Perhaps the most intense and frequent pain that I’ve struggled with for years now is the pain of loneliness. Strangely, I feel this way despite the community that the Lord has blessed me with. Even God feels distant and silent when I pray to Him. I’m reminded of the prophet, Habakkuk, when he cried, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2). Why does God put me through this pain? Is there any purpose to this? Does He even know how I feel?
But God the Son does know how I feel. He is not indifferent to my pain, but actually entered into it. Foretelling of Christ’s coming, Isaiah said that he would be “despised and rejected by men . . . and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not,” (Isa. 53:3). He was betrayed by one of His disciples, and when He was seized by the temple guards at Gethsemane, his friends abandoned Him (Matt. 26:47-56). Finally, in His greatest moment of suffering, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). The connection with His Father, that He had in eternity, was broken. Jesus was lonelier than you or I could imagine.
Jesus didn’t just suffer loneliness. The author of Hebrews says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin,” (Heb. 4:15). For those who are hungry, Jesus “ate nothing during those [forty] days. And when they were ended, he was hungry,” (Luke 4:2). For those without a home, Jesus had “nowhere to lay his head,” (Matt. 8:20). For those who are sad, Jesus said “My soul is very sorrowful; even to death,” (Matt. 26:38). Like those mourning, Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” (Isa. 53:3). For those constantly facing persecution, Jesus was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” (Acts 2:23).
However, Christ had a perspective on His suffering that we often times don’t have on ours. His suffering was not pointless, and He knew it. When He suffered, He had in mind the eternal glory that would be given to Him when He completed His work on the cross. Christ, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus looked at His suffering in light of His glorious eternity.
Paul says that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (1 Cor. 4:17). James goes as far as to say we should “count it all joy” when going through trials, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:3-4). Jesus is the greatest proof that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28), in His life and in ours; in pleasure and in suffering.
So let us see our suffering in the way Jesus did. We may never know the particular reasons why we suffer in the way we do, but we can be sure that God isn’t indifferent to our suffering and that it is achieving for us a glorious future that we can’t possibly imagine.