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TRA WordTalks

Finding Meaning Through Suffering

John 12:27-28
26th June 2005

Back in mid-December 2003, a tragic accident changed the lives for 2 families forever. Sophie Delizio and Molly wood were unfortunately injured while at a day-care centre in Manly, (NSW Australia). A car crashed through the front of the day-care centre and ended up on top of both of the little girls. The subsequent fire burnt 90% of Sophie’s body consuming her hands and feet.

Each time her daughter, Sophie, was wheeled into theatre for one of countless lifesaving operations, Carolyn Martin prayed for Sophie because she knew every time she went in she may not come back. Sophie battled through five months in hospital and she required skin grafts to treat third-degree burns to more than 85 per cent of her body. She lost her feet, fingers and an ear in the accident, and will spend years recovering partial mobility. To date they are progressing well, but, are by no means out of hospital care. Sophie and her family recently had a big meeting at Westmead checking her progress. Sophie’s parent chose Wesley Mission nursing staff to provide here with all the on-going nursing care she will need. They were impressed with Wesley Mission nurses and our commitment to Sophie. Her specialised nursing care is fully funded by insurance. Little Sophie has become one of our best-known Australians. She should be “Australian of the Year!”.

Woody Allen said every person has five minutes of fame. It would also be true that every person has five minutes of panic often followed by long periods of consequent suffering. No matter how calm and rational we are, there comes to every life an unexpected moment of crisis followed by anguish and suffering.

It may be an accident, the sudden death of a loved one, a spouse or a child, an unexpected diagnosis by a medical specialist, a natural disaster, the final consequence of foolish behaviour long ago, the collapse of a marriage, your own or perhaps that of your children, or other crises. But at least once every person faces a crisis that is capable of inducing five minutes of panic and long periods of suffering consequently. At such a time as this, it is absolutely crucial for our sanity, as well as our recovery, that we find meaning in that suffering.

Jesus shows how He dealt with the greatest crisis a man can face. Armed soldiers were searching for Him. Death was only hours away. Death would be by the most painful form of suffering known to man, as you can see in Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ”. Jesus knew there would be no justice from the power hungry who felt under such threat from His teaching of openness and love and no avoiding hours of incredible suffering so great that most men would die of it before it was even half over. Jesus speaks about His feelings during those hours of imminent death. They show the psychological soundness of the mind of Jesus. No insight of psychiatry has ever been able to improve it. AS He faced His death Jesus opened His heart to us: “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27–28. Jesus talks, in an amazing demonstration of mental well being with a right understanding of personal significance, self-esteem, purpose and meaning in suffering as He approaches His crisis.

The Good News Bible translates one of these verses in an insightful way: “Shall I say, Father do not let this hour come upon me? But that is why I cam — so that I might go through this hour of suffering.” v27 This is a great insight: Jesus spoke of going through suffering. If we learn from Him, we will be able to face crisis, suffering and death with calmness and go through it. How can you go through a crisis? Jesus demonstrates five steps.

1. ADMIT YOUR TROUBLES

“Now my heart is troubled”. v27 Jesus was completely open about His troubles. There was no cover-up, no hushing up the realities and living a lie. Some people refuse to face a crisis. They will not mention the name of their medical condition. They do not want their families to talk about it. In a superstitious way they will not talk about their Will, as if by talking about their Will they shall bring on premature death and by pretending it does not exist, shall make it go away. But Jesus demonstrates you should admit your troubles. Such admission is a healthy way of approaching a crisis. Admission of trouble ends the stress of pretence. It allows arrangements to be finalised. It helps the person focus on what is essential in living the remainder of their days. It releases the tension of a crisis into activity. It helps you forgive and accept. Both the sufferer and friends start to go through a crisis if it is first of all openly admitted. You must then:

2. CONSIDER YOUR ALTERNATIVES

“Now my heart is trouble — and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour?’” Jesus considered His options. When some people hear a doctor’s diagnosis, or learn of what might lay ahead, they immediately give up hope, drop their bundle and resign themselves to pain, anguish and death. They do not think of the alternatives: there are other courses of action. There are other ways of facing life. There are alternative forms of treatment. There are other resources. There are new insights that will change attitudes. There are ways of going through suffering. But these are lost to the person who is resigned to fate. But Jesus demonstrates that we should consider the alternatives. A positive and creative approach to suffering and death will open these alternatives. In the alternative lies hope, courage, resources and the possibility of going through suffering. Many are willing to go through suffering if there is hope, courage, resources and the possibility that their suffering will be of benefit to others. People can go through suffering if they have found meaning in it.

3. MAKE YOUR DECISIONS

“Now my heart is troubled — and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour? No! It was for this very reason I came to this hour.” v27. Jesus faced His crisis and made a decision about what He would do. That decision gave Him resolve and enabled Him to draw upon His deep resources built up over years of prayer and living in daily confidence of God’s power and goodness. Some people bring upon themselves more pain by their indecisiveness and procrastination than by the trouble itself. They vacillate in accepting their situation and are indecisive in their attitude. They compound their crisis. But Jesus demonstrates that you should make your decision in regard to how you will approach this crisis.

Note the firmness of that decision: No! It was for this very reasons I came to this hour.” That firmness put steel into His backbone and strength into His resolve.

4. GO THROUGH YOUR SUFFERING

Jesus said: “But that is why I came — so that I might go through this hour of suffering.” v27 Jesus spoke of going through the crisis. He clearly sees the crisis is not the end. It is part of His experience, but there is more beyond. He intends to go through His suffering with faith, courage and hope. Some people see the death sentence ahead of them as a dark, lost and bitter end. There are facing no more than every human being faces, only they have been given a rough timetable. This has focused their mind on the end and they cannot see anything but despair and darkness beyond. But Jesus demonstrates that you should go through your suffering. Note that emphasis He made “that I might go through this hour of suffering.” He was not going to end in darkness and suffering but was going through suffering to come out the other end a whole person still. Suffering was on His journey. It was not the end of His journey. It was a part of life, not the end. Such people, who are full of life and purpose, live in faith and are sure of their resources. They see beyond death to light and life. That was His answer: in time of desperate, overwhelming, isolating pain, God can help you see it through!

5. GLORIFY GOD

“Father, glorify Your name.” v28 Jesus taught the goal of all life, the chief purpose of man, was to glorify God. “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

If your goal is right, whatever happens on your journey is part of that end. Some fear suffering and death as a meaningless waste, as if the suffering person can be of no benefit either to man or God in their suffering. They want to pack up immediately they hear the death sentence as it they or their loved one is of no further use. What a condemnation of the sufferer’s usefulness! Jesus demonstrates that we should go through our suffering and death and use it to the glory of God.

Many of you will remember Robert Bates. Robert was a profoundly disabled man who lived with us for many years in Pinaroo, then was an employee at David Morgan Centre, then lived in one of our Community Housing group homes. Robert was crippled in leg and foot, suffered badly from epilepsy, and then cancer. We continued to care for Robert in our Lottie Stewart Hospital. He attended our services here for thirty years, and sat on a chair at the door to the theatre giving out hymn sheets. I asked him to do that task, because it was saying to the world, at our Church services, everyone is valued and has a place in the service of God. Robert suffered more than any of us, and many times was injured as a result of falls, attacks from those stupid people who pick on the disabled, and from injuries incurred during bad fits. But Robert had a marvelous smile, was always interested in everyone, and loved our hymns of praise to God. Some members here became special friends to Robert and visited him in hospital faithfully until he peacefully died. Robert went through suffering. He found meaning in it. And in everything, he brought glory to God. He was like Jesus who made Robert’s life valuable.

It was the death of Jesus that achieved all that His life valued. His suffering and death made the whole of His life meaningful. Had He died of old age in a Galilean retirement village it would have meant nothing! Only His suffering and death released His power through the resurrection, to change the disciples from fearful and beaten men into courageous proclaimers of the Good News. His death enabled our sins to be forgiven; our life to be eternal; and the crises in our live part of God’s purpose for us.

To find meaning in suffering is the greatest of all discoveries that enable you to have a satisfying life. Finding Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is the essential step of faith that enables you to go through suffering with meaning and purpose.

Gordon Moyes


Minister
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