“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”
1 Peter 4:1 (NIV UK)
Some Christians wrongfully believe that if their faith is strong enough, they will never suffer. But that idea distorts the gospel. Jesus did not promise to airlift us out of life’s troubles. Jesus promised that when we suffer, we could experience God’s gift of peace. Even when we feel alone, God is right there with us. There’s no situation beyond his reach. This assurance allows us to have a peace that passes all understanding.
One of the ways God gives us this peace is by reassuring us that he understands exactly what we’re going through. During the incarnation, Jesus experienced fear, pain, suffering and death. Knowing that he was about to be tortured and then crucified, Jesus prayed with great emotion. And on the next day, hanging from the cross, in one of his final tortured breaths, Jesus shared in our despair when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
This anguished cry from the cross tells us that Jesus fully enters into our pain, our suffering and death. Jesus is right by our side throughout all our trials. His assurance isn’t just a “get well soon” tweet from the comfort and safety of heaven. He is personally and actively at work here and now—suffering along with us through each heartache.
And he not only meets us in our sufferings but also promises to raise us up with him on the other side. He guarantees that all our sufferings will be made redemptive like Christ’s. God has not allowed anything to happen, including the crucifixion of the Son of God, which he will not redeem.
His presence, though invisible, is real. He cries with us; he aches with us. He is so close to us that Paul could say that our suffering somehow is a sharing in Jesus’ own suffering. Paul declares that because he shares in our sufferings we will share in his redemption and that we will see that it was worth it all. Paul proclaims, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
We can take great comfort in knowing that Jesus is willing and fully able to empathise with our weaknesses and share with us his hope in God’s redemptive purposes and that’s a truth that gives us true peace.
By Joseph Tkach, published in Day by Day on Sunday 9 November