Advent begins. With it comes strife, hardship, and sorrow. You wonder how you’ll be able to rejoice this season, if any of Christmas’ delights will delight you, if any of its warmth will warm you or penetrate the heart you’ve kept guarded from further disappointments and grief.
Christmas is either the most wonderful time of the year, or the most difficult. It’s either laden with nostalgia and favorite things, or it’s full of memories that cause your heart to ache and your spirit to yearn for relief. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
For the suffering, Christmas seems to carry with it a sharp edge and a sour taste. When the pain feels unbearable, the relationship unchangeable, the grief immovable, and the disasters irreparable, what we need most isn’t relief; we need a Savior who can enter into our pain.
The next four weeks of Advent, we’ll look at Jesus Christ, our Suffering Savior, how he came into the world and into hostility; how he came to save sinners, and to overcome.
When Jesus, the incarnate God, came into the world, yes, there was joy. Shepherds guided by a prophetic star. Angels gloriously rejoicing on high. A wonder-filled Mary and Joseph, beholding their newborn, the Son of God, in the simplicity of a stable, and treasuring him.
But there was also suffering. Grief. Evil running rampant at Herod’s jealous hand, as he ordered all male infants stolen from their parents and murdered. Imagine the wailing in Bethlehem, the unexpected pain, the helpless torment in knowing nothing could be done about it.
Jesus Christ came into this world. A world infected by sin, scarred by human hatred. A suffering world full of suffering people.
God himself came. We don’t worship a Creator who stands far off, aloof and disinterested, having once spun the world into motion only to leave it be. We worship a King who has entered into our pain, who chose to cede his rightful throne for the humble birthplace of a stable. A Savior who was born into literal chaos. A suffering God, still fully in control.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)
What kind of Creator is this, who enters into the very suffering caused by the sin that first scorned his rule in the garden? What kind of King is this, who not only comes into a sinful world, but sees fit to enter it as a baby? What kind of Lord, who patiently spares us from just wrath so that many more will reach the repentance of faith? What kind of suffering Savior, who chooses submission over entitlement, humility over reign, service over demand?
The Sufferer’s Savior
Christ Jesus came into the world, into suffering, and because he did, rest assured he knows your pain, your grief, your disappointments. Rest assured, he understands, empathizes, and weeps along with you. He walks alongside you, even in your lowest depths (Hebrews 4:15).
But he doesn’t leave you there.
Sufferer, your Savior is just that—a savior.
The original sin that’s caused all the suffering you now see and experience will not have the last word, for Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and has had the final victory. The Savior suffered to defeat death’s sting and to ground you in a firm hope, his promise that resurrection is your future—not pain, tears, or death—but life. Life with him. Forever.
The advent of Jesus is the advent of hope for a suffering world. For suffering people. For you, and for me. This is our God who came into the world, our suffering Savior.
For further reflection, watch John Piper’s “The Innkeeper.”