By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
When I am going through some heartache or trial, does God understand what I am facing?
This is a question that goes beyond mere intellectual curiosity. It is one which challenges and stirs the soul even as it cries out from the heart of despairing man to the heights of Heaven.
Can God understand the moment by moment struggle of the victim of rape?
Could God possibly understand the angst and the despair of the drug addict?
Can the Lord of Heaven truly comprehend my doubts, my pains, my anger?
How can the Creator in Heaven even BEGIN to fathom the sorrow of a broken home, of a failed marriage, of a lost sinner?
It is in the midst of these questions that we must turn to the pages of God’s Word for our answers.
Throughout the Word of God, we are reminded of the fact that the Lord perfectly understands our suffering and our troubles. Indeed, He knows us, and our heartaches, better then we know ourselves!
Psalm 139:1-16-1 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
Jeremiah 17:10-I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.
John 2:23-25-23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.
24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,
25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
Yet can we truly believe that God knows our struggles?
The answer is YES, and the evidence is found in a powerful word that is packed full of theological truths:
What The Incarnation Is And Why It Matters
When we are talking about the “Incarnation,” we are referring to the fact that the eternal God became human.
Yeshua (Hebrew Name of Jesus) is literally Immanuel, or “God With Us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).
According to the Scriptures, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Second Person of the Godhead (John 1:1; 1 John 5:7) came into this world and lived among humans, AS a human.
Through Him and His life, the entire Godhead was at work.
Isaiah the Prophet had spoken of how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit would work in Jesus’ coming to the world:
Isaiah 48:16-“Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.”
Here, the powerful novel The Shack comes to mind. If you haven’t read this book, then take my advice and read it!
In another book which describes some of the powerful lessons of The Shack, we read:
“I hate you! The last word of the human race, trapped in the great darkness. But such awful desolation is not the end of the story. For the lover of our souls meets us in our pain. This, too, is a brilliant move, to my mind, and one of the great themes running throughout The Shack . Unlike the indifferent god of our imaginations, the Father, Son, and Spirit do in fact meet us in our pain, in our tragedy, and especially in our darkness and sin. It is not so much— as we will see— that the blessed Trinity is absent to the rest of our lives; it is that, in the trauma created by the collision of life and the false god of our imaginations, we begin to get new eyes….Lesson One of the story is that we are Mackenzie. The astonishing embrace enfolding him is the truth about us. We are known, loved, and delighted in by the Father, Son, and Spirit, just as we are, whether we believe in God or not. The truth is we have already been embraced by Jesus’ Papa and by the Spirit. That is what the coming of Jesus was all about. The blessed Trinity has already met us in our shacks. In Jesus they have pitched their tents inside our garbage cans. We belong to the Father, Son, and Spirit. We always have, and always will; Jesus has seen to that personally. But like Mackenzie, we have wrong eyes; there is so much hurt, we cannot possibly know the truth or believe it— yet. But so it is.” (C. Baxter Kruger, PH. D., The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared To Dream, 23-26 (Kindle Edition); New, NO: Faith Words)
Why This Matters
In the Book of Hebrews, Paul addresses the fact that Jesus perfectly relates to mankind in all of his weaknesses.
After pointing out that Jesus is God (Hebrews 1:8), the Apostle highlights the fact that Jesus is also perfectly Man:
Hebrews 2:14 (ERV)-14 These children are people with physical bodies. So Jesus himself became like them and had the same experiences they have. Jesus did this so that, by dying, he could destroy the one who has the power of death—the devil.
Hebrews 2:17-18 (ERV)-17 For this reason, Jesus had to be made like us, his brothers and sisters, in every way. He became like people so that he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then he could bring forgiveness for the people’s sins.
18 And now he can help those who are tempted. He is able to help because he himself suffered and was tempted.
The text tells us that Christ shared in the full identity with humans in the Incarnation. The Greek used here was very emphatic. It speaks to the fact that Christ was completely entrenched in humanity; He was a complete participant in everything which makes us truly human.
In coming into our world, Jesus Christ (and through Him, God the Father and God the Spirit) would show to the human family that the pain and anguish of mankind was fully comprehended by Heaven. By the suffering that He endured throughout His life, coupled with the agonizing three year ministry which culminated in the most horrific event of human history (i.e., Calvary), the Son of God completely walked the same path that we do.
He Embraces All Of Our Infirmities And Sins
Centuries before Jesus was born, God had written through the Prophet Isaiah about the work the Messiah would accomplish in carrying our sorrows and our sins:
Isaiah 53:4-7 (ERV)-4 The fact is, it was our suffering he took on himself; he bore our pain. But we thought that God was punishing him, that God was beating him for something he did.
5 But he was being punished for what we did. He was crushed because of our guilt. He took the punishment we deserved, and this brought us peace. We were healed because of his pain.
6 We had all wandered away like sheep. We had gone our own way. And yet the LORD put all our guilt on him.
The New Testament shows us that this was applied to both literal physical illnesses and diseases (Matthew 8:6-17) and to our sin and wickedness (1 Peter 2:21-24). While He walked among us, Jesus fully lived out every possible scenario and pain that humans can experience.
The teaching of Scripture is that God DOES indeed fully understand all of our pain, and all of our struggles. Through His suffering, temptations and trials, the Lord Jesus perfectly relates to us.
More than that, through the suffering of Christ, the entire Godhead embraces our anguish:
“‘When my heart is most fearful, help me out of my fears, through thy fear and pain’, says a hymn by Paul Gerhardt. This mysticism of the passion has discovered a truth about Christ which ought not to be suppressed by being understood in a superficial way. It can be summed up by saying that suffering is overcome by suffering, and wounds are healed by wounds. For the suffering in suffering is the lack of love, and the wounds in wounds are the abandonment, and the powerlessness in pain is unbelief. And therefore the suffering of abandonment is overcome by the suffering of love, which is not afraid of what is sick and ugly, but accepts it and takes it to itself in order to heal it. Through his own abandonment by God, the crucified Christ brings God to those who are abandoned by God. Through his suffering he brings salvation to those who suffer. Through his death he brings eternal life to those who are dying. And therefore the tempted, rejected, suffering and dying Christ came to be the centre of the religion of the oppressed and the piety of the lost. And it is here, in the theology of the mysticism of the cross in the late Middle Ages, that we first hear the monstrous phrase ‘the crucified God’, which Luther then took up.” (Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, 61 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Fortress Press)
The Incarnation Offers Hope In The Midst Of Our Moral Bankruptcy
The writer of Hebrews wants us to understand that through His Incarnation, Jesus came to fully understand every human weakness:
Hebrews 4:15 (Amplified)-For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.
The Bible recounts that when Jesus was baptized, He was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days where He was continually tempted by the devil (Mark 1:12-13).
Can you imagine what that would have been like?
Forty days of nothing but temptation to commit sin. The specific temptations mentioned (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12) show us that He was continually tempted by the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17), though He never sinned.
Even after those temptations, the Bible makes it clear that the devil continued to tempt Jesus (Luke 4:13).
From this, I learn that Jesus was indeed tempted in every point as we are.
But what is truly incredible is learning what His lifelong resistance to sin meant in regards to His experience with sin and temptation:
“But it gets even better. On the way to the cross for thirty years, Christ was tempted like every human is tempted. True, he never sinned. But wise people have pointed out that this means his temptations were stronger than ours, not weaker. If a person gives in to temptation, it never reaches its fullest and longest assault. We capitulate while the pressure is still building. But Jesus never did. So he endured the full pressure to the end and never caved. He knows what it is to be tempted with fullest force. A lifetime of temptation climaxing in spectacular abuse and abandonment gave Jesus an unparalleled ability to sympathize with tempted and suffering people. No one has ever suffered more. No one has ever endured more abuse. And no one ever deserved it less or had a greater right to fight back. But the apostle Peter said, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:22-23). Therefore, the Bible says he is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). This is amazing. The risen Son of God in heaven at God’s right hand with all authority over the universe feels what we feel when we come to him in sorrow or pain—or cornered with the promises of sinful pleasure. What difference does this make? The Bible answers by making a connection between Jesus’ sympathy and our confidence in prayer. It says that since he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses… [therefore we should] with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Evidently the thought goes like this: We are likely to feel unwelcome in the presence of God if we come with struggles. We feel God’s purity and perfection so keenly that everything about us seems unsuitable in his presence. But then we remember that Jesus is “sympathetic.” He feels with us, not against us. This awareness of Christ’s sympathy makes us bold to come. He knows our cry. He tasted our struggle. He bids us come with confidence when we feel our need.” (John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die, 72-73 (Kindle Edition); Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Books)
The Incarnation Shows Us The Intimate Knowledge Of Sin And Weakness The Godhead Experiences With Us
“But,” someone says, “if Jesus never chose to sin, then how can He understand the guilt that we feel and the condemnation that we experience when we rebel against God?”
Again, the Incarnation reminds us of a powerful and brutal thought: on the Cross of Calvary, Jesus had all of our sins placed upon Him.
Hebrews 2:9-But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (ERV)-14 The love of Christ controls us, because we know that one person died for everyone. So all have died.
15 He died for all so that those who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that they would live for him.
16 From this time on we don’t think of anyone as the world thinks of people. It is true that in the past we thought of Christ as the world thinks. But we don’t think that way now.
17 When anyone is in Christ, it is a whole new world. The old things are gone; suddenly, everything is new!
18 All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between himself and us. And God gave us the work of bringing people into peace with him.
19 I mean that God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold people guilty for their sins. And he gave us this message of peace to tell people.
20 So we have been sent to speak for Christ. It is like God is calling to people through us. We speak for Christ when we beg you to be at peace with God.
21 Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could be right with God.
It is in Yeshua that we realize how hope can be found-not only for the natural sufferer, but for the moral rebel.
It is in Golgotha that we experience Christ offering such grace to us, the chief of sinners (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:15).
Here we learn how that we can approach the throne of God with boldness and receive grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
It is in the shadowy recesses of that hill on that day of darkest despair that we behold the power of the God Who is with us, the incredible love that descends from the richest glories of Heaven to the lowest depths of Sheol to provide the most unworthy with the treasures of eternity (2 Corinthians 8:9).
2 Corinthians 9:15-Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out:
“God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8.17 82 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering….The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers From Prison, 360-361 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY: Touchstone Rockefeller Center)
Some may claim that because they cannot fully understand HOW God can relate to our pain, then surely He cannot.
Yet friends, this is where we need to learn the correct balance between faith, evidence, and reason. A number of years ago, brother Homer Hailey made this interesting and insightful note:
“The function of reason per se is not to determine whether the fact was possible or impossible. Reason cannot determine whether one could begotten in the womb of a woman unimpregnated by the male sperm, or whether a dead body could be raised to life again. Rather, its function is to weigh the evidence that claims to sustain the facts. Reason must sit in judgment on the evidence and determine it valid or invalid, trustworthy or untrustworthy, strong or weak. When it has done this and has deduced a conclusion on the weight of the evidence, it has served its purpose. Will must then take over.” (Homer Hailey, That You May Believe, 19; Las Vegas, Nevada; Nevada Publications).
The evidence is clear that the Bible is the Word of God (if you have doubts, contact me and I will provide you with a plethora of evidence); and the Bible is clear that God perfectly understands the depths of our anguish, trials, temptations, and infirmities (as this article has set out to establish).
Therefore, you can know that God understands everything you face and struggle with, even to a degree which you yourself may never fully reach. The question is not, Is it true? The question is, Will you accept this truth and allow it to transform you?
The Incarnation is the ultimate demonstration of the fact that God relates to each of us..
Allow me to share the following excerpt with you.
In his insightful interview with Lee Strobel, Peter Kreeft discussed why the Incarnation is the ultimate answer of God to the problem of evil, pain, and suffering:
“”“I think Mr. Templeton is anthropomorphizing God by saying, ‘I couldn’t imagine how any intelligent being could bear this,’ ” Kreeft said. “And, yes, he’s right—we can’t imagine it. But we can believe it. God does, in fact, weep over every sparrow and grieve over every evil and every suffering. So the suffering that Christ endured on the cross is literally unimaginable. It’s not just what you and I would have experienced in our own finite human agony, physical and mental, but all the sufferings of the world were there….God’s answer is the Incarnation. He himself entered into all that agony, he himself bore all of the pain of this world, and that’s unimaginable and shattering and even more impressive than the divine power of creating the world in the first place. “Just imagine every single pain in the history of the world, all rolled together into a ball, eaten by God, digested, fully tasted, eternally. In the act of creating the world, God not only said, let there be pretty little bunny rabbits and flowers and sunsets, but also let there be blood and guts and the buzzing flies around the cross. In a sense, Templeton is right. God is intimately involved in the act of creating a world of suffering. He didn’t do it—we did it—yet he did say, ‘Let this world be.’ “And if he did that and then just sat back and said, ‘Well, it’s your fault after all’—although he’d be perfectly justified in doing that—I don’t see how we could love him. The fact that he went beyond justice and quite incredibly took all the suffering upon himself, makes him so winsome that the answer to suffering is—” Kreeft’s eyes darted around the room as he searched for the right words. “The answer,” he said, “is . . . how could you not love this being who went the extra mile, who practiced more than he preached, who entered into our world, who suffered our pains, who offers himself to us in the midst of our sorrows? What more could he do?” I said, “In effect, then, the answer to Templeton’s question about how could God bear all that suffering is—he did.” “He did!” Kreeft declared. “God’s answer to the problem of suffering is that he came right down into it. Many Christians try to get God off the hook for suffering; God put himself on the hook, so to speak—on the cross. And therefore the practical conclusion is that if we want to be with God, we have to be with suffering, we have to not avoid the cross, either in thought or in fact. We must go where he is and the cross is one of the places where he is. And when he sends us the sunrises, we thank him for the sunrises; when he sends us sunsets and deaths and sufferings and crosses, we thank him for that.”..We were clearly moving toward the climax of our discussion. The clues Kreeft had mentioned at the outset of our interview were converging, and I could sense an increasing passion and conviction in his voice. I wanted to see more of his heart—and I wouldn’t be disappointed. “The answer, then, to suffering,” I said in trying to sum up where we’ve come, “is not an answer at all.” “Correct,” he emphasized, leaning forward as he pleaded his case. “It’s the Answerer. It’s Jesus himself. It’s not a bunch of words, it’s the Word. It’s not a tightly woven philosophical argument; it’s a person. The person. The answer to suffering cannot just be an abstract idea, because this isn’t an abstract issue; it’s a personal issue. It requires a personal response. The answer must be someone, not just something, because the issue involves someone—God, where are you?” That question almost echoed in his small office. It demanded a response. To Kreeft, there is one—a very real one. A living One. “Jesus is there, sitting beside us in the lowest places of our lives,” he said. “Are we broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are we despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do we cry out that we can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Do people betray us? He was sold out himself. Are our tenderest relationships broken? He too loved and was rejected. Do people turn from us? They hid their faces from him as from a leper. “Does he descend into all of our hells? Yes, he does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote: ‘No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.’ He not only rose from the dead, he changed the meaning of death and therefore of all the little deaths—the sufferings that anticipate death and make up parts of it. “He is gassed in Auschwitz. He is sneered at in Soweto. He is mocked in Northern Ireland. He is enslaved in the Sudan. He’s the one we love to hate, yet to us he has chosen to return love. Every tear we shed becomes his tear. He may not wipe them away yet, but he will.” (Peter Kreeft in Lee Strobel, The Case For Faith: A Journalist Investigates The Toughest Objections To Christianity, 45-52 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
Friends, God loves you-more then you can imagine. Through the suffering of the Godhead, you can find healing.
Let Him bear your burdens and be your Savior.
After Jesus’ death, He was buried and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). God promises that those who hear His Word (John 6:44-45; Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24), repent of their sins (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37) and are baptized into Christ (Acts 22:16) will receive the remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Why not today obey Him (Acts 2:41) and allow Him to add you to His church (Acts 2:47)?
If you are a child of God who has not been living the faithful Christian life, won’t you please today repent of your sin and confess it to the Lord in prayer (1 John 1:9)?
If I can help you in any way, please call upon me.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.