“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.” –Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)
We are moving inexorably to the cross of Christ. Along the way we face opposition, ridicule, misunderstanding, and betrayal. And, yet, today’s New Testament reading informs us that this is initiated, motivated, and animated because of joy. The path leading to the cross and the cross of Christ itself was painful in every sense of the word. This doesn’t sound joyful at all. There’s no definition in any dictionary which includes suffering and shame with the word joy.
Jesus did not relish in being hurt by others because pain with no purpose is nothing but tragic despair. Rather, Jesus clearly understood what the end of his suffering would accomplish: the saving of many lives.
Trying to make sense of this great sacrifice on our behalf can be mind-blowing. No earthly illustration or word-picture can begin to adequately capture the idea. Yet, maybe we can understand focusing the necessary discipline, effort, endurance, and pain in order to accomplish a goal. In other words, the most significant and important goals of our lives require a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears to realize. In a former life I was a cross country runner (back far enough for Sherman to set the way-back machine). When I was running on a road or a golf course, I would sometimes get that very nasty and sharp pain in my side while running. It is called a side cramp, or side stitch. If you have never experienced it, the pain feels like an intense stabbing, as if someone were taking a knife and twisting it inside you. Runners know there’s only one thing to do when this occurs: Keep running through the pain and it will subside in a few minutes. To stop running only exacerbates and prolongs the hurt, not to mention losing a race.
Jesus endured the cross knowing he was going to experience terrible excruciating pain. He also knew that not facing the shame of it and avoiding the agony would only make things worse; it wouldn’t take care of the problem of sin. Jesus persevered through the foulness and degradation of the cross for you and me. The pain was worth it to him. Christ did not circumvent the cross; he embraced it so that the result would be people’s deliverance from death and hell. The end game of his redemptive work was joy over deposing the ruler of this dark world and obliterating obstacles to people’s faith.
Suffering often does not fit into our equation of the Christian life; and, yet, it needs to. Since Jesus bled and died for us, it is our privilege to follow him along the way of suffering. Holy Week is a time to reflect and remember on such a great sacrifice, and to consider our Christian lives in the face of such great love.
Gracious Lord Jesus, I give you eternal thanks for your mercy toward me through the cross. It is a small thing for me to follow you even it means great suffering on my part. My life is yours. Use it as you will, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Click There Is A Redeemer by Crossings Worship to continue the contemplation on the redemptive events of Jesus.