Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
-2 Corinthians 1:3-5
We are studying Christianese half-truths on Sunday mornings in church. Quips such as, God helps those who help themselves are given biblical scrutiny to see what exactly scripture and the Lord really say. Spoiler note: God nowhere tells us that we must help ourselves in order to be helped by our Creator. This last week we looked at this beauty:
God will never give you more than you can handle.
It sounds so good.
It’s a lie.
Anyone suffering from heartbreak, loss, physical pain, emotional torment, and the agonies that befall humans born into sin will tell you that it can, and sometimes does, break them. Survival alone does not mean much during the long night of the soul. But we still, as a Christian culture, hold fast to this lie. Showing ourselves weak, dependent, broken, or otherwise weighed down by the present darkness somehow means we no longer trust God. If Jesus is my example, then the last sentence is rubbish.
We read in Acts 2:22-23, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
Jesus was delivered up to be crucified by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Jesus knew the plan! In case you question whether God the Father let Jesus in on the plan, here are Jesus’ own words. And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” -Matthew 20:17-19
So, Jesus knew the plan and was submitted to it. But then, why would Jesus need to cry out in a loud voice on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -Matthew 27:46 Christ knew the answer and yet He still wept in grief beseeching God for an answer to the pain and isolation he was experiencing. It was more than Jesus could handle.
Yes, indeed we do experience trials that are more than we can bear. What we never experience is a trial that is not met by the comfort of a Father who loves us. And perhaps that is of greater value. Going into seasons of great difficulty with a preconceived idea that anything you face is ultimately manageable does very little (in my opinion, nothing actually) to draw our gaze to our Savior. We set our shoulders, hunker down, and prepare to withstand – by sheer survival if necessary – whatever may befall us. And certainly, we may very well survive. But how often can we come out of these seasons with a softer, more tender heart that better understands the merciful love of a God who does not forsake or abandon us?
Rather, I draw courage from the Wellspring of Life as He tells me that I can draw near to Him in times of distress. He hears my cry and acknowledges it. He will lavish upon me comfort for my wounds and then provide me with the means to share that comfort with others. I am not suffering in vain. It may be more than I can handle at the moment but it is not without the very great presence of a Savior who loved me enough to suffer death on my behalf.