Jesus’ acute nearness in suffering…I don’t have the words to explain it to you.
All I can hope for is a close approximation, something that casts a vision or projects for you a shadow of what I am learning firsthand.
I’m not sure what to call this suffering-joy. It needs its own word, for an ineffable something that I can feel to the tips of my toes, but remain unsure if I can speak.
But I think I must try, for it is, in the end, great glory to a good, good Father.
My house is full of life.
My comfortable family of four has transformed into an amalgam of nine very different people, often under one roof. When friends were hurting, we were positioned to be a refuge. So we took a plunge, off a steep cliff, into the dark.
What happened when four became nine?
Realities of the world outside the four walls of our home hit us hard. Very hard. We knew before that these realities existed. But we didn’t really know what it was like.
What do hard realities feel like?
They feel like words too big to fit through your throat, a roundhouse kick to your stomach, or a stranglehold on your lungs. It hurts, terribly. It can be consuming and draining.
But that’s not so very strange. People don’t wonder at suffering being hard. That’s just how it is.
Here’s the strange part: I’m not really sorry about it.
Certainly, I am not glad for evil, or the effects of sin, but I’m actually very tremendously glad to be suffering in just this way, just now. Not because it is pleasant.
But because Jesus is coming clearer.
People often say, “This drove me to my knees.”
Maybe they use those words so much because that’s a very good word picture of how pain actually works. Life grinds us down until our knees are the only place we have a hope of standing. Before God in prayer–this becomes the only way to navigate harsh, painful moments.
Prayer becomes like breathing in these times.
This what I call Jesus’ “acute nearness.” Acute means sharp, poignant, clear, stabbing, profound. That’s what is happening to me. His proximity grows more and more obvious to me these days. His truth becomes precious and a thing desperately craved. I need Him. Now, right now, for this next breath.
I have never had days like this. Wow, have they ever been hard! I’ve never felt anything like it.
But Jesus is so close. So dear. Everything.
I can’t bring myself to be sorry.
“And since we are his children, we will share his treasures—for all God gives to his Son Jesus is now ours too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting patiently and hopefully for that future day when God will resurrect his children.”
– Romans 8:17-18, TLB –
This isn’t a post about my troubles. This isn’t even a post about sharing the burdens of others.
This is a reminder for you, when the winds of suffering are about to blow you down.
“Courage, dear heart,” Aslan whispers to Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
This is my whisper to you. “Courage!”
Whatever came yesterday, whatever happened today, whatever tomorrow holds–run to Jesus. His acute nearness in suffering will make you wonder at the joy that can come out of pain, and the laughter that is born in the middle of tears.
He makes the bitter sweet.
God doesn’t ask us to wish for bitter. But when sorrow comes, Jesus is far more than worth it.
I can testify to that.
“We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will [lead to] to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.”– 2 Corinthians 4:15-18, Phillips –