By Gene Shelburne
In a very special way, Jesus is present in our pain.
When Jerry Yamamoto was growing up as a Japanese boy in a mostly white neighborhood in California in the 1950s, he absorbed unimaginable abuse. He tried to explain to his playmates that he was innocent of Pearl Harbor, but none of them believed him. At times, he said, when the abuse got really rough, he went home and tried to wash his skin white.
In early adulthood, Jerry faced a serious faith decision. Buddhism beckoned him to withdraw from the strife and struggle of this world in search of inner peace. This Asia-rooted religion promised him the serenity he hadn’t known since starting school. It was tempting.
His other choice was Christianity. Rather than withdrawing from the world, he could follow Jesus to the cross. He could claim brotherhood with One who had been rejected by the people around him, just as Jerry had been. Jesus won Jerry’s heart because Jesus met Jerry at the point of his greatest pain.
“I complete in my body what is lacking in the suffering of Christ,” the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24 (author’s paraphrase). This is one way for Christian men and women to assess their own physical pain: Jesus hurt, too.
Paul said he had given up everything most folks value so he could share in the suffering of Jesus. Many modern Christians would give up almost anything to escape suffering of any kind.
Surely it is no accident that, almost without exception, the greatest Christians we know are those who have hurt the most. Our brothers and sisters who have been through incredible suffering today seem to live a different quality of life than they did before they were called to bear their special crosses. Bearing those crosses seems to have linked them in a new and genuine way with the One who first carried a cross.
As we bow before him today at his table, let us give special thanks that he always stands beside us to comfort and strengthen us when we hurt the most. As we partake of Jesus’ body and his blood, let us say thank you to God for providing us a suffering Savior.
Gene Shelburne has served as the pulpit minister at the Anna Street Church in Amarillo, Texas, for 49 years. He is senior editor of the Christian Appeal and his column “Cross Currents” appears in several newspapers, including the Amarillo Globe News. He has written four books, including The God Who Puts Us Back Together.