During a recent medical crisis, I witnessed my wife undergo a terribly traumatic and painful procedure. Because of the emergent nature of her condition, the procedure was done without anaesthetic. Words cannot really describe such an experience. In that span of perhaps five minutes, she was suffering such intense pain and experiencing such severe trauma, while I was witnessing her suffer and wanting to stop her pain but restraining myself from intervening. I could hardly stand it. But the procedure had to be done to save her life.
Later, in working through this experience with the Lord, I grasped something about the suffering of the cross that I had never really thought of before, as well as something more of the depth of Jesus’ and the Father’s love for us. For the first time, I glimpsed the two sides of suffering God endured for us so that He could redeem us from our sin. On the one side, Jesus (God in the flesh) suffered the cruel and excruciating physical pain of the cross and all that led up to it. While on the other side, God the Father witnessed His son’s suffering but restrained Himself from intervening to stop it. And Jesus’ suffering lasted not minutes, but hours and hours.
Yet, the most amazing part of the suffering of Jesus is that He was not suffering to save His own life, nor was the Father restraining Himself from intervening because the suffering was necessary for Jesus’ healing. Rather, they both suffered the horrors of the cross – the actual physical suffering, as well as the pain of witnessing a loved one suffer – so that those who hated Him could be saved from the kind of pain and suffering they were inflicting on Him.
What kind of love is this? It is truly beyond comprehension when we really put ourselves into that place. It brings new meaning to the words of the old hymn: ‘He bore the burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone. Oh, how marvellous, Oh how wonderful and my song shall ever be. Oh how marvellous, Oh how wonderful, is my Saviour’s love for me.’
And having suffered in such a way, He can also identify with our sufferings. As the writer of Hebrews notes, He is not a high priest who is not able to identify with our infirmities. I have found, as we walked through my wife’s sufferings, those most able to bring comfort with their words and actions were those who, themselves, were familiar with suffering. Perhaps today you are suffering in some way in your own body. Or maybe you are witnessing the suffering of one you love. The Lord has personally experienced both sides of suffering and He is there to comfort us and help us endure the suffering, if we will allow Him.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for enduring the suffering of the cross to save me. You are a friend who understands both sides and the worst kind of suffering and who can help me endure it. Come near to me now. I want to allow You to help me carry the pain. Amen.
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