He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrow, and familiar with suffering.
When we suffer, when we feel abandoned in our pain, it can be so hard for us to know that God is with us or that He cares about our pain. Yet the Bible loudly proclaims the truth that God is with us, that we, in fact, cannot be separated from His love. Throughout the Scriptures, we read that He cares about us more than we can imagine.
But God does not leave us with merely the cold, objective fact of His love. He is with us in our suffering not only by virtue of His divine presence but also by virtue of the fact that He, too, has suffered. Thus, He shares in our pain because He, too, is a fellow sojourner through the valley of suffering.
How do we know this is true? We look at Jesus. Philip Yancey, in his book, When Life Hurts, describes Jesus as “the historical fact of how God responded to pain on earth. He gives the up-close and personal side of God’s response to human suffering. All our doubts about God and suffering should, in fact, be filtered through what we know about Jesus….The fact that Jesus came and suffered and died does not remove pain from our lives. Nor does it guarantee that we will always feel comforted. But it does show that God did not sit idly by and watch us suffer alone. He joined us and in His life on earth endured far more pain than most of us ever will.”
William Fintel, M.D. and Gerald McDermott, Ph.D., in their book, Dear God, It’s Cancer, have observed what Jesus reveals about God’s intimate involvement with us in suffering. They write:
Many Christians who have felt abandoned by God in their suffering have been comforted by remembering that even Jesus felt that way in His time of greatest stress. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He cried out while hanging naked on the cross. Jesus, too, discovered that in His supreme hour of pain God denied His agonized requests for relief. The Gospel writers portrayed Him sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His brutal scourging and crucifixion. He pleaded three times with God to “take this cup away from me.” And no sooner had He finished praying the third time than Judas and a contingent of soldiers appeared. His desperate appeal had been denied! God was going to abandon Him to the fullest rigors of agonizing death.
…Jesus’ crucifixion shows above all else the suffering heart of God. The Bible says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and that Jesus was God – the Word – made flesh. If Jesus was God in human form, God Himself experienced the act of supreme human suffering – hanging naked on the cross, with gnats and flies crawling over His wounds and soldiers mocking and spitting – for the sake of drawing us to Him.
If the cross was where God chose to reveal Himself most clearly, to perform His supreme saving act in human history, then we have a God who suffers. If God chose to reveal Himself in a man who was “acquainted with grief,” then we have a God who suffers. In fact, suffering appears at the very heart of who and what God is.
…If God in Christ suffered on the cross – then we cannot so readily accuse God of injustice when He allows us or our loved ones to be afflicted with pain…The God who cried out in pain when nails were driven through His wrists and ankles shares our pain and enters into our sorrows with His compassionate love.
As C.S. Lewis put it, we can know that, like a schoolteacher teaching a child how to print, God is holding our hand as we try to trace the difficult letters. Because we are following the example of a suffering God, our script need only be a copy, not an original. He can help us endure our pain because he suffered before us and still suffers with us.
Quote portions of this article from: Dear God, It’s Cancer, by William Fintel, M.D. and Gerald McDermott, Ph. D., Word Publishing, and When Life Hurts, by Philip Yancey. Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Used by permission.