My Sunday school class is currently studying, the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. As a matter of fact, my pastor-husband Earl, is doing a 4-part sermon series at Charlestons Presbyterian Church on the Sermon on the Mount, as well. As many know, the beginning of the sermon starts with what are referred to as the Beatitudes, which means “exalted happiness.” Declared as blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who have been persecuted – those that have been insulted and accused falsely.
But here are listed human frailties as well – people who are suffering in one form or another. This crowd of people, who because of their gentleness or humbleness, those who were merciful toward others, those who tried to stay pure and make peace, could also be ridiculed and thought less valuable by many people.
Recently, a fellow employee at the company in which I work asked me why there is suffering. She was watching the death of someone she cared about and could not fathom why he must suffer and why family and friends had to endure the suffering of someone they loved so deeply. Upon his death, she told me she was asked to give the eulogy. She was wondering what she could possibly say.
The question of suffering is not a new one. It has been pondered by humans in every generation. But I did offer her an answer that has allowed me to somewhat better accept the suffering of my fellow man and lay all my hope in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I tried to offer her a little of God’s comforting presence by allowing her to see God’s promises through His Word. I told her that her faith in knowing Him would allow Him to help her become closer to Him and to understand suffering.
According to Genesis, we came into being because God created us. “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). In knowing this, I know that my soul (the living being within me, that makes me animate), living in this shell called a body, belongs to God. And God has every right to have us returned to Him.
I’ve learned in my sorrows, and that without them, I would be less than human, not more. Without human sorrows, we haven’t loved enough, felt compassion enough or been in a relationship with other God-breathed sisters and brothers. Without sorrow, I wouldn’t be like Christ, Who wept at the death of Lazarus, (John 11: 1-36). And Jesus promised Martha concerning Lazarus, “your brother shall rise again.” John 11:23.
In our seeking out God due to the suffering we face, we are calling out to the Great Comforter. We are mourning the loss of someone we love. We are showing to others our compassionate spirit and that God dwells within us. We show that we have feelings and that we are not apathetic or stoic or spiritually dead on the inside.
Praise God that He uses our suffering to offer others the extreme privilege of showing compassion to others. Without suffering, we would never know deepest love and compassion. If no one ever suffered, no one would ever learn to help those who are less fortunate or in need. Jesus was surrounded by those who suffered, and He showed them all God’s compassion. We are to be like Him.
Jesus suffered immensely on the cross even while His mother suffered at the foot of the cross. But Mary knew Who Jesus was and knew His suffering was for the good of all mankind. Suffering can bring Christ to His lost sheep – touching the very souls of those who are afflicted by turning them to Jesus Christ Who had compassion and love for all people, and Who died that they might all be saved and be granted eternal blessedness.