During the Lenten season we are given hope as we face difficult, personal trials. The hope comes from knowing that the suffering that we face now will not have the final say and the fruit of suffering is good for us who follow Christ and trust His purposes and ways. This has been a necessary reminder for me this year especially in the face of significant burdens and struggles. Many of us are currently seeking healing and freedom from diseases that are afflicting our loved ones or that have afflicted them for long periods of time. We seek solutions to difficult problems that we face daily in our work and maybe we are seeking work itself. We are also constantly bombarded with images of the terror affecting many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. With each challenge comes pain, tears and maybe questions for which answers seem scarce. These can feel like heavy, tiring burdens.
However, because Christ has promised His continued presence, grace and provisions, things have a different order. More importantly, as 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 reminds us, God’s plan for us during these trials is good despite the pain;
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
So although we feel the pain and difficulty of these trials, we can also face them without fear and frustration. As I have been contemplating this issue recently, I have also been greatly encouraged by Christ’s response to suffering as described by Luke 22;
41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Here we see Christ described as being aware of the pain and suffering of sin, active in prayer in the face of it, and postured in humble obedience to the Father’s will.
This Lent, as my family has been challenged by serious illnesses and in various other ways, I have turned back to this passage for nourishment and my prayer has been for humility and a renewed perspective during these times. I also pray this for other members of our community whose bodies have been afflicted for most of the year, or for many years and for our brothers and sisters around the world as they face difficult trials and persecution that are beyond our imagination.
I pray that we may contemplate more fully Christ’s surrender to the Father and the simplicity with which He faced suffering. May we, like Christ never cease to look, face and be real with our reality and what God has allowed in our lives. May we, like Christ never cease to be outraged by and in anguish over sin, death and destruction that corrupt the pure, abundant life that Christ died for. May we, like Christ never cease to honestly, fervently and unashamedly pour out our hearts to God in prayer and may we, like Christ, always desire and pray “nevertheless, not our will Lord but yours be done.”
Lord Jesus, suffering savior, God incarnate, we thank you for the depth of your love and affection for us. We thank you that you Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to Your own advantage; but made Yourself nothing… and humbled Yourself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
We thank You that Your shed blood frees us and enables us to face anything, knowing that through You, we are overcomers. It is You, Lord Jesus, who gives us the grace to face trials and difficulty with the assurance that our faith in You, the cross and the resurrection get the final word. We thank You that Your grace is all that we need and that Your strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Thank You for allowing us, by Your grace to take suffering in stride, and with good cheer, remembering the weaker we get, the stronger we become (2 Corinthians 9-10). May You be glorified by our obedience and our prayers during our trials. We thank You that You enable us. Amen!
- Jasmine Hamilton