When Suffering Prolongs

By: Hunter Jones
In Luke 7, Jesus does something incredible. He goes out of His way to raise the only son of a widow from the dead. Here, we see His great compassion for us in the midst of our suffering, and we see His great authority (authority even over life and death!) on display.

But following this passage is the story of John the Baptist, imprisoned and sending messages to Jesus through his disciples. John wanted to know if Jesus really was the Messiah, and if He was the One who would “…proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).

The answer John received was clear, and stood in seemingly stark contrast to Jesus’ act of healing on behalf of the widow’s son. Jesus was indeed the Coming One, the Messiah Israel was waiting for, and the one who would set captives free, but He wasn’t coming to set John free from his physical bondage in prison, or his impending death.

The question in light of Jesus’ response to John is this: What was John the Baptist supposed to do, having realized Jesus was not coming to free him from his imprisonment or impending execution? What do we do when Jesus doesn’t free us from our suffering? How do we move forward? How do we continue our lives on this side of heaven until we return to Him or until He comes again? How do we live on in the face of great pain, tragedy, loss, sickness, or disappointment—even disappointment in how our Savior chooses to answer our prayers?

As a couple who is well-acquainted with suffering shared, “We keep going back to Him. We keep reminding ourselves of who He is. We keep talking to Him—and we’re honest, because He knows what we are thinking and feeling. We just keep going back to Him, even when we don’t understand.”

This is not an easy answer. Because this answer is not a one-time act or a one-size-fits-all next step. This answer is a relationship—a relationship with the One True God. A relationship with the same gentle, compassionate, and seeing God who went out of His way to give life to the dead son of a widow, and the same God who chose not to save a faithful follower from impending death on earth. 

The answer to the question: “What do we do when God does not free us from our suffering?” is, we lean into a relationship with Him. We lean into a relationship with our God, who has authority over life and death, and who can do with both whatever He chooses, but who is also gentle, compassionate, seeing, and a very present help in trouble.

So, will we be offended when God does not free us from our suffering? Or will we lean hard into a relationship with Him, bringing all our cares, tears, questions (and maybe even feelings of offense) to His feet, and trusting that He is the same God who healed the widow’s son, even if He does not do the same for us?
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