Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Finally, Someone Who Understands!

When I was a teenager, we rarely got through a meal in my house without some kind of outburst. Let me clarify: the outbursts were on my part. I was a passionate young thing with strong opinions. Unfortunately, they were usually opinions opposite to my dad’s. Many dinners ended for me when I went stomping away from the table, furious with my father, slamming my bedroom door for emphasis before landing face-down on my bed with a sob. “He doesn’t understand anything,” I would tell my pillow.

It is a lonely feeling when we know we are misunderstood. Last semester, I stood alone on a theological issue in my class. As I tried to make my conviction clear, the professor had a baffled look on his face; the rest of the class couldn’t get where I was coming from, either. I felt isolated and insecure, knowing they didn’t see things in the same light as me. It actually brought me to tears.

There is One who understands everything we must go through in this life. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Tempted in ALL things. No matter what we have to endure, Jesus has been there before us.

In the past few weeks, I have gotten in touch with several old friends via the internet. While it is wonderful to connect with them again, much of our communication has been heart wrenching. Divorce, suicide, bankruptcy, a death of a child—all terrible, tragic, excruciating events—have affected the lives of people I love. The agony they bear is beyond description. While I can’t even begin to empathize with their pain, I know that Jesus can. They can draw near to the throne of grace with the confidence of knowing they will be understood by the King of Kings. Because He has been there.

My friend’s husband walked out without a word of explanation after 30 years of marriage. Abandonment? Jesus knows all about that. At the hour when he needed his friends the most, Matthew tells us, “Then all the disciples left Him and fled” (26:56) Suffering abuse at the hands of another? Jesus is the expert on that one. “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him” (Matt 26:67) Out of money? Jesus can identify with poverty. He was a king, but a palace wasn’t in the plans for His stay on earth. “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt 8:20) Exhausted? Overworked? He's got that one nailed. “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31). Feeling like no one understands you? Jesus has been there. “Jesus said to them,” Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand?” (Mark 8:17).

Every problem we encounter, every ache in our heart, Jesus has felt before us. He is the one Person in our lives that really, really gets us. He is the only One who can say with confidence: I know how you feel.

The Hebrews passage doesn’t stop there. It reminds us why we would approach the throne to begin with: “So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” Not only can He completely empathize, but He has the power to get us through the worst that life can throw at us.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grief to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

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