• Chriselle Lees-Thomas

Rhythm and Pace II

A second reflection on rhythm and pace: who is Jesus in the pain? Read Chriselle's first article here.

In my previous article (Finding God in the Noise), I reflected on a hard year and talked about the promises God has for us in the busyness and what we can hold onto when we feel overwhelmed and underprepared. But who is God in the pain? We know what He can do, so let us explore how His character informs His doing.


When we experience turmoil and heartache in our lives, sometimes it’s easy to run away from God, to blame God, and to be angry at God. Why me? What have I done to deserve this? How could He willingly do this to me? Me, me, me. This is a common response I feel, considering we are in a society bombarded with individualism and self-focus. I wholeheartedly think this response is one of the hardest things about suffering.


I fall into this thinking time and time again. I significantly remember one night in 2012 after coming back from the LA exposure trip. I had just seen the complete brokenness of LA, came home to a breaking family and crippled into uselessness and insignificance. Memories from a tainted past flooded back, forcing me to relive trauma I thought I had passed over long before. I was a child filled with fear, crying myself to sleep wondering what He was even doing. Broken and hopeless. Stuck, I questioned Him, what did I ever do to deserve it?


As life goes on, the suffering continues. As it will. Death, mental health, relationship breakdowns, sickness. We can’t stop it. We feel alone, isolated and misunderstood. We start to believe the lies that God doesn’t care, people don’t care, and we’re not worth the time.


Let me assure you, that is so far from who God is. He loves unconditionally, feels our pain, and mourns with us in our seasons of sorrow.


How Jesus Lived


I haven’t understood the depth of my pain and suffering until I’ve first understood who Jesus is and what he felt. Before He died, time and time again He asked the Father if there was another way. He wept and He prayed.


In Matthew and Mark's account of Jesus’ death as he had his final moments in human life, he cried out,

“My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

He took the pain on His own shoulders, He offered all of Himself to save us and He did so knowing the great significance, not only of what He would feel, but how it would impact the world and His people.


He was crucified, the worst possible death, so we could live in freedom.


Pause.


Just let that soak in for a minute. Our God, the creator of the universe, humbled Himself to live a life in our place.


Jesus was not a stranger to suffering and even while He was doing his ministry, He was hurting.


In John 11, Jesus hears of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, falling ill. Jesus travels back to Judea to be with them as He loved them dearly. Before arriving, Jesus knows Lazarus has died and tells the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake Him up” (John 11:11).


When Jesus arrives, He meets Martha and finds her, along with many others, mourning the death of Lazarus, who had been in the tomb now for four days.


"Martha says to Jesus 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.'


Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'


Martha answered, 'I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'

Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?'


'Yes, Lord,' she replied, 'I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world' " (11:21-27).


Even in this time, Jesus is telling Martha to trust Him, that He will bring Lazarus back to life, but she cannot see His bigger picture through her pain.


"When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'


When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him?' he asked.


'Come and see, Lord,' they replied.


Jesus wept.


Then the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!' " (11:32-36)


I want to highlight just two simple words. JESUS WEPT. The shortest verse in all of Scripture. He didn’t just cry, He didn’t shed some tears, He wept. When I think of someone weeping I have this image in my head of snot going everywhere, an ugly crying face, and blood-shot eyes. It was such a human response to death, all while knowing that He Himself will bring Lazarus back to life.


Jesus saw the bigger picture and knew what the outcome would eventually be, but he was deeply moved and he still engaged with Martha and Mary’s mourning and cried with them.


So in our hurt and in our suffering, He is hurting too. He is weeping with us in the same way he mourned for Lazarus. He meets us in our pain and suffering. Maybe we can blame Him, be angry at Him or turn away from Him but that doesn’t change the fact that it is because the sin and brokenness of this world that we feel pain and suffering, which Jesus wasn’t immune to.


"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10

What This Means


We can trust God by knowing His character, remembering the promises He has for us (see: here), and knowing He empathises with us. Painful things will continue to happen, but God is always in the midst. Suffering will come, but the comfort is in knowing that this isn’t easy for God either. He has seen me in my pain, and He feels it, even when He can see the other side. He sees us weeping uncontrollably into our pillows, He feels the lump in our throats from holding back the tears, and he is deeply moved, loving and empathising with us in such a beautifully authentic way that only He knows how. Maybe we will continue in this valley for a season, but He has travelled to meet us where we are and will not leave our side.


Going back to that night in 2012, I know Jesus was with me in it. Nothing changed externally, but internally He showed me who He is and that He felt it. He caught my tears, but he wept too. His pure and genuine empathy, my comfort.


God doesn’t intend to hurt us, but He does intentionally mend us; in ways that we may not see when we are hurting. He is with us, always and will love us unconditionally for eternity.


Hear God's words to you now: 1 Peter 5:10 says,


"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."


Amen.


Chriselle is currently studying a social work degree at Massey University. She works as Intermediate Ministry Coordinator and in the Creative Department at Windsor Park Baptist Church. Contact her at chrisellekarah@gmail.com.


This article may raise some deep set emotions or turmoil in you. Do not despair. You are not alone. Reach out to neighbours, friends, and family who are around you. Contact one of us at RHYTHM or the Care Team at Windsor Park. If depression or anxiety of any sort is something you are experiencing, visit https://thelowdown.co.nz or call their free helpline at 0800 111 757. Reach out. You do not have to do this alone.


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