Being diagnosed with lupus in high school meant I experienced many highs and lows in regard to my health, including two times the lupus became life-threatening. Because of this, I thought nothing could surprise me. I was wrong. In October 2008, my liver once again became inflamed and I was told to take a week off work and rest. By this time, I was used to my liver being inflamed. It had become a warning system to me and let me know when I needed to rest and not push myself quite so much. Knowing this, I did what I was told, fully expecting to go back to work the following week. Again, I was wrong. Week after week went by and I never got better. By the time my doctor told me I needed to apply for disability, almost every organ in my body was inflamed – the area around my heart, my lungs, stomach, liver, small and large intestines, and kidneys. To say I was in pain is a gross understatement. There are no words to describe the excruciating agony I lived in twenty-four hours a day for months on end. Night after night I would take medicine to help me sleep, and night after night I was awakened by the sheer intensity of the pain. In those long, sleepless nights, one question constantly consumed my thoughts: “Does God even care?”
I spent weeks on end studying Scripture for an answer to my question. I knew the theological answer was yes, but I didn’t feel like God cared about me. I needed God to answer my heart’s cry, and I hoped and prayed I could find an answer in the Bible. God used many passages in the Bible to answer my question, but Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the passages God used the most.
In this passage, Paul talks about Jesus and all He did for us so that we could have a relationship with God. I have to admit, I have been guilty of having a flippant attitude when it comes to all Jesus endured in His life. I grew up in church and learned the story of the cross and resurrection, along with the church lingo at an early age. Yet Paul describes what Christ went through using descriptive words in Philippians 2 that make it difficult to continue viewing Christ’s death in the same light.
Verse six through eight of Philippians 2 says that “although He (Jesus) existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The original language Paul uses explains more than modern translations about what Jesus gave up when He became a man. A more literal translation of these three verses would say, “Jesus, being fully God, chose to not forcibly attain or assert His authority. Although Jesus never stopped being God, He set aside the privileges and glory of being God, and took the form of a slave when He willingly gave up those rights to become a man. As a servant to God, Jesus lowered Himself by listening and obeying God until He died on a cross.” It’s also notable that at the time Jesus died, crucifixion was the most degrading type of execution, one reserved for the worst kind of criminals. So why did Jesus do all of this? In a word – us. He did it for us.
Looking at all Jesus went through for you and me, it’s hard to ask the question, “Does God even care?” He made it abundantly clear that He cares about us when He sent Jesus to die on a cross to save us from our sins. It also begs the question, “If God Himself experienced trials and suffering on this earth, who are we to think we shouldn’t have to experience suffering?”
Suffering will never be easy or fun. It will never be something we get excited about, and I seriously doubt we’ll ever understand why we’re going through difficult times. I think there are many things we’ll never understand this side of Heaven. But one thing I do know – God DOES care.
I hope and pray this truth washes over your lives like rain in a desert, because when you truly know that God cares about you, the suffering you endure won’t seem nearly as unbearable. So comfort yourselves with this truth: God sees your hurt; He hears your cries; He’s with you through it all, and He cares.
“This is why God has given Him (Jesus) an exceptional honor — the name honored above all other names — so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will kneel and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” ~ Philippians 2:9-11 (GW)
(c) August 27, 2012