Friday, September 13, 2013

"The Sufferer"

   The norm of Christian fellowship involves our being vessels of God's illumination, encouragement, and challenge to one another.  "Exhort one another daily" commands the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:13).  We live for, with, and unto each other as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as mutual members of "the whole family in Heaven and in earth" (Ephesians 3:15).

    Such fellowship notwithstanding, there are times when, as A.W. Tozer once wrote, "the saint must walk alone."  Indeed, sometimes a John must be exiled to an island of Patmos if the Book of Revelation is to be written (Revelation 1:9).  In such times, we may feel as if no one understands, and perhaps that no one cares.  Our Lord Himself cried out on the cross of Calvary, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).  Somewhere deep within, we will know that Somebody does care, and that Somebody remains with us, just as He promised.  But we won't feel it.  Nor will our thoughts flow automatically with the current of faith.  Moreover, to make the challenge all the more heart-rending, our physical bodies may feel the brunt of aloneness and its overwhelming burden.

They go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end" (Psalm 107:26). 

    I try never to offer pat answers, or merely fling Bible verses at brothers and sisters experiencing such times.  I do, however, encourage the sufferer to remember the aforementioned Sufferer, and the truth that no one knows lonely like the Lord Jesus.  He entered far more deeply into the forlorn darkness than any other conscious being will ever experience.  The prophetic Psalm contains this utterness of despair: "
Why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent" (Psalm 22:1-2).  No other supplicant than the Lord Jesus can rightly utter these words.  We may feel as if we can, but the cries of all other humble and sincere hearts do, in fact, reach the ears of our Heavenly Father: "In my distress, I cried unto the Lord and He heard me" (Psalm 120:1).  Of the Lord Jesus, however, it can and must be said that on the cross of Calvary, He suffered being stripped completely bare of the presence of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  Yes, a Heart that had always known the joy of perfect love and communion with the blessed Others of the Godhead experienced utter abandonment as He was "smitten of God" (Isaiah 53:4).  No answer came when our Savior cried out His anguished "Why?"  Thus, He was left to suffer and die alone so that...

    ...We might never be left in such a forsaken place.  Again, we may not feel it in those times when we must seemingly hurt alone.  We may have a hard time getting our thoughts to think in terms of truth.  And we may feel the weight of all on our shoulders, and in every ounce of our physical frame.  It nevertheless remains true that God remains not only near, but nearer than at any other time.  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 42:1).  Always present; very present in trouble.   This is the God who so loves us that He promises, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).  He did, however, leave His Son to die alone on the cross of Calvary, and this is why we must always remember that no one knows lonely like the Lord Jesus.  And thus, no one can comfort us like Him either.  Sometimes, this may be all we have to carry us through those paths we must walk alone.  It will be enough, however, or better said, He will be enough.

"I am with thee; be not dismayed."
(Isaiah 41:10)

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