Nedra O Brien on Suffering
Below is a message written by my mother in law for her church bulletin. Nedra passed away in March 2005. Rhiannon and I have a collection of her messages. I’ll be posting them from time to time.
As beautiful as this world is, it’s filled with people who are suffering. In Matthew 16:21, Jesus warns His disciples, much to their dismay, that He, too, will suffer. He tells them, “…that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” This goes along with Daniel’s prophecies that the Messiah would be cut off (Daniel 9:26), there would be a period of trouble (9:27), and the king would come in glory (7:13-14). The disciples would also endure suffering and, like their king, would be rewarded in the end.
As much as we’d like it to be, suffering isn’t always avoidable. Jesus’ friend and devoted follower, Peter, tried to protect Him from the suffering He spoke of, but if Jesus hadn’t suffered and died, Peter – not to mention the rest of us – would have died in his sins.
When we find ourselves in the midst of a difficult trial or persecution, it might help to remember Luke 21:17-19, in which Jesus says, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls.” He wasn’t saying that believers would be exempt from physical harm or death during the persecutions. As a matter of fact, most of the disciples were martyred. Instead, He was saying that none of His followers would suffer spiritual or eternal loss. On earth everyone will die, but believers in Jesus will be saved for eternal life.
For Christians, there’s always hope and joy beyond the suffering. We have some wonderful promises to see us through: God will always be with us, as it says in Matthew 28:20, and one day He will rescue us and give us eternal life, which we can read in Revelation 21:1-4.
It should help us to know that Jesus identifies with us and understands our suffering. To know that He endured horrible pain and faced temptation should give us courage to face our trials. Jesus understands our struggles because He faced them, too, when He walked this earth as a human being. We can trust Him to help us survive suffering and overcome temptation. Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” When we know that Jesus Christ is with us, we can face any difficult trial with grace and dignity.
Jesus’ human life was on that He chose freely and throughout it, He chose to obey His Father, even though obedience led to suffering and even death. But because He obeyed perfectly, despite what happened to Hem, He can help us to obey. And God responds to His obedient children. As we are patient and obedient, He will not leave us alone with our problems, but He will stay close, helping us to solve them or giving us the strength to endure them.