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A Thought for Today


by Terrell Tebbetts                  

Continuing my Lenten series on Christian themes, this week I’ve been thinking about human suffering. It’s a huge topic, of course, with countless books devoted to it, so in this short column I’m limiting my thinking to just one facet of it.

My Sunday School just class discussed that facet, an apt one as we think of the day Lent leads up to—Good Friday, the day Jesus was tortured and crucified. Jesus’ suffering that day gives Christians confidence that Jesus is with mankind in all our suffering, his arms open to comfort us, for He suffered all that we can suffer.

Have we suffered abuse by the powerful—by cruel parents, jealous supervisors, egotistical bureaucrats? Didn’t Jesus suffer at the hands of the Jewish and Roman authorities?

Have we suffered betrayal by those we’ve loved and supported—by friends who spread gossip, children who turn their backs, spouses who have affairs? Wasn’t Jesus betrayed by Judas, a man He had chosen and taught for three years? Wasn’t He denied three times by Peter, who wanted to save himself more than he wanted to stand up for Jesus?

Have we suffered guilt—remorse for words we can’t draw back, actions we can’t reverse, failures we can’t restore? Didn’t Jesus suffer all the guilt of every human being on the cross, experiencing the guilt of billions yet unborn?

Have we suffered humiliation, enduring public rebukes from schoolmates, teachers, parents, supervisors, even spouses? Wasn’t Jesus mocked by the Roman soldiers who placed a crown of thorns on His head? And by Pilate who crucified him as “King of the Jews”? And even by the soldiers at the cross and the criminal crucified beside him who sneered that He should save Himself if He was the Messiah?

Have we suffered want in its many forms—poverty, hunger, homelessness, loneliness? Didn’t Jesus commit Himself to 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and then to three years of penniless and homeless wandering as he travelled Galilee and Judea preaching and healing?

Have we suffered loss—the devastating loss of a beloved parent, a spouse, or even a precious child? Didn’t Jesus, who was the only begotten Son of the Father and whom the Father saw tortured and put to an agonizing death as a sacrifice for all humanity, embody that very kind of loss? Do we suffer physically, enduring the pain of chronic diseases, lifelong disabilities, and terminal illnesses? Didn’t Jesus have His back flayed in the Roman’s flogging? Didn’t He have nails driven through His hands and feet? Didn’t He hang for hours on the cross bleeding from multiple wounds and slowly suffocating?

Jesus suffered everything we can suffer. He knows our pain, our agony. He suffered all His pain voluntarily, for us. He weeps for us as we weep. He wraps us tightly in His arms. He whispers, “Know that I love you.”

Terrell Tebbetts is the Martha Heasley Cox Chair in English at Lyon College. He can be reached at terrell.tebbetts@lyon.edu.