Carrying the Suffering of the World

Take a few moments to sit and think about a time in life that you experienced bone aching, earth shattering grief.

Perhaps it was the night that you realized your marriage was empty and lonely, seemingly hopeless. Maybe it was those final weeks in the hospital watching a dear loved one pass away and the anguish of seeing someone you care about suffer.

Maybe it was the loss of a significant job or opportunity that you had poured yourself into.

Perhaps it was a crushing financial burden in which you were unsure how to work your way out of the situation.

These seasons of suffering in our life are accompanied by great grief. I’m talking about the grief that interrupts your sleep, the grief you literally feel aching in your bones. The heaviness of life that makes us wonder why we should get out of bed.

Our physical bodies take a toll to the emotional pain this world throws at us.

The sin of others: a betrayal, being cheated on, someone in power over you acting cruel or belittling you. All these things place burdens on us. Our muscles are tense, our head pounds. There is a heaviness.

Perhaps it is the consequences of your own sin: you sit with the guilt and shame of wounding someone you love, you feel overwhelmed by the constant self-indulging and self-gratifying behaviors you continually participate in. You carry shame and sorrow.

Then there is just the consequences of living in a fallen world. Our bodies can be consumed by cancer, our minds affected by the constant noise consumerism produces robbing all peace, the polluted air heightens our kid’s asthma and we spend weekends in the ER. We feel discouraged, annoyed… we grieve over the consequences to us and our loved ones that these random attacks have on our health that we have no control over.

This is part of the weight of sin. It is heavy. It is painful. This weight at times can be too much to bear and we suffer, we languish, we grieve.

On Good Friday, Christ bore that weight. Yes, he paid a penalty for the world’s sin (Isaiah 53:5) and the atonement is a beautiful thing to reflect on today, but he also bore the weight (1 Peter 2:24) of our sin. But even still, the weight he bore is much more than the examples I just described.

We navigate through life and feel the weight of our broken world because of our individual experience with pain and suffering. But Christ, in entering our humanity, bore the weight of the entire fallen world. Every individual along with all of creation. We hear our individual groanings that this is not the way it is supposed to be, but Christ heard, felt, and carried on his shoulders the groans of all creation.

Imagine for a moment that you didn’t only feel your own burdens and pain, but the weight of every other person sitting in your church. Imagine you felt the pain that lingers in your friend who experienced sexual abuse as a child as though it were your own, imagine the most grotesque and shameful sins represented among your network of friends…what would it be like to feel the weight of those sins as though you yourself had participated in every single act? Imagine that you could feel the grief that led to every tear that was shed by someone in your church from this last year over death, broken bodies, and failing health.

To carry the weight of others suffering is extremely challenging and painful. Imagine not just carrying it for those in your circle of friends, but for the entire world for all of human history.

That is what happened on Good Friday.

Christ carried the burden of the entire world’s suffering, pain, and shame. This was part of the anguish Jesus experienced as he prayed for God’s will to be done in the Garden.

Jesus didn’t just pay a penalty in the sense of being a prisoner for our sake…he actually bore the shame and stigma of being a prisoner. He felt the loneliness and hopelessness that presses down on prisoners.

Jesus didn’t just pay the penalty for adultery. He felt the shame, experienced the heartache of the victims, felt the grief of the wreckage caused by this.

Jesus didn’t just break the curse of death, allowing creation to get one step closer to being renewed. He saw the wreckage death has brought into the earth, he felt the pain, shame, and aloneness of the lepers. He endured the pain of a suffering mother whose child died too young from cancer. He carried the doubt of the blind. He knew the isolation of children with autism and what it felt like to be dismissed.

Jesus didn’t just spend a few hours on the cross in order to establish his kingdom. He experienced the full weight of oppression and the consequences of injustice that every single system, institution, and government brings down on all of the weak and all of the vulnerable.

Consider the following verses as being more than a substitutionary atonement. Paying a legal penalty for our sin IS a part of the cross, but it is more than that….consider the weight Jesus bore for our sake. Consider what it would have been like to hold the shame of all sin. Consider the experience of carrying the devastating consequences of all sin. Consider the beautiful, terrible cross….

“He himself bore our sins (think beyond individuals, think global/cosmic/all of human history) in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds (think in addition to physical wounds, the emotional weight and anguish) you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” –Isaiah 53:5

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” –Isaiah 53:4-5

These are weights be can barely handle carrying for ourselves, they are weights we try and fail to carry with our loved ones, they are weights we would never consider carrying for our enemies. But this is the good news, that while we were still God’s enemy…he entered our humanity and bore the weight of all suffering that sin produces in this world. Thank you Lord for Good Friday.

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About dennaepierre

I am the executive director of The Surge Network and am the founder and president of Foster Care Initiatives (www.fostercareinitiatives.org). Most of my foster care/adoption related blogging has been moved to that site. This is my personal blog that I use to reflect on aspects of theology, culture, and our day-to-day life that includes being married to the pastor of Roosevelt Community Church, having a house full of kiddos (biological, adopted, and foster teens), and living in downtown Phoenix.
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One Response to Carrying the Suffering of the World

  1. Dennis says:

    This is an amazing and powerful description of what happened. “Love so amazing …” Kind of puts in perspective our puney little sacrifices that we think are so great.

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