Leaning into Suffering

In these uncertain times, we realize that many of you may be suffering. The COVID-19 virus has disrupted the normalcy of our lives and our world. If you are not suffering directly, you may be burdened by the suffering of your neighbors, friends, community members, and others around the world. Sadly, the vulnerable are even more vulnerable under the pressures of quarantine and the economic freeze. 

Jesus suffered as well.

From Isaiah 53 we see that Jesus was despised and rejected, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain (3). He took our pain and bore our suffering (4). Jesus was pierced, crushed (5), oppressed and afflicted (7).

Why did Jesus suffer? So, he could take away our sin (10) and bear our iniquities (11). Sin is a disease. It poisons relationships and destroys the community. Sin is predatory. We are ready and willing to sacrifice another person’s well being to satisfy our own desires. Iniquity means depravity, corruption, immorality, etc. Sin is manifested in things like these:

  • 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).
  • About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
  • An estimated 40 million slaves experience abuse, which generates pain and shame.

But there is good news! 

Jesus breaks the power of sin. He saves. In Jesus, the suffering of the fall is reversed. But the work on the cross is not only to deal with sin. In v. 5 Jesus also bring us healing (5). Jesus both saves from sin and heals our shame. Salvation can be best defined as all things put right, relationships restored, communities healed, and everyone and everything flourishing. 

And we are participants with God in the work of bringing hope and healing into our world. 

Suffering invites us to place our hurts in larger hands. In Christ we see God suffering – for us. And calling us to share in God’s suffering love for a hurting world. The small and even overpowering pains of our lives are intimately connected with the greater pains of Christ.”

— Henri Nouwen

Suffering is a part of our faith journey, which often involves screaming out to or at God and questioning our values and faith. When hardships come some of us try to numb the pain with alcohol or drugs, entertainment or overworking. But God invites us to live a different reality, to emulate Jesus, to live a different reality. It’s really, really hard at times. 

Because of the suffering we experience it gives us the opportunity to join with Jesus and enter into other people’s sufferings. We join with God in helping others heal from their shame while inviting them to also partner with us in our healing. 

In last week’s lesson one of the points made was that there are no other there is only us. It’s true when considering suffering as well. We all suffer and it’s best to suffer together and “bear each other’s burdens” (Gal 6:2)

The only way out is through.
We follow Jesus into and through the suffering.
We are agents of hope and healing.
To the glory of God
For the hope of the community. 

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