We all have our own idea of what suffering is. When we think of the suffering of Jesus over Easter, we might rightly think of the beatings he received and his crucifixion itself. However, in Luke 22:41-44 we read of the suffering Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives, which it appears was a regular place to pray (“…went as usual to the Mount of Olives.” V.39).
Here, only “…a stone’s throw…” away from the disciples, Jesus “…knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (v.41). An angel from Heaven was sent to strengthen him. Even so, Jesus “…prayed even more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (v. 44). This was spiritual suffering for Jesus. The physical was yet to come on Golgotha – the Place of the Skull.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 Paul also addresses suffering and the way God comforts us. We like our comforts, especially in this 21st century. When we lose any of the creature comforts that we have become so accustomed to, we really feel like we are suffering. But Paul says in verse 5 that “…the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.” No, he isn’t promising more of the comforts of this world, but I would suggest the kind of deep spiritual comfort Christ himself received when he was visited by the angel from heaven in the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t think that God intentionally brings suffering our way, but why does God allow us to suffer at all? There may be many reasons for that, but here Paul offers three practical reasons that we might do well to consider during this Easter season – and during this time of uncertainty and isolation, when many may consider themselves to be suffering.
Whatever we are suffering right now, remember the deep spiritual sufferings that Jesus went through, along with the cruel physical sufferings that he endured on the cross to bear our sins. In any of our sufferings today, remember that God will shower us with his comfort through Jesus Christ. When he does that, remember to comfort others also, rely more on God than on ourselves and learn to give thanks to God in everything – even in our suffering!
And all of God’s people said… Amen! Praise God!
(All scripture quoted from NLT – New Living Translation. Italics and bold type mine)