|Photo credit: Karen Myers|
We live in a hypersensitive culture where people are careful about what they say, and most try to avoid the “S-word,” (sin). This word is often associated with “religion” (we don’t hear many atheists or secular folks speak of it). Many hear the S-word as an unpleasant intrusion or indication that their attitudes, behavior, and actions are being judged by others who have no right to point a finger.
There’s another S-word that no one likes, though we don’t mind talking about it. That word is “suffering.” In this case it’s not saying the word, but having the experience, that we try to avoid. Suffering involves pain, distress and the loss of shalom (peace). Most of us, if given the chance, would like to alleviate the suffering of others, as well as avoid suffering ourselves.
I have the opportunity to visit many Jewish people who are going through one form of suffering or another. One man I meet with went through the Holocaust, losing his family and barely surviving one of the worst concentration camps. Many I meet with suffer from ill health.
During my visits, I try to frame the problem of suffering in the context of that word no one wants to talk about: sin. Not that all suffering is the result of a sin committed by the sufferer. But in the larger sense, suffering is a result of sin. God originally made everything “very good” (literally, “exceedingly good”; Genesis 1:31). Suffering and death are the results of sin, spoiling God’s perfect world. And yet it is through suffering that we can be restored. I don’t mean that we seek out suffering, but we need to seek the only hope and sure resource that can help us: the Messiah, the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13–53:12).
The Old Testament describes the suffering he would experience by us and for us: We despised and rejected him (he suffered socially; Isaiah 53:3–4). He was acquainted with emotional suffering as he wept with friends over their loss (as in Lazarus’ death; John 11:35). In the garden before He was crucified, Yeshua declared: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” (Matthew 26:38). He understood loneliness and abandonment. He was “oppressed” and suffered physically at his trial and crucifixion. I point out that this Messiah not only experienced and understands suffering, but was also victorious over the ultimate cause of all suffering, which is sin. That is why He alone can offer comfort, shalom, strength, His presence and power to be victorious through all that we may face.
It is a godly desire to want to alleviate the suffering of others as best as we can. The best way I know to do that is to point people to the Messiah. Please pray for God’s grace, help, salvation and health for the people I minister to, some of whom are Jewish believers. Please pray for these people I meet with who are suffering: Rochelle, Angela and Ken.
But there is another side to suffering: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29) Many have lost family or friends who reject them because they follow Yeshua the Messiah. Some who live in lands without religious freedom have lost more. Sometimes God allows suffering in order to help us depend on Him (Romans 5:1–4; James 1:2–18), and to display His power in action.
We have a message of hope for this suffering world. This message doesn’t hide or minimize the awful realities, but points to suffering’s origin (sin) and to the Saviour, who can carry us through as we trust Him with our lives.
” For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:18, 37)