I'm not sure if today -- this Monday of Passion Week -- finds you going along your usual way, or if you, like so many, are walking through another day of suffering and trials of various kinds. Perhaps it's prolonged illness or persistent pain. Maybe you're facing financial strain or broken dreams. Perhaps it's a wayward child, an unbelieving husband, or an unforgiving friend. We feel alone in our own particular suffering, but at the start of Passion Week, we recognize: Jesus suffered and was rejected; He was a man of sorrows. (Isaiah 53:3)
The hardest part of suffering is not knowing why: Why these circumstances? Why this trouble? Why the pain? The disciples were faced with the same questions as they witnessed the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of their Lord, Jesus. The darkness of their circumstances was even accompanied by an actual 3 hours of darkness at the cross, and they could see no viable way out.
What the disciples didn't know was that the outcome of their suffering, of Christ's own suffering, was for their ultimate good and God's glory. The other side of suffering wasn't an undetermined fate of hopelessness but a purposeful plan that rescued the hearts of men.
We are blind to hope but for faith to open our eyes. If it were easy to grasp, we wouldn't be told so many times, in so many ways, to rejoice in suffering...and to wait for His story to unfold in and through us:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
On Sunday, we will be celebrating the resurrection of Christ. We will be proclaiming that the grave cannot contain him, that we who trust to the blood of Christ for salvation are no longer enslaved to the pattern of this world, and that Jesus is victorious over all of sin and death. We will be praising Him for these truths then, but we can remember them now, even amidst our own roads of suffering. He meets us here in the same way that fear and doubt in the disciples were met with the living Christ, who on the third day made clear his declaration on the cross: "It is finished."
Today, as we travel the sorrows and suffering of whatever circumstances we've been given to walk, we can look to the promise of those words Christ proclaimed, knowing full well that His sovereign plan prevailed there at the cross, and does so today in our very lives.
It is finished...
- all the striving to fix our own foolish and sinful choices by our own righteousness
- all the seeking to prove ourselves worthy, acceptable, and capable
- all the guilt and hopelessness of making messes out of our blessings
- all the bondage to the decay of this temporary life
- all the separation and distance from our Father
- all the emptiness of vain pursuits
- all the useless worship of things, people, and ideas
It is finished, because Jesus crushed everything we could offer to better ourselves, and offered Himself instead, our only means of grace.
With our eyes on Sunday, let us consider our sufferings in the light of His, and the glory that is revealed on the other side of it. Sunday's coming...and we know how the story ends. Now, Lord, enable us to walk as we believe.
Because of grace,