More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
My first awareness last Sunday was of pain. All the warning signs from previous days had coalesced into a tight, aching knot somewhere vaguely around or behind my left eye. Pain spread in ripples to encompass the whole left side of my head, my muscles felt like water, the dim morning light seemed excruciatingly bright when I cracked my eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to lie perfectly, perfectly still.
Good morning, Migraine… my nemesis.
I took some medication and curled into a ball, praying for the thing to end so I could spend Sunday morning with some of my favorite two- to four-year-old kiddos. Lying there trying to think of anything but the misery of migraine, my thoughts drifted to the pain of others: to the suffering of a friend who has received heart-wrenching news about her new baby, to another friend whose life has been a battle with emotional anguish and who now struggles under a debilitating physical ailment, to a family member whose heart is torn and tattered… on and outward to so many who suffer and hurt and weep.
So much pain; such a tremendous, horrible variety of pain.
Like a shaft of sunlight penetrating storm clouds, a fresh and awesome sense of the magnitude of what Jesus has done broke into my dismal reverie. I cannot help but wonder that the Master and Maker of all the universe would choose to put on such a frail and faulty machine as a human body and trudge about in the muck of His own creation.
Why would He voluntarily step down from a state of complete and painless perfection into the sticky and unpleasant tangle of human emotions and physical shortcomings; of hate and jealousy, of sweat and hunger and disease and despair? Why would He suffer physical pain, torture, betrayal, loss, rejection, death — all for a people who neither understand nor care what He has done; a people who often glance blandly at Him, battered and bloody on that cross, sparing little thought as to what it all means?
Why would He choose to endure pain for me? I, who will call Him “good” when all is well in my little arena and yet will wail dismally, believing that He has forsaken me when some little distress disrupts my plans? Why?
I know why. It is no more and no less than perfect love that motivated His sacrifice; a love so intense and so profound that I can barely fathom it even if I strain with all my being to grasp it. On Sunday, as my thoughts burrowed inward, attempting to escape the conflagration of pain, I was grieved that there were so few traces of such a love within me.
Lying there in the dim semi-consciousness of migraine, I cannot honestly say that I would willingly endure such things as this– physical pain, emotional torment, rejection — for my enemies as He did. Perhaps I might face such affliction on behalf of my children, my husband or sisters, or close family or friends, but certainly not for the ones who slander me or those who wound my children.
For them, I would not embrace pain. But Jesus did.
He endured excruciating physical torture at the hands of the brutal but efficient Roman lictors even before the gory horror of crucifixion. What’s more, He did it willingly, knowingly, fully understanding what it would cost. He understands physical pain.
Despite the heavy toll exacted from His flesh, He was — and still is –rejected by the very ones He was suffering for. He was betrayed to this cruel death by one of His inner circle. He knows about emotional pain as well.
As I contemplated His shattered and broken body on that cross through the haze of my own pain, I felt truly thankful.
Thankful that my God is not distant and impartial but willing to undergo temptation, torture, rejection, and loss so that a worm such as I can gain access to the Throne of Grace.
Thankful that my pain is a small reminder of the price of sin; a moment to reflect on the suffering of Jesus.
Thankful that even enormous pain will not last forever, but that His love brought victory through the pain to the bitter end of the grave and beyond.
Thankful that in Christ, I have a hope that does not disappoint, even in the midst of pain.