As believers in Christ, we seek to understand everything in light of the Cross. The Gospel is the lens though which we understand the world, draw strength for daily living, and discover ultimate hope. Nowhere is this truer than in the area of suffering.
While there are many passages that teach us how to suffer in light of the Gospel, Hebrews 12 is one of the most vivid. Notice how the author weaves together our suffering with the suffering of Jesus:
Jesus’ Mission (vv. 1-3)
- Jesus endured suffering (vv. 2-3)
- The end of His suffering is glory (v. 2)
Our Mission (vv. 4-12)
- We endure suffering (v. 7)
- The end of our suffering is fruit (vv. 10-11)
For the author of Hebrews, Jesus’ suffering serves as a pattern for us. There is even a repetition of a key word: “endured” (vv. 2, 7). Just like a zipper brings together the teeth on both sides of a garment, the author zips together our suffering with the cross of Christ.
This pattern is not unique to the book of Hebrews. The apostles routinely call us to understand our own suffering in light of the cross. Consider Romans 8:16-17: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Peter does something similar: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
What does this mean practically? The only way that a believer can come to grips with suffering in his or her own life is by coming to grips with the pain in Jesus’ life. We cannot even understand suffering apart from the Gospel. This is why the passage in Hebrews begins with the words, “Consider Him…” (v. 3) In other words, when you as a believer experience a trial, the first move is always to look to the cross.
It has been wisely said, “If God can make sense of the suffering of Jesus, He can most certainly make sense of the suffering in your life.” Hebrews 12 reveals four important points about Gospel-centered suffering: the possibility, the progress, the purpose, and the potential. We uncover the first in the next post.