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Sharing in Suffering

(inspired by In the Company of Jesus by Bill Donahue)

This world is not short on suffering. In fact we see or hear about it everyday. We see it as both positive and negative. The positive would be suffering through childbirth or the negative, death or loss. Either way, its all around us.

Jesus knew about suffering all too well. He suffered through temptation, through the loss of a friend, and through His own death on a cross. He knew about suffering. His experience with suffering makes it a little easier to come to Him as a friend in the times when we suffer. When we are in times of suffering, we need someone with us. Being alone has never helped anyone deal with the reality of suffering. But more than just having someone there, we want someone who has experience what we are dealing with.

We don’t want someone to come up to us after a devastating loss and ask us, “How are you doing?” After opening our fractured heart to them, they would respond, “Oh that sounds bad. I just got back from Hawaii and my life is great!” In fact there is an old Jewish custom, when someone experiences a loss, a friend would come and sit with them. They wouldn’t need to say anything, just sit.

This is how deep friendships are forged. Friends will share in suffering. Bill Donahue, in his book In the Company of Jesus says, “Deep, enduring relationships are not built on the shifting sands of convenience or camaraderie-they are forged through pain, sacrifice and commitment.” In fact, Jesus was sent to this world to share in our sufferings. He was sent to experience death, so we would not have to.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)

People suffer for a number of different reasons as we talked about before. “But it was endured and shared as a means of union with Christ, a pathway to intimacy with the suffering Jesus.” Now, this makes it sound like suffering is something we should seek out like many people do in order to appease their gods. This is not what Jesus is asking. However, Jesus never tells us that following Him would be a walk in the park. Jesus states,

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

He reminds us, while we should not seek out suffering, when, not if, we should rejoice. Does that seem a little backwards? Jesus came to transform. Remember when we said, “Unless you change?” He is asking us rejoice with Him. After all, He experienced death so we wouldn’t have to. He’s asked us to share in the joys of life, and in the sufferings of life to.

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