A Different Kind of Suffering

  • July 21, 2011
  • #7624

Joni shares that Jesus can identify with our "everyday" sort of emotional pain.

There’s a suffering that’s more painful than any broken neck…

Hi, I'm Joni Eareckson Tada and although I sit in a wheelchair, I believe it. Emotional pain that runs deep and doesn't let up, well… I'm thinking of Kerrie, the thirteen-year-old daughter of one of the women I work with in the office. Occasionally Kerrie volunteers after school at her mother’s side coming here to Joni and Friends to stuff envelopes, photocopy resource lists, sorting brochures, that sort of thing. She’s a shy little girl who spends a lot of time alone, reading, drawing, and doing puzzles. There’s a deeper reason why Kerrie is so shy, so withdrawn, though. Middle school has not been easy for her. She’s the one who’s left out in the cafeteria. She’s the one who walks down the hall alone. She’s the target of name-callers. She’s the one who’s had to brush dried food out of her hair—food thrown by hateful classmates.

You know, I look at her, bewildered. I simply don’t understand it. Kerrie offers no retort to her tormentors, no resistance, no angry backbiting. I haven’t figured out why the boys and girls in her school treat her so spitefully. What makes it so cruel is the anguish that this girl suffers. Deep pain and perplexity, smothered and suppressed… it all still shows in her eyes.

Now does the Lord identify with that kind of suffering? We all know how Jesus suffered. We picture the crown of thorns against His scalp, or the nails driven through His hands and feet. The cross, understandably, is synonymous with the suffering of Christ. But sometimes it’s hard to identify with that kind of pain. Yes, He suffered unbearably during those dark hours but—that’s not the sort of suffering most of us have to face. As with my young friend Kerrie, our suffering is often on the inside. It’s out of sight. Bloodless. Silent. Hidden from others. It's the intense relational pain that’s so hard—the hurts, rejections, and put-downs inflicted by others. No, that’s not a scourging or a beating. There aren’t any literal nails or thorns. But that inside pain still hurts. And sometimes unbearably so.

Can we be certain that Jesus identifies with that sort of “everyday” pain? Isaiah 53 lays any such doubt to rest. It says there that “God laid on him, Jesus, the guilt and sins of us all.” And everybody turned away from Him. Completely alone, Jesus shouldered the burden of our rebellion. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we could not have cared less. Just as little Kerrie has felt the indifference of uncaring friends, Jesus, too, endured the sting of rejection and the ache of loneliness. And it wasn’t an occasional thing from a few fair-weather friends. He felt the awful realization that no one was one His side. Not even God.   

So if you’re experiencing relational pain today, battling with rejection from someone you love; or scorn from those who snub you, remember that Jesus, your High Priest, perfectly understands. He empathizes; He identifies. And He has taken note of everything. And He knows how to bring healing to the deepest, most hidden parts of your soul. Yes, His suffering went far beyond what you and I will ever understand—all the way to the cross. But He is no stranger to rejection and emotional pain. He was the most God-forsaken man that ever lived so that He might say to you, I will never desert you. I will never abandon you. 

© Joni and Friends

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