When was the last time your suffering led others to Christ? Ever since I scribbled these words, they continue to stare me in the eye—expecting a response.
The truth is I don’t know if I’ve ever prompted anyone to step closer to the Lord by how I handled sorrow. Pain tends to compel the crabby in me – enough to blame someone else for my suffering.
I doubt I’m alone. When in pain, it seems only human to default to finger-pointing—including at God.
“Are you heartless, or are you just incapable of healing my chronic pain, God?”
“If the store had posted a warning sign, I wouldn’t have slipped on the wet floor.”
“We got into the accident because you ran the red light!”
Jesus modeled suffering in a radically different way. The Son determined to live and die by glorifying the Father, even while enduring crucifixion and its excruciating pain. Jesus carried Himself with such dignity, it forced a handful of witnesses to face their own day of reckoning.
As a Christian, I aspire to emulate Jesus in every way—including during life’s harrowing moments. Don’t you?
The good news is learning to suffer Jesus’ way is doable. If it wasn’t, the Bible wouldn’t have recorded the following five principles He demonstrated while crucified:
When those around Jesus did nothing but revile Him, He didn’t defend Himself. Neither did He attack them back (1 Peter 2:23). Jesus stayed silent (Isaiah 53:7). By doing so, He fully exhibited trust that God would avenge Him without having to do so Himself (1 Samuel 24:12).
Do you know how hard it is to clamp your mouth when you’re being assailed? I do. As a therapist, I strive to not defend myself if something I say riles up my client. It doesn’t matter how innocent my intentions might have been. If there’s a part of the client who finds my words offensive, my job is to listen and process that experience with the client. Defending ourselves is improper for therapists to do because that’s hardly what any client needs. Ever.
Like Jesus, you and I don’t need to engage in self-defense even if someone decides to harass us in our pain. The Lord is still the most powerful Avenger there is (Psalm 94:1). The One who sees everything will make things right in due time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
- No Pity Party
Every group of people surrounding Jesus mocked Him mercilessly:
Passersby (Matthew 27:39-40),
Spiritual leaders (Matthew 27: 41-43, Luke 23:35),
Roman soldiers (Luke 23: 36-37),
And the two criminals condemned to death alongside him (Matthew 27: 38, Matthew 27: 44, Mark 15:32).
But even though their derision must have hurt, what might have stung even more was the roaring passivity of Jesus’ own loved ones. A tiny band of followers, including His mother, a few other women, and the apostle John, all witnessed Jesus’ abuse and humiliation—but none of them said a peep (John 19: 25-27).
If it were me bleeding on the cross? Hearing vicious sneers, coupled with my support system’s sustained silence, would’ve easily triggered a serious self-pitying episode.
Not Jesus. Never once did He pull a psalm-style lamentation of how long will you let these guys pummel me like this, Lord, when I did nothing to provoke them? Scour every book in the Bible, Old and New Testament combined, and you’ll find zero mention of Jesus crying on the cross. None.
Crucifixion is likely the most painful way to die ever invented, yet the Son of God shed no tears. Why?
Because Jesus refused to indulge in a pity party.
Self-pity sucks all of the attention to ourselves—This hurts so bad! Why hasn’t anyone checked up on me? Does anyone even care? Because the whining in self-pity repulses everyone else, pity partiers tend to cry all by themselves. Their act makes it impossible for others to respond with compassion.
Let’s resolve to ban any pity party even if our suffering feels unjust.
Because Jesus squelched the temptation to pity Himself, He allowed the love of God to fully commandeer His attention.
Even though breathing—let alone speaking—would’ve wrecked His body with more unimaginable pain, Jesus intentionally did the following. He spent the energy to instruct His disciple, John, to care for His mother, Mary, from that point on (John 19:26-27).
Such selfless love!
A friend demonstrated how striking it is when we mimic Jesus’ winsome attitude. This fellow believer suffers from pancreatitis. She spent three weeks at the hospital for a major surgery. She has steadily lost weight and has to eat through a feeding tube for six months—yet, despite all the mental and physical pain she has to endure, she cares enough to ask how I’m doing.
Anytime we attend to another person, regardless of the intensity of our pain, we’re gently leading that person closer to our Father. That’s because only God’s love can inspire us to exhibit the unselfish love of 1 Corinthians 10:24—including in the midst of our suffering.
In this me-first world, such outrageous benevolence creates an unforgettable impression. It may even compel the recipient to investigate, “why are you so kind?”
At which point we can smile and explain: Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1: 27).
- He Sought Proper Help
There’s another reason I cherish the friend I mentioned above: she recognizes her limits. She didn’t conceal her need due to pride. Instead, she reached out to me and confided in me about her medical struggles. And when I offered to intercede, she gladly received my prayer.
How many are too proud to disclose our needs to each other?
My friend sought appropriate assistance because she needed it. In doing so she modeled after Jesus, who also appealed for help while on the cross.
On the surface, it seems as though Jesus’ words to the Father conveyed a son’s protest for his dad’s abandonment (Matthew 27:46). However, notice that Jesus directed His plea to God in a transparent and respectful manner. Contrast this attitude to many who, in their pain, give God the silent treatment or curse Him instead—like Job’s wife, for instance (Job 2:9).
The Lord will never forsake anyone who seeks Him (Psalm 9:10). So, if you want your suffering to count, never abandon the God who has loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Then, seek proper help—in the spiritual, physical, as well as emotional realm.
- He Forgave Fiercely
Forgiveness benefits the forgiver. We don’t forgive for the sake of those who wronged us, but for our own (Matthew 6:14-15, Luke 6:37). But if this truth is applicable to humans, then it applies to Jesus, too, given his status as fully God and fully human (John 1:1, John 1:14, Philippians 2:7).