Is it Okay to be Sad in Your Suffering?
This is the third podcast that is dropping in August, that I am recording in July in anticipation of my third brain surgery on August 4th to relieve pressure on one of the nerves in my brain that’s caused by some blood vessels that are compressing that nerve. I don’t know exactly, as you listen to this, what phase of the recovery I am in. Having been through this twice before, I know that by the third week, I’ve been doing a lot better in the other two cases. I’m starting to get around a lot more easily; I’m starting to be able to do more; I’m looking ahead in that third week to being able to be cleared by the surgery team to be able to do some other things than the kind of slower, more cautious things I’ve been able to do up to this point. So again, I don’t know exactly. There’s not necessarily one-for-one. All of my recoveries have been a little bit different. But anticipating being out in the month of August, I am pre-recording these podcasts in July, and I am obviously thinking about suffering.
This week, on the podcast, I want to talk about being sad in your suffering. I want to talk about the fact that suffering hurts. Suffering is suffering. As I think about that, I think about a man who was a member of the very first church where I was a pastor. I was a young man in my young 20s, and in that church, there was a man named Joe Brunson. He was married to his wife named Ann. My wife Lauren could tell you that Joe and Anne Brunson are two of the sweetest people we’ve ever known in our lives. They’ve created some of the sweetest memories that we have of church people in our lives. And this was just an elderly couple in that church that loved us and invested in us before we even had kids. Their house went right up to the property of the church, and they would have us over for dinner and for lunch after church on Sundays. And they were some of the kindest people we’ve ever known. Joe walked with much difficulty. He needed a walker, and he was very slow moving around. He talked to us one day at lunch and was telling us that the injury happened way back when he was a teenager. He used to deliver flowers off the back of a truck. One day, the truck jolted to a start when he wasn’t ready for it, and he fell off the back of the truck. And he landed on the curb, right on the curve of his back. He said that, and I winced, and I said, oh, that must have hurt. He looked at me like I was an idiot. And he said, of course, it hurt. It’s supposed to hurt when you fall and land on your back. Not only did it hurt, then it hurt the rest of my life. And he walked with a limp immediately, and throughout his life, he had difficulty walking, and he walked with pain and with a limp. And even up to the point when I knew him when he walked with a walker.
There’s a lesson in there about suffering. He said it’s supposed to hurt when you fall. I think about that, and I think about our suffering and our trials that we experience in this life. Sometimes there are some Christians who make it seem like if you’re a really strong Christian if you’ve got a lot of faith in the Lord Jesus, you’ll be able to go through suffering and pain and trial and difficulty in this sort of above the fray sense where you just kind of float through it and nothing has any impact on you, and you’re just basically okay, and everything’s great. That is not a biblical view, a Christian view of the way we endure sufferings. The best example I have of that is Jesus Christ in John 11. You remember in John 11, where Lazarus, whom Jesus loves, gets sick, and he dies, and he is buried in the grave. Jesus shows up to Bethany, where Lazarus lived four days after Lazarus died. Jesus is encountering his sister Mary, and he’s encountering his sister, Martha, and they are broken over the death of their brother, and Jesus is trying to minister to them. Jesus is ministering in the midst of enemies who hate him. Jesus’s friends, Mary and Martha, wonder why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus and Jesus, and his enemies wonder why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus, and Jesus asked to be taken to the tomb. And you have to know the end of the story. The end of the story, as you remember, is that Jesus standing at the tomb is going to say, “Lazarus, come forth,” and the dead man is going to obey, and everyone is going to be shocked. They’re going to marvel. People are going to believe in Jesus, it’s going to be this glorious, glorious thing, but at the tomb, as Jesus stands there with everybody crying, nobody knows that that is going to happen, except Jesus. Jesus knows it’s going to happen. Jesus knows what he came there to do. Jesus knows that he’s going to unleash massive power and demonstrate victory over the grave. But as Jesus knowing all of that, he experiences the pain of Mary and Martha and the others. And it is recorded for us as he does that. In John 11:35, these simple words, “Jesus wept.” Jesus wept. We remember that verse, John 11:35, as the shortest verse in the Bible. We ought also to remember it as a profound demonstration of a faithful and painful response to suffering. Jesus Christ is perfect. He’s the infinite Son of God. More than that, he’s getting ready to unleash power that’s going to correct all of this pain. But before he does it, while he sees the pain while he’s witnessing the pain of other people, he identifies with that pain. He goes through the pain with them. Jesus Christ, knowing everything that he knows as the perfect Son of God, goes through suffering and pain in the midst of the loss of Lazarus.
This is a lesson for us and how to respond to suffering. It’s supposed to hurt when you go through suffering; you’re supposed to cry. When you’re going through a hard time, the Bible is clear that there are blessings in suffering. The Bible is clear that God is working for our good when we go through pain. We need to know what those blessings are; we need to look to them. We need to trust the Lord who gives them. We’re going to talk about that a little bit next week. But the fact that God turns evil for good, the fact that God brings good out of pain, doesn’t mean there isn’t real ache in the suffering. It doesn’t mean we don’t hurt along the way. Here’s the lessons for this week. First of all, it’s okay to be sad. If you’re going through a hard time, and it hurts, and you’re grieving. If you’ve lost a loved one if you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death with someone you care about whose life is slipping away. If you’ve lost your job, if people are mistreating you, it’s okay to be sad. It’s supposed to hurt when you fall. And it’s supposed to hurt when you go through suffering. If you’re going through suffering and it hurts, it’s working right. We don’t live in a world where they’re supposed to be suffering. We live in a world where there is suffering, but it’s not supposed to be that way. And when it hurts when we suffer, that’s our bodies crying out righteously that the world is not supposed to be that way. We’re supposed to long for the day when Jesus undoes all suffering for everyone who trusts in him. Here’s another lesson. Don’t be one of those cold-hearted people who thinks that when you go through a hard time, you’re supposed to just be happy and disconnected. Don’t be one of those people, and there are people out there. Don’t be one of those people who rebuke folks for being sad in their suffering. Look at Jesus. Jesus saw the suffering of others, and he joined with them in their sorrow, and if that’s true of Jesus, then we can say that sometimes the greatest expression of faith, sometimes the greatest expression of profound trust in God, is a sorrowful response to suffering.