Coping in Community Instead of Suffering in Silence
Job 14:1, “Anyone born of woman is short of days and full of trouble.” My loose translation, “If you’re a human being, at the end of your life, the amount of troubles you would have encountered will far outnumber the amount of days you have lived.”
This quote comes from a man who, by all accounts in the Bible, suffered the greatest number of natural losses: children, riches, and health. Notwithstanding he probably wishes he had lost his cackling wife and his well-intended but misguided friends — the one thing he did not lose is his faith in God and personal integrity. When Job faced his gut-wrenching tragedies, he did so in community. His friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu surround him to participate in his pain, share his sorrow, and try to make sense of the madness his life had become. While Job’s four friends failed miserably to shed any helpful light or perspective on the cause of his tragedies, which God does in the latter chapters of the book of Job — their presence must have been a powerful, soul-stirring example of how we bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Job believed in Coping in Community instead of Suffering in Silence.
The greatest act of suffering and tragedy was endured by the Lord Jesus. The night before His crucifixion, He began to experience the acute contractions, labor pains of His gruesome death while celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples for the final time. The announcement of a betrayal and a denial by Judas Iscariot and Peter were anxiety filled, deeply tense moments. Jesus stress levels rise the closer He gets to the cross, the episode in the Garden of Gethsemane provides compelling evidence. Jesus arrives at the Garden of Gethsemane with the eleven disciples, He takes, “37Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me” (Matthew 26:37-38). Observe Jesus’ mental and emotional condition. Matthew, an eyewitness said that Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled.” Jesus said, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death.” The burden Jesus is carrying is enough to mentally and emotionally cause the loss of life.
It does not end there, though that would have been enough, the physician Luke provides a glimpse into Jesus’ physical wellbeing as well. Luke 22 highlights two insights into the reality that Jesus is buckling under the cosmic weight of bearing the sins of the world and drinking the bitter, loathsome cup of the Father’s wrath. First, we discover that during Jesus’ prayer in the garden, the Father sends an angel to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43). Not only are there three disciples with Him, but a fourth helper is dispatched to come to Jesus’ assistance. Second, in Luke 22:44, it comes as no surprise that Luke, a medical doctor would point out for us that Jesus suffered from the rare medical condition known as hematidrosis: the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat glands or hair follicles. This condition is usually precipitated by acute distress, mental anguish, fear of death, torture, or prolonged periods of abuse. This unprecedented episode is so intense it has turned Jesus’ face into a bloody mess!
Fast forward to the crucifixion, Jesus is not alone during that episode either. There, He is in the company of a befriended thief on the cross opposite Him. Looking on in horror, sorrow, and love are: the disciple John, Jesus’ mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome (Mark 15:40, John 19:25-27). The only time Jesus spent alone, without a support group was during His kangaroo court trials. No one was permitted to be with Him, but His disciple John followed the illegal proceedings from a distance.
Jesus, en route to the Garden of Gethsemane shared these frank, yet inspiring words, “32Indeed, an hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:32-33). I offer three thoughts from this passage: (1) Jesus believed that in the event He was abandoned by His friends, He would never be alone because He would always enjoy the Father’s presence. This is true for us as well, after all we are His adopted sons and daughters; (2) Jesus promises, like Job two thousand years before Him, that we will encounter suffering in this world. However, Jesus offers to give us peace, shalom, tranquility, wholeness in the midst of suffering, difficulties, tragedies, and hardship. Just because everything is going to pieces around us, it does not necessarily follow that we must go to pieces as well. We need peace in the middle of the storm and Jesus will give it to us; (3) Jesus draws our attention to the fact that He has triumphed over the world and all its evils and misfortunes — as the joint-heirs of Christ and heirs of God, we too shall triumph through Christ Jesus’ victory.
Finally, Jesus the ultimate human, the quintessential archetype of the homo sapiens, chose to Cope in Community instead of Suffering in Silence. I hope and pray that all people, especially God’s sons and daughters would choose the way of Jesus. As a pastor, I long for the day when all local churches create a culture and ethos where Suffering in Silence becomes a relic of the past and Coping in Community, where there is no guilt, shame, or perceived weakness becomes the new normal — that is until Jesus returns to wipe away all of our tears and gives us a joy and peace completely, totally, and utterly inexpressible.
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