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Podcast

The Intersection of Jesus and Your Suffering

Has suffering touched your life? No doubt it has. There are big trials and small trials that each of us walk through. Sometimes suffering can cause a person to lose their faith in Christ. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this today’s podcast  we are going to think about suffering. Suffering can come at us when we least expect it. Life seems to be going well and then a large incident comes at us. We might call that macrosuffering. Or maybe it is a series of smaller things that are repeated over and over.

Often we can think that Jesus’ presence is far away. Does he know about what I am going through? Does he even care?

I recently preached a short meditation on Jesus’ response to the death of Lazarus in John 11. There is much more there for a longer and fuller presentation. But this short message might be exactly what you or a friend or even your teen needs at this moment.

So take a listen to this short message I presented entitled Jesus Wept: The Intersection of Jesus and Your Suffering.



Topics Covered in This Week’s Podcast

00:15 Introduction

06:12 Scripture reading, John 11:1-6

07:17 Jesus Knows

08:56 Jesus Cares

10:13 Jesus Waits For the Glory of God

12:43 Jesus Offers Himself and His Promise

15:49 Jesus Calls For a Faith Response

18:21 Jesus Weeps

19:54 Jesus Acts

Episode Transcript

I’m Chap Bettis and you’re listening to The Disciple-Making Parent, a podcast of The Apollos Project, where we seek to equip parents and churches to pass the gospel to their children. Has suffering touched your life? I have no doubt that it has at some point. There are big trials and small trials that each of us walk through. And sometimes that suffering can cause a person to question their relationship with Christ. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Hi, my name is Chap Bettis and I’m the author of The Disciple-Making Parent. And in today’s podcast, we’re going to think about suffering.

You know, suffering can come at us when we least expect it. Life seems to be going well, and then a large incident comes at us. We might call that macrosuffering. Or maybe it’s a series of smaller things that are just repeated over and over and over. They seem to pile up. Often we can think that the presence of Jesus feels far away. Does he know about what I’m going through? Does he even care?

Well, I recently preached a short meditation on Jesus’s response to the death of Lazarus found in John chapter 11. And there’s certainly much more there in that chapter for a longer and fuller presentation. But this short message might be exactly what you or a friend or even your teen needs at this moment. So take a listen to this short sermon. I entitled it, Jesus Wept: the Intersection of Jesus and Your Suffering.

Before we start though, I’d like to remind you that we give away the audiobook of The Disciple-Making Parent for free. That’s right, absolutely free. All you have to do is write my assistant Melanie at admin@theapollosproject.com and request the audio book for the Disciple Making Parent. We really want to spread this message far and wide. So if you love The Disciple-Making Parent, tell your friends about this free offer. There’s more information at thedisciplemakingparent.com. But for now, let’s think about how the care of Jesus intersects with our suffering.

I have a distinct memory of a Sunday night, about seven and a half years ago. Sharon and I had just started coming to this church and someone remarked to me, “We are so glad that you’re here. We’ve been praying for older people.” I responded, “We will join you in that prayer because we are not an answer to that prayer.”

And yet I do remember the youthfulness of seven and a half years ago in the church and thinking that testing times will come. Throughout our lives, we experience moments of suffering, macrosuffering and microsuffering.

I’m thinking about a young couple in our church who just had a miscarriage of twins or a young woman who’s just lost her father. But maybe it’s the mother of a wayward son or the husband with a wife threatening to leave him. Or the single with the ache of growing older and longing for companionship. Or the married person growing older and the ache of longing to be single. Or a young woman horribly treated by those who were supposed to be trustworthy. Those are all macro sufferings.

And yet there’s also micro sufferings. Just the small daily sufferings that we pay out over time. You know, as a pastor, I think one of the things that we are to do is to prepare you for suffering because when it comes upon us, we’re always surprised. Oh, I didn’t see this coming. And it’s easy in those moments to ask, Why, God? Why me? And I would suggest rather than asking why, the better question is “What.” What? What am I supposed to do? How do you want me to respond? We need scripture to hang on to. So I want us to look at a passage that if you’re going through suffering, I think will be really helpful. And if you’re not, I’d encourage you to bookmark it to write in the margin for later and go back to it.

Let me just pray and commit our time to the Lord. Father, as we open up your word would you show us Jesus in a new way or remind us of him things we need to be reminded of. We pray in Jesus name, amen.

Take your Bibles and turn to John chapter 11. I want to talk tonight about suffering and I want to address it not so much from a philosophical point of view but from a pastoral point of view. John chapter 11. It’s a well-loved story of Jesus. It’s often brought comfort to many people. I’ve preached it at funerals, but in it, there’s a grid for thinking when we suffer. And it’s my hope tonight, that you will remember this passage that it open it back up when you walk through a time of suffering. And if you’re a note-taker, the main point is this: Jesus knows and cares about your suffering.

I’m not going to read all of John chapter 11, but we’re just going to highlight a few different points as we walk through there. So John chapter 11, we’re going to start in act one. We’ll call it act one, which is chapter 11, verses 1-6.

Now a man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. And it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent a message to him: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness will not end in death, but it is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now, Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. And so when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was.

I want you to look with me at a number of truths that come out of the passage. The first truth that comes out of this passage is just this: Jesus knows. Comfort in our suffering is remembering that Jesus knows. So the messengers have arrived, they’ve delivered the message, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” And so it’s very clear here that Jesus knows about the suffering. In a similar way. Jesus knows about our suffering. It’s tempting to believe, and I find this own temptation in my mind, he’s off. There’s a whole universe to run. There’s 7 billion people in this world and he’s got a lot. And so like a multitasking computer, I only get a little bit of him. And so it’s easy for him to forget what I’m going through.

A. W. Tozer, though, helps us see the truth. He said it this way, “An infinite God can give all of himself to each of his children. He doesn’t distribute himself that each may have a part”- you know, like a multitasking computer running around- “but to each one he gives all of himself as fully as if there were no others.” It’s just like in the whole universe, we’re the only person. So he knows about our suffering. It’s like on Sports Center. When the flashing circle is on the player, you’re supposed to watch. Jesus knows personally about our suffering. That’s the first truth.

The second is right in there as well: Jesus cares. Jesus cares. Comfort in our suffering is remembering that Jesus cares. Jesus, it said, loved Lazarus. The sisters use that as a calling card. “The one you love.” Jesus had friends outside of his disciples. Probably this was a family of some prominence, just a couple of miles outside of Jerusalem. Later when Jesus weeps at the tomb, the crowd remarks, “See how he loved him.” Comfort in our suffering comes from knowing not only that Jesus knows, but he cares.

He loves us as if we were the only one. God has adopted us. It’s not some cold clinical love. It’s the love of the father of the prodigal that runs and hugs the prodigal. This is the son. This is the Father who loves us. “How great,” scripture says, “the love the father has lavished on us.”

First truth, Jesus knows. Jesus cares. Here’s the third truth, though. Jesus waits for the glory of God. There’s the mystery of suffering. Jesus knows, Jesus cares, Jesus waits for the glory of God. We know that Jesus loves Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. We know he knows about their suffering. But he waits. It’s right there in the text. He doesn’t immediately act. And so  by waiting, in fact, Lazarus is going to taste death and Martha and Mary will be terribly grieved.

Throughout scripture when God is asked about suffering, he doesn’t answer the why question. To Job says, Were you there when I created the world? If you can’t tell me how the world is created, I don’t think you can handle the why of suffering. To Habakkuk, who seems to ask the same question, God says, I see and I’ll judge. But he doesn’t answer the why of injustice. With Jesus in Luke 13, probably the closest we come when asked about suffering, Jesus doesn’t answer philosophically. He says this: “Unless you repent, you also will perish.”

Jesus does not answer the suffering question. Like a parent holding a child to have a painful injection, or even feeding a cancer-stricken child medicine that’s going to destroy their hair, there’s mystery in the pain that we can’t understand. And so we must take Jesus words. This is for God’s glory, in that, in the raising of Lazarus in particular, there’s an opportunity for the father to glorify or show the greatness of the son. We know the rest of the story here in the chapter 11. Ultimately, this miracle is going to provoke and push his crucifixion very soon. God’s glory is ultimate in our suffering The Lord leads the children. He knows about it, and he loves through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus knows, Jesus cares, Jesus waits.

There’s a fourth truth here. Now let’s move to Act 2 in this drama, if we move down chapter 11. Because not only does Jesus know, care, and wait, Jesus offers himself and his promise. Comfort in our suffering is knowing that Jesus is there offering himself and his promises. You can see that further down. If you go down verse 17, when Jesus arrives there, Martha runs out, verse 20, to meet him. And then verse 21 it’s not clear. Is it disappointment? Is it faith? Martha says in verse 21, “If you had been here, he would not have died. But I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Then Jesus gives her a promise, verse 23. So Jesus is there. His presence is there. And then verse 23, Jesus says, “Your brother will rise again.” In suffering, Jesus gives his presence and he gives us promises to hang on to.

The Jews were unique in the ancient world. They believed in life  after life after death. Everyone believed in life after death, but the Jews believed in the resurrection: the life after life after death. And Martha responds positively. We’ll look at that. She responds positively in verse 27. “Yes, I believe. I believe he’s going to rise again when that comes.” And then Jesus gently corrects her. In a sense, he says the resurrection is not just an event. The resurrection is a person. Verse 25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet he shall live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Here’s one of the great I am statements by, by Jesus. The resurrection is not just an event that we look forward to, it’s a person who delivers the event, a person who is life himself, eternal life who will wipe away every tear, who will turn turn evil into good.

In The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis  talks about in the death of Aslan, that the table would crack and death itself would start working backwards. Death is working backwards through Jesus. In the midst of the suffering, Jesus is changing her view of himself, and there’s a lot we could unpack there about him being the resurrection and the life.

The fifth truth, not only does he offer himself, but look in verse 26, Jesus calls in the midst of suffering for people that he loves. He calls for a faith response. “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” This is not just mental assent. Do you believe? And she says, Yes, I do. Verse 27, “I believe that you are the Messiah.”

C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers in our pleasures, he speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” It’s God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. God is speaking. In our pain, when we’re suffering, God is getting our attention and calling for a response. Will we respond in faith or not? If you’re not a follower of Christ or you’re just checking it out, as you wrestle with the question of suffering, perhaps going through suffering, really, all of us have the person of Jesus come to us and say, I am the resurrection. I am eternal life. I am it. Do you believe this?  That’s the invitation tonight. I’m the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this? Yes, she says, and I commend that same response to you. It’s a trite but true saying that suffering will make you better or bitter. It will not leave us unchanged and we can respond to Jesus in faith or rest on his promises.

Jesus knows, Jesus cares, he waits, he offers himself in his promises, and he asks for a response. I want us to look at two more truths here. Number 6, he weeps. Verse 35, when there’s scripture memory contests, it’s every child’s favorite verse, “Jesus wept,” and yet it’s one of the most puzzling and profound verses in the Bible. Jesus, a grown man who has delayed to come and is about to raise him from the dead, doesn’t just get choked up. He cries with tears. How manly is that? How puzzling is that? Verse 36, “See how he loved him.” Jesus hates death. Jesus, love weeps, loves cries aloud. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of being comforted by someone who doesn’t truly understand what you’re going through. It’s helpful, but it’s not deep. Jesus knows deeply Isaiah 53 for surely he’s born our griefs and carried our sorrows. In our pain, in our suffering, we can know the Lord better if we will draw close to him. Isn’t that true in the human realm? We can laugh with anybody. We only cry with our closest friends.

Jesus knows, Jesus cares, Jesus waits. He offers himself in his promise, and he calls for a response, and he weeps. We turn to act 3, and we see that he acts. Jesus acts. Comfort in our suffering is knowing that Jesus is going to act, and you see it right there when he raises Lazarus from the dead. Verse 43. “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out. Someone has said if he didn’t put the name Lazarus in front, everyone would have come out of that graveyard.

Here, we return to the mystery. There are times in our suffering when Jesus comes and acts in it and raises the dead, changes our circumstances. And there are other times that he doesn’t. And the miracle is giving us the strength to go through it for the glory of God. He will act. He will turn back everything. He will wipe away every tear, maybe now, definitely later. Either way, Jesus will act.

So when seven and a half years ago, when someone said, “We’re praying for older people,” the truth is, Sharon and I have seen some years. And you know that those years involve suffering. If we’re human, we’re going to suffer. And yet, how we respond to that matters. In that time, I encourage you, go back to this verse. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. He may be waiting for the glory of God, and yet he offers himself. He offers his promise, and he asks for a faith response for us, even as he weeps with us in the middle.

Let’s pray together. Lord Jesus, what a great comfort. There is so much injustice and pain around us. There are victims even in this room. You have planned a valley for some in the later part of 2021. And yet it’s not because you’re off running the universe somewhere. You care and love us. We look forward to that day when you will wipe away every tear. But in the meantime, as you take us good shepherd through those valleys. Lord, increase our faith in you. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

You’ve been listening to The Disciple-Making podcast, a ministry of The Apollos Project. For more information about the book, The Disciple-Making Parent, visit thedisciplemakingparent.com.