I recently wrote about how to return from exile, that is, a time in your life where you got off track and life became very hard and lonely. I mentioned that you can end up in that place for a variety of reasons. It can be because you rejected God, made a bad decision, or had bad luck. But sometimes God actually calls you into exile. Jesus’ suffering informs us here.
Seasons of Suffering. What I mean is, there are seasons in life that you might be called to sacrifice for the good of others. Parents know about this. I have some friends who are serving their son who is battling cancer. There are men and women called on by their country to go to war. Or someone might be called to forsake a lucrative business career to serve others in a non-profit or ministry.
All of these people may find themselves in a place of “exile”: a place where they feel disconnected from the life they thought they would live and going without something or someone dear to them. Exile is a painful time that makes you want to give up on life.
Jesus is a perfect example of this kind of calling. He was called to suffer and die for the good of others. It’s interesting to see his reaction to his calling. It’s not what you might expect. Two of his followers recorded a time when he was overcome by the stress of his exile. One said that he was deeply grieved and overwhelmed to the point of death. The other one said that the stress caused him to sweat drops of blood.
Jesus’ Suffering Offers us Hope
I see three things about Jesus’ suffering that might help you through your time of suffering:
- Jesus’ suffering validates your suffering. When we suffer we often think that it’s wrong. Only bad people suffer or weak people suffer. We look around at other people and assume that something must be wrong with us. Suffering is for losers. I’m suffering. I must be a loser. But Jesus suffered. Not only did Jesus suffer, he struggled with it. He wanted to give up but he prayed for strength to continue. If you suffer or feel like giving up, you aren’t a loser. You are human. Jesus’ experience tells us that.
- Jesus’ suffering shows us that suffering has a purpose. One of Jesus’ followers wrote that his sacrifice made us perfect in God’s sight (Hebrews 10:14). The word “perfect” here means that we lack nothing in God’s eyes. When Jesus died, we were set right with God. We can quit working so hard to please God, and we can quit worrying that we aren’t good enough because we’ve been made perfect.
- Jesus’ suffering tells us that good can come from exile. God took one of the worst experiences (death on a cross) and used it to restore humanity to God. God brought hope from fear, life from death, and restoration from devastation. He can do the same in your life.
God brought hope from fear, life from death, and restoration from devastation. He can do the same in your life.
When Jesus prayed for strength, God immediately gave him what he needed to continue. I hope you will also ask God for the strength you need to continue and look for his comfort to see you through.
Question: have you ever seen good come from a time of suffering in your life?
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