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When Life Hurts

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DID YOU KNOW...Just Between Us (JBU) is a non-profit ministry that offers a quarterly print magazine?

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When Jesus’ friend Lazarus was ill, his sisters Mary and Martha sent word for Jesus to come. Yet Jesus delayed His journey, and by the time He arrived, Lazarus had died. We don’t know why He waited, but we know how it feels when God seems absent in our hour of need.

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We may cry out, like Mary and Martha, “Lord, if only you had been here…” (John 11:21, 32 NLT) or with the crowd, “Couldn’t he have done something?” As N.T. Wright writes in God and the Pandemic, “The question echoes down the years, with every new tragedy. Why did God allow this? Why didn’t God step in and stop it?”

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Grief and loss, physical and mental illness, abuse and violence, infertility, abortion, addiction, suicide… The list goes on and on. How do we make sense of suffering? Some can be traced directly back to sinful choices. Others seem unexplainable. The world’s greatest theologians have delved into these questions, so I won’t even try. But this I know: God cares about your suffering.

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Jesus had two reactions to the death of his friend: He was angry, and He wept. The New Living Translation says that when He saw Mary weeping for her brother, “a deep anger welled up within him” (John 11:33 NLT); the Amplified Bible says He was “deeply moved in spirit [to the point of anger at the sorrow caused by death]” (John 11:33, AMP). And then He wept.

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These are two very human responses to suffering and tragedy. You may have the same feelings. It serves to remind us that Jesus was and is, after all, fully human. He was tempted just like us, and He knows our sorrow and pain.

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Because He is also fully God, Jesus knew that the Father could, and would, raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet His tears for His friend and for those who mourned him were real. As Wright notes, “The God who John has told us became incarnate in and as Jesus of Nazareth is the God, the Word-Made-Flesh, who weeps at the tomb of his friend.”

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I don’t pretend to know all the answers. But I know my Jesus. He is the same human-Jesus about whom Isaiah wrote: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. … Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. … 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” (Is. 53:3-5). And He is the same God-Jesus who said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). He is with you now.

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If you’ve experienced suffering, if you know how hard it can be when life hurts, we at Just Between Us (JBU) hope you take comfort in knowing that Jesus cares. We offer many articles written by Christians who have experienced similar heartache and loss. Our prayer is that these resources will bring you hope and encouragement as you seek to trust God when life hurts. 

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