were indignant about this display and the fact that Jesus would allow such a sinner as this woman to even touch him.
Jesus countered them and gave an illustration to them to attempt to relieve them of the clouded thinking that they were experiencing, but it isn’t clear that they ever caught on.
But after chastising them…
Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 7:48 (CSB)
He forgave her and told her to go in peace.
And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Luke 7:50 (CSB)
Our Pain and Suffering
We see in the record of the Gospels that Jesus was willing to experience what we do in as many ways as possible. While he was without sin, did you realize that He experiences the agony of our sins with empathy, not sympathy?
“I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
John 14:25-26 (CSB)
So many Christians do not comprehend what the imparting of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer really is.
In the beginning, He created all things and then made man and woman, this so that he might have a relationship with us, this allowed mankind to fellowship with God.
Original sin came upon us and the corruption of all creation along with separation from God.
God later established covenants with His creation which were based on law and sacrifice for sin, but this still wasn’t providing the remediation that was sufficient for the creator.
So, God sent His Son!
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (CSB)
There were so many things that were accomplished by Jesus coming to be among us. We catch the big one fairly easy, He came to establish a new covenant based on Grace through Faith, becoming the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Our faith in that sacrifice saves us, but on the third day following His crucifixion and He exited the tomb alive once more, the task was not complete yet.
He told us…
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 (CSB)
And He did just that!
He sent us His Spirit to live in us. Now God lives ‘in’ His creation, reestablishing that pure and lasting relationship between the creator and His creation.
Fortunate for us, His Spirit living in us means that He experiences everything we do. So when we sin, He experiences the damage it does to us first hand. Yes, His Grace covers it for us, but we don’t stop to think that with every additional sin we commit we drive the nails deeper into his body than before.
There wasn’t a bulk discount for those sins. Each one represents a little more pain and suffering experienced by our Savior.
Just as His grace covers our imperfect obedience, His love and comfort abide with us as well. Joy through pain and sorrow. The peace that is beyond anything the world can fathom.
He can and does at times, heal our pain. Other times He allows us to suffer through it. We don’t always know why exactly but we can be assured that it will serve to His Glory and we will benefit from that suffering in some significant way.
There is one that empathizes with our pain and sorrow. So much so that we can have hope through our suffering.