By Stuart Powell
Is the fruit of suffering bitter or sweet? How should we approach the anguish we encounter in life?
Many times suffering is the exclamation point of wrong decisions. We suffer a broken bone because of our lack of judgment. We suffer from a broken heart because we trusted someone others considered unworthy.
But sometimes suffering arrives uninvited. We make one wrong move and pinch a nerve. We undergo a routine physical and soon begin painful treatment for a heretofore unknown physical malady. A cultural shift places our faith squarely in the crosshairs of extremists.
In A Place of Healing, Joni Eareckson Tada identifies five benefits of suffering:
1. Suffering can turn us from a dangerous direction.
2. Suffering reminds us where our true strength lies.
3. Suffering restores a lost beauty in Christ.
4. Suffering can heighten our thirst for Christ.
5. Suffering can increase our fruitfulness.
This list of benefits gives us something to consider in the midst of our suffering. It might also lead us to ask, What were the benefits of Jesus’ suffering?
The Hebrews writer helps answer that question.
During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, and he was designated by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:7-10, New English Translation).
The writer points out that all the suffering Jesus faced was to help him learn obedience to the Father. We are also reminded that Jesus understands all our sufferings when we endure the pain with faith like him. We are the beneficiaries of Jesus’ suffering. This is part of the message of this meal. As we partake, we are reminded Jesus’ suffering gives us hope and a promised inheritance. The loaf and cup should serve as reminders Jesus will walk with us through our suffering. He will bring into our lives the fruit of obedience through our shared suffering with him.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.