Why Suffering Matters – Pt. 3

In the last two posts, I’ve been pondering the meaning of suffering in the Christian life – just reflecting on some stories and personal experiences, and allowing scripture to speak into those events.

In Part One, I wrote about vicarious trauma and the ways in which Christian workers should engage the inevitable suffering in this world.

In Part Two, I told Julie’s story as an example of how we can glorify Jesus in the way we respond to trauma.

This week, I’d like to wrap up the conversation. I’m not really looking to give profound answers to life’s hardest questions, since many books have been written to address these topics, and have done so more sufficiently than these few blog posts.

But thank you for reading.

And please, feel free to add to the conversation by commenting below.

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I were on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina. On Tuesday, I ventured into the city alone with the hopes of finding a used bookstore and quiet coffee shop for reading and people-watching.

I parked the car in a downtown garage.

When I turned the first corner onto Haywood street I heard a slurring voice call to me, “Sir, could you help me out?”

The voice was familiar. Though I’d never met him, I knew he was a drunken homeless man looking for financial support.

For a split second, I was annoyed. I thought, I’m on vacation from exactly this. 

But Jesus hit me in the back of the head and told me to engage the man.

“What’s your name?” I asked, sitting next to him on a city bench.

“David,” he said.

We talked for a few minutes. I gave him a dollar and he thanked me.

As I stood up to leave, I said to him, “David, Jesus loves you.”

His eyes welled up as he choked out, “Yes, I know that. I believe it with all my heart.”

I told him, “I hope you know, God is really pleased with your faith.”

At this point, David started weeping, so I sat back down and chatted with him a little longer. The interaction was the highlight of my day.

I would like to say I saw David the next day, sober and coherent, handing out pocket bibles and telling strangers about the love of Jesus.

Instead, I saw him standing in the middle of a busy intersection in a drunken stupor.  After years of ministering to the homeless, I’ve come to expect such results.

David is suffering – from alcoholism and, consequently, poverty.

The good news of Jesus is for those who suffer.

And Jesus wanted David to be reminded of the good news.

Not a legalistic message that says, “Stop drinking and get your life together.”

But the message of Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

The message of the gospel is that Jesus can give us peace and rest. The prerequisite is not a “can-do attitude,” but a recognition of our pitiable state.

A recognition that, “Yes, I am suffering.”

And, “No, I can’t heal myself.”

So, as we encounter those who are suffering in the pains and evils of this world, remember that our mission is to help such people hear the call of the True Healer:

“Come to me…”

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