Beautiful Suffering?

I have a student who’s quickly becoming a hero of mine. It’s not because he’s an all state quarterback or because she’s winning pageants left and right. It’s not about GPA or IQ or Ivy League acceptance letters. It has nothing to do with this student’s abilities or talents or wonderful personality. It’s all about heart. It’s all about the character of Christ that’s being formed and becoming more and more conspicuous in her life. It’s about her willingness to enter into the suffering of someone she didn’t even know. Not in a drive-by, handouts-for-Jesus kind of way, but in a day to day stepping into the mess that someone else has made in order to help them see a way out of it. It looks a lot like Jesus leaving a throne to be born in a stable to die on a cross to rescue us from the mess we’ve made of our lives.

In the last few days, I’ve been reminded that various causes result in different types of suffering in our lives:

There is a suffering that is like Job, losing everything through no fault of his own. It’s not deserved. We didn’t cause it. It’s difficult to understand, and often it’s tough to see the silver lining.

Probably more often, though, our suffering is the result of poor choices, either by us or by someone else. If I choose to live my life in a way that pushes people away, I’ll suffer through the loneliness that action caused. If I’m dumb enough to stick my hand in a fire, I’ll suffer the burns and scarring that will cause. If someone chooses to get high and drive down the interstate, someone else may suffer the consequences of their impaired abilities. This kind of suffering is probably the most familiar to most of us.

But there’s another type of suffering that always amazes me. I remember vividly a moment at a conference where I felt this type of suffering as I literally ached for a student who’s life at home was tearing her apart. It’s the suffering one person can go through on behalf of another when he enters into the other’s own suffering. It’s the kind of suffering Jesus did. And it’s the kind of suffering that makes heroes out of high school kids. As I looked into her eyes last night, the pain was evident. She was hurting ~ because she chose to love someone who was hurting.

There is beauty in this suffering, as the broken pieces of our humanity are joined together to form a mosaic that radiates the restorative power of God’s grace working in our lives. May we each love those who don’t see God enough to suffer with them. And in our suffering, may they see Him.

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