Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

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A Question of Suffering

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read the story of Jairus and his dying daughter, and harboured just the tiniest bit of resentment for the sick woman who interrupts everything and causes this desperate man so much grief. I can see Him pulling and tugging on Jesus’ sleeve … Hurry Jesus … hurry … you can come back … she will still be here but my daughter may not … I can see him bouncing on his knees in his impatience to keep moving, to get back to his precious child before it is too late.

And then Jesus finally finds this woman after asking through the gathered throngs. She falls to his feet. They talk. She is commended and Jesus finally, finally, turns back to poor Jairus. But by then it is too late. For Jairus has seen them across the crowds. His servants have come to find him. And when his eye meets theirs he knows. Is the instant of his knowing an eternity for him? Does he let go of Jesus’ robe? Do his arms hang limp at his sides? Does he fall to his knees? Can he breathe? She is dead. He’s too late …

The natural human heart cries out at the injustice. There’s no cutting in line! Wait your turn. Triage, and priorities are what’s fair. But an old woman is healed, and the little girl dies. She had lived with her condition for twelve years, couldn’t she wait just a little longer? Couldn’t Jesus? It is very easy to be resentful at the perceived wrong.

Until …

Until you suffer like that sick woman suffered. Until you spend a year not being able to eat. A year of being at the whim and the command of doctors and prescriptions and tests and procedures. But not one answer to be found. And then you begin to understand. And suddenly you feel less resentment and more kinship. Less anger and more pity.

Suffering is suffering. The intense punch of tragic circumstances, or the long drawn out frustrations that lead a person to the point of despair and the proverbial end of the rope. Each is terrible in its own way. Terrible in a way that you would not wish on anyone – ever. But suffering in all its forms is a part of everyone’s life. That’s what sin does. It hurts us, it bleeds us, it kills us. It causes us to resent, to lash out, to decry the unfairness of it all. It causes us to feel that our cause is the right, our suffering is the worst, and our need is the greatest.

And then Jesus goes and has sympathy for everyone.

He stops and takes time for one and for all. Suffering makes no distinctions in this life and neither does Jesus. His grace is a gift for you and me alike. His healing, his help, his forgiveness and compassion are there for the sick woman and the dying girl, for the young and the old, the grieving and the frustrated. And that ultimate healing, forgiveness and compassion would find their place upon the ultimate source of suffering … the cross. There he bled for that sick woman. There he died for that dying girl. There he cried out “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” for me … for all those times I placed my own suffering above that of someone else; my needs before someone else; my sense of right and wrong in place of his own. There upon the cross Jesus bore all our infirmities to the grave that one day we might rise with him and Jairus’ little girl, forgiven and healed, just like that poor sick woman.