Please begin with prayer for an open heart, before you read the passage below. Isaiah 53:4-7, 10-11 – 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes this life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Please read through 52:13-53:12 to gain a better context.
The reality of pain and suffering is a tremendously challenging issue when it comes to faith and the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, all loving God. I think one of the biggest issues with the problem of pain, is due to our lack of perspective. We generally feel like we have been hurt the most or everyone’s out to get us---this leads to comparison and self-pity. We only tend to compare to those around us that we think have had a gentler ride so far, so that we can justify how ‘unfair’ (really…what’s fair???) we are treated in our upbringing, at work, by our spouse, by our friends, etc. Now, please don’t think that I am negating the pain in any of our journeys---again, it’s very, very real! We just need to look outside of ourselves to gain a broader perspective. There is always going to be someone with an easier road and someone with a much harder road.
With this shift in perspective, we must accurately assess who we think God is. For years, I perceived him as this mean, stoic, white-bearded, crotchety old dude that for lack of a better illustration, would sit atop the anthill and fry ants with a magnifying glass. I was guessing that He just loved to zap people and couldn’t wait for us to miss the mark. If we honestly spend any time in the Scriptures, we see a totally different heart. If you have children you can relate---children make choices, very dumb choices at times and these choices bring pain upon themselves and others around them and can also begin to sever relationships. This breaks your heart! This is the narrative of Scripture---God valued love, freedom, and relationship above the potential of pain when He created humanity. For there to be the possibility of these tremendous values, there is also the possibility of pain. Scripture records thousands of years of God’s children following Him, rejecting Him, returning to Him, denying Him, loving Him, hating Him, and on and on it goes.
All of Scripture points to Jesus, period! Isaiah 52 & 53 includes prophetic words about how humanity would treat this Messiah and it includes tremendous pain. Christianity is so unique among the world’s major religions in that we have a personal God that enters our pain! Hebrews 2:17-18 says, ‘17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.’
God valued the restoration of humanity much more than the pain, suffering, and the temporary separation with His own Son. When you look at Jesus’ ministry, He never shy’s away from pain, suffering, or brokenness, but He enters directly into it!! In humility, He gave up His place in Heaven and entered our world, like one of us. He suffered more than we did, was tempted in ways we can’t imagine, and gave up His life to make a possible way back to God. Notice I say possible way, because people continually reject Him and the life and forgiveness He offers!
This is the God that I want to follow! Not some impersonal, distant, unrelatable deity, but Jesus, who gave up everything, so we could have everything. We don’t get clear explanations as to why we suffer, but we can gain perspective through our suffering and realize the lengths our Savior went through to reach down to us! It’s very humbling to see what He went through for me…for you…for us. When I step back, I get the smallest sense of what Job felt like in Job 42. (Read Job 38-42 for extra credit!!)
In your suffering, do you get caught up in your situation or are you also able to step back and see the whole of humanity? Do you compare your hurts to those around you? Why? Does Jesus’ going through pain give you perspective and hope through your own trials? I would love to hear your journey and how this passage impacted you.