“Ma’am. Ma’am…can you hear me? I want to take you to your room so the doctor can see you,” the nurse said to my wife. My wife, who has no history of migraines, is suffering from extraordinarily sharp pains in her head to the point of nausea and no sleep. Narcotics only knocked her out and did not address the pain. And for some reason, the moment I heard the nurse say those words to my wife, my world seemed to stand still. It seemed to…simply stop. In the circle of my family life, work at church, my work with the church plant, and my work at the seminary has all just stopped. All that mattered was the well-being of my soulmate. Funny enough though, through this time I have discovered that the world has kept turning. Church work is actually happening without me. Starbucks is still open. How dare these people continue on with their personal lives when my Bride is suffering the way she is! Now you and I both know this type of attitude is ridiculous and, at best, the reaction of someone who is in severe pain and in need of warm encouragement and support. But why, in hard times like this, does time seem to stand still? And what does God want to accomplish in us during this time?
Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10 that not only will hard times come, but that they will actually be “sheep among wolves.” What! Well, that’s another blog, but why does time seem to stand still. Time seems to stand still during hard times because we become less distracted with the stimuli of the world (everything around us) and become more focused on the acute problem we’re encountering. Amazingly, the world keeps working and moving when we do this. Other people have lives they must also live. But what seems like time standing still simply is a delusion. Time doesn’t stand still at all, obviously. As stated, it only seems like it because our focus is honed-in on a specific circumstance. When we do this, our thought processes are now limited to this certain situation and situations that are closely affected. A day seems to take a week, as though the day will never end. It is a very painful and torturous time. It is a time of personal suffering.
So Jesus said we’d suffer, and we know why time seems to stand still, but what does God want out of this snail-paced season of our life? Does God want us to suffer, so He makes our days seem like years? Is He the mean kid on the anthill with a magnifying glass, enjoying watching us squirm? What does He want during this time? What’s the purpose? Let’s assume that God is a loving God and takes a personal interest in your life. I say “assume” because He in fact does and not to assume this would be pointless for a Christian author who’s quest is to make a Christian point. With the assumption that God loves us in a personal and intimate way, what does He want during this painful time?
Seeing as Easter Sunday is coming-up this weekend, this blog post will be appropriate. This week we remember the suffering, crucifixion, murder, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I hope we don’t move so quickly to the resurrection of Jesus because the suffering and crucifixion seems too uncomfortable for us. The suffering of Jesus hold much merit and must not be ignored this week or any other week. Jesus’ suffering is vital for our spiritual maturity and understanding and endurance for our personal suffering today. To answer what God wants from us in our suffering, we must look at what God wanted from Jesus in His suffering. God’s Word (the Bible) is the very breath of God (2 Timothy 3:16). And God’s Word said that Jesus would offer no response to the charges against Him. God’s Word said that Jesus’ hands and feet would be pierced. God’s Word said that Jesus would be buried in a borrowed tomb. God’s Word said that man could not take Jesus’ life, but that Jesus would give it up voluntarily, allowing man to murder Him. God’s Word said that Jesus’ clothes would be divided up and gambled for by others. God’s Word said that Jesus would receive stripes from whips and by them you and I would be healed. God’s Word said Jesus would die with criminals. All of these things, and many others, were prophesied hundreds of years before they occurred. This is amazing, but no surprise because it was God who made these statements. But what if Jesus had not done just one of the things prophesied by God? What if Jesus had decided to do what He wanted to do, what was comfortable for Him? What if Jesus did decide to come down off His cross, call the angels, wipe out the Roman soldiers, and save Himself? Jesus endured the suffering, but why?
Well, Jesus, being God and all that entails, knew suffering was coming before He even decided to dwell among us in the flesh. So Jesus had suffering in mind before He actually suffered a single pain. I get that, but what does God want from me during my suffering? God wants the same thing from us that He wanted from His Son, Jesus, when He was suffering. God wants obedience; uncompromised obedience. I’m not just talking about following all of God’s commands, but following the two main commands that is the sum of all God’s commands. Jesus said, “Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength” and “love others as yourself.” Well, how do you love God in this way, especially when you’re questioning God, your faith, your future, and your life? It’s hard to do this on a daily basis when things are going well, but what about now that times are hard? I have news for you: it is actually easier to draw closer to God when times of suffering arise. Let me explain. It is through our suffering that we become more like Jesus. Jesus said we would share in His suffering and when we suffer, we connect with Jesus in a way that we simply can’t when we don’t. I’ve never met a Christian who said they get closer (more intimate) with God during the good times than the times of suffering. When we are hurting, we realize we are not in-control of the world and the control we thought we had is exposed as the delusion it is. In suffering, we are forced to turn our whole heart to God and depend fully upon Him for provision and consolation. It is only through suffering that we, as humans, can come to this special place of full surrender and intimacy with God. We are more like His Son, Jesus, in our suffering than we are in our joy. Jesus’ joy was in His suffering and what the Father was doing with His suffering and through His suffering. In fact, it is because of Jesus’ suffering that we can have this same understanding and confidence in the midst of our own suffering.
In your suffering, God wants your whole heart. Time seeming to stand still is a gift. Turn your time of worrying and perhaps self-loathing into a time of seeking God, loving God, and listening to God. Trust Him because He is in control of it all. He knows your needs, your hurts, your pain. He also knows how it will all work out. It’s not necessary to understand your suffering, but it is necessary to take advantage of this gift called suffering and become more intimate with Him. You resemble Jesus in your suffering when you love God affectionately and in brokenness. With your prayers of thanksgiving in suffering, God will give you the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:4-7).
This Easter, remember not only Jesus’ resurrection, but identify with Him in His suffering and yours. And when you do, the gift of the resurrection will become so much more than the story you hear every Easter, but will become, like suffering, a soon-to-come reality and powerful hope for you as well.