In May, my friend’s dad met with an accident that resulted in the amputation of both his legs to save his life. As he went through such a difficult time, what hope was there for him in this situation, if any?
Christians tend to tell others that Jesus is the answer to almost every situation one can think of – which becomes annoying if overused, I admit.
And as a second-generation Christian, it’s sometimes hard to take the perspective of a non-Christian and there are some aspects I will never fully understand. Having said that, this is an attempt to offer hope in the midst of human suffering where there seems to be none – to me, hope really does find its place in Jesus.
Stay with me on that one.
HOPE IN THIS LIFE
I think part of the frustration arises from our failure to effectively communicate or understand what “hoping in Jesus” means. It doesn’t mean that problems mysteriously disappear, or suffering ceases immediately. This is not, and has never been, what the Bible promises.
Jesus doesn’t “solve” our problems by stepping in to fix the problem here and now, which is frustrating, I know – but enduring suffering is also the narrative for much of the Bible, even in the Old Testament (Psalm 12, 13, 42 – among others).
This is also true for Jesus Himself – long before His birth, the prophet Isaiah spoke forth His coming, proclaiming that He would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
Having experienced the pain of suffering Himself, Jesus is able to empathise with the needs of those who are suffering.
Hence, having experienced the full weight of suffering Himself, Jesus is able to empathise with the needs of those who are suffering – every single shred of pain ever felt. As it says in Hebrews 4:15, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses” – Jesus likewise experienced every degree suffering as a fellow human being: Loss, separation, condemnation, physical agony, grief.
In the loss of a dear friend, Lazarus (John 11:14), Jesus wept in an honest expression of sorrow at the reality of suffering and death (John 11:35). He knew that He was about to raise the poor man from the dead, but it was watching the people who didn’t, the ones He loved who suffered in the wake of death that broke His heart.
This is why Jesus is the hope in this life for those who are in distress – having entered this broken world and endured suffering, He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) and peace (John 14:27), who walks alongside those who are hurting.
HOPE IN THE LIFE TO COME
When tragedy strikes, one might believe that his or her suffering is meaningless, or that it results from bad luck (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3). Another common belief about suffering is that it is retribution for a person’s deeds (Job 4:7-8).
In light of eternity, however, ultimate hope in the midst of suffering is found in the gospel, without which all relief is temporary and all suffering is meaningless. This hope is one that humanity can reach out and grasp onto – the hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who died for all who have fallen short of God’s perfect standard of holiness (Romans 5:6).
Through this great act, not only did God Himself experience suffering, He also overcame it. All this is possible only because Jesus’ blood on the Cross satisfied God’s wrath for all the sins of humanity – hence those who trust in Him no longer have to take the punishment for their own sin.
Every sin was laid upon Him; He died for you and me. But as He was raised to life again, in Him we have new life and a new hope.
“For it is Christ’s love that fuels our passion and motivates us, because we are absolutely convinced that he has given his life for all of us. This means all died with him, so that those who live should no longer live self-absorbed lives but lives that are poured out for him — the one who died for us and now lives again.“ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Consequently, those who are suffering can take comfort that not only is God moved by their suffering, but in His mercy, he has provided an escape from it.
This is why the Gospel offers a different perspective on suffering, contrary to worldly wisdom. It doesn’t discount human suffering as meaningless and hopeless, neither does it say that it is a person’s just desserts – instead, it offers redemption for a person’s suffering. This redemption is the offer of a restored relationship with God – being reconciled back to Him.
In the future when Christ returns, He will wipe away every tear, putting an end to death, mourning, and pain.
Hence, with the Gospel, worldly suffering now contributes to a person’s joy and hope in a greater meaning in life – with the reconciliation to God also comes a future hope, where those who trust in Him can look forward for a world with no more pain.
In the future when Christ returns, He will wipe away every tear, putting an end to death, mourning, and pain (Revelation 21:4). When this happens, the curse that entered the world through human sin (Genesis 3:14-19) will be reversed – creation will be free from its brokenness (Rom 8:20-22), and God’s redemption plan for our current broken humanity will be fulfilled.
If you’re experiencing a time of suffering, it is my hope that God, in His mercy, will use it as an opportunity where you may “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), and come to trust in Him – He delivers those who trust in Him from suffering, to await a future where suffering is no longer a reality.