“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” (Matthew 1:23)
For many people, Christmas is the most brutal time of year. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, a recent divorce, loneliness, or something else, Christmas can be a sad reminder that life is not how it should be. Even if Christmas is a happy time for you, the indwelling power of sin and the general brokenness of the world is a testimony that life is not as it should be.
If you are suffering this Advent season, you might ask, “Where are you, God? Why do I suffer so much?” When we are at the lowest point, we may ask questions, but answers aren’t what we really want. What we want (and need) is to be embraced by someone who has been there.
On that first Christmas night, when Mary bore Jesus in a dirty stable, the world was no different from ours. It was filled with disease, war, oppression, injustice, famine, hunger, and hatred. The problems were less noticeable because Mary and Joseph didn’t have Twitter or CNN, but they were no less prevalent. While “long lay the world in sin and error pining,” the baby boy Jesus, entered with a most precious name: Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
The God of the Bible is sovereign over the entire world, including all the brokenness. Yet he is not immune to suffering. He enters this broken world and suffers with us. God may not always give you answers. But he gives you himself, which is better than answers.
In Jesus, God joins us in our sufferings and sadness. In him we meet “a man of sorrows…acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces” (Isa. 53:3). When you are weighed down with the brokenness of this world and wondering where God is, take comfort that at the end of his life, Jesus asked his Father the same question: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Take comfort, too, that Jesus was actually abandoned by God so that you can rest in knowing God will, truly, always be with you. Especially in your sufferings.
Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Isaiah 53:1-12
- Isaiah 53 is rightly associated with what Jesus did on the cross. But how does this passage help you understand his incarnation (i.e. his taking on flesh)?
- What are you going through right now? Does it feel like God is with you? Why or why not?
- How does the fact that Jesus knows what you are going through, better than you do, help in times of hardship?
- How do you try to avoid suffering? This Advent, how can you embrace suffering, like Jesus, and pursue God in the midst of it?