The Bible is filled with the testimony of suffering fathers. Think of the certain suffering of our first father – Adam – when his son Cain murdered his son Abel. Consider the suffering of Noah as he foresaw the destruction of his community and the then known world. Mediate on the suffering of Abraham as he longed and prayed for a child – only to have God demand that he give the child up to a premature, sacrificial death. Contemplate the pain of Isaac in his relationship with a son who deceived him – with bitter consequences. And all these examples are contained in the first few chapters of Genesis! And so the story goes on – Jacob almost dies of a broken heart when he looses Joseph – David is crushed when his son Absolom rises again him and claims his Kingdom – the Father of the prodigal, in a continual brokenness, looks out to the horizon every day for many years – longing to see the rebel returning.
But all of the pain contained in these experiences are but a pale shadow of the pain we find residing in the heart of The Father. In the book of Hosea we are presented with a God whose children have rejected him – a Father whose sons and daughters have turned away to worship the sex gods of their generation [not much has changed] – yet he cries out in his anguish, anger and desire for retribution –
“My heart is torn within me,
and my compassion overflows.”
Hosea 11: 8
We don’t very often think of God like this. More often than not we see God as detached from pain and suffering – especially our pain and suffering – but nothing could be further from the truth! His heart is eternally broken. Our God is a God of infinite love – and, as Thomas à Kempis says, “There is no love without sorrow”. He is our “Man of sorrows” – he was and is “acquainted with deepest grief” [Isaiah 53] and he is acquainted with ours – “Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.” [Isaiah 53]. It still does!
If you are grieving today, over loss, tragedy, the unfairness of life, the misunderstanding of others, circumstances, or your own sin, weakness, failure or pain – at this very moment, closer than your next breath is The Suffering One who has been there before you, is still suffering for you and longs to embrace you in his loving arms of mercy and grace. He longs to whisper – “My child – I know how your feel in these moments – for I suffer with you.” It is hard to believe – but never the less it is true.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4: 14 – 16