I'm a big fan of the show Suits, a US series set in New York following the lives of extremely wealthy lawyers and the various lawsuits they have to deal with. Multi-million dollar, high stakes issues which for most of us, are issues we will never have to deal with.
Doesn't exactly sound like a breeding ground of ideas for a Christian writer, right? Actually, there's some pretty interesting themes and thoughts, especially in season six, where a law student (Rachel) who works at the big, important, expensive firm the show is based around, takes on an “innocence” case, fighting to a free a man on death row whom she believes to be innocent. There's a lot in this scenario, but I want to focus on something one of the name partners of the firm, Jessica, says.
After telling the convict his execution date has been set, Jessica and Rachel appear in court, where the victims’ families are also, to appeal for more time.
Not long after this the father of one of the victims confronts Rachel, understandably angry and upset that the man he believes to be responsible for the murder of his daughter might not pay the penalty. As Rachel and Jessica discuss this, Rachel laments that the anger this man is feeling should not be directed at her. Jessica agrees, but states, “that's an easy thing to understand, but a harder thing to endure.”
It's incredibly easy to understand why a man whose daughter was murdered is angry and vengeful, but I imagine it would also be incredibly difficult to endure being on the receiving end of that anger, especially when an innocent man's life is on the line.
To be honest, I don't really think I've had to 'endure' a lot in my life. I've certainly had challenging times, anxious times, times of sadness, but considering the example I've just used of an innocent man on death row, and a father whose daughter was murdered, I know that in comparison my endurance levels are pretty low.
Suffering is a guarantee
The reality is, however, that Jesus stated outright that his followers would have to endure suffering, trials, even persecution (Matthew chapter 24 verse 9). It is one thing to read these words of Jesus, maybe even to have some basic understanding of them (like me). It is another thing entirely to have to endure through the suffering when it inevitably comes.
As I write this, I am reminded of friends of mine going through the pain of marriage separation, friends whose lives have been upturned by cancer or infertility, family who have suffered loss and are enduring the trials of getting older.
We can try and understand these trials, we can discuss legal options, medical options, and various other arrangements, and as Christians we can remember what Jesus said and recognise that hard things happen, but at the end of the day, these are trials that will have to be endured. All the logic, well-meaning platitudes, appropriate Bible verses, even the facts, none of it matters, if we can't make it out to the other side.
I don't know about you, but when I think of Biblical examples of suffering, there's one name that comes primarily to mind: Job. The man who had everything stripped away from him. He lost material possessions, family, and his own health, but he refused to turn his back on God. Job chose to endure, even when he wanted to die, because he believed that God was still good.
Job endured unimaginable suffering, because his hope and trust was in God. As one by one all the things he held dear were stripped away, Job stayed the course, enduring through it all. In Job chapter nine he declares God's wisdom, power, strength, and pure awesomeness. Job didn't understand why he was in the situation he found himself in, but he understood that God is good.
Easy to understand, hard to endure.
Even though Job had faith, he longed for someone to stand between him and God, a mediator who could breach that gap between the pure might and holiness of God and himself, a mere mortal. “If only there was someone to bring us together”, Job cries, “someone to remove God's rod from me!” (Job chapter 9 verses 33-34).
We know now, that there is. The same God-man who promised we would suffer, suffered with us and for us (1 Timothy chapter 2 verses 3-6).
Misery loves company
There's that old saying “misery loves company”, and isn't it true that when we're feeling rubbish we just want someone to give us empathy? Isn't it true that when we go through a difficult situation, it helps to know that someone else has been through the same thing, that they've endured the pain we're feeling?
We find that ultimately in Jesus Christ. We don't follow a God who promises pain but then leaves us alone in it, but a God who has felt our pain, who mediates for us, and who endures alongside us.
Next time you hear or read the words of Jesus, urging you to take up your cross, don't just let them wash over you with a basic understanding of what Jesus meant, but allow them to penetrate your heart. Recognise that suffering will come, but that with Christ as your mediator, you will endure.
Jess is married to Colin, and they have a one year old daughter, Lucy. Together they are striving to live like Jesus every day, by loving God, loving people, and serving the world with joy.
Jess Curries’ previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jess-currie.html.