Finding Joy in Pain and Suffering

READ - John 11:1-16

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

- John 11:5-6  ESV


The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is powerful and like many of Jesus’ other works, quite perplexing. Isn’t it like Jesus to do the very opposite of what we think he should do, and yet each time it works out exactly as he planed. This story is no different.

John begins this story by reminding his readers of the great history, friendship and love Jesus had with Lazarus and his sisters. Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, sent word to Jesus saying, “he whom you love is ill.” They called upon Jesus because they believed he had the power to heal Lazarus. Yet Jesus’ response is baffling. Upon hearing that Lazarus is ill he stays two days longer in the place where he was. That seems odd that Jesus, who loves his friend Lazarus, would chose to wait two extra days before he even leaves to go to him. Why wouldn’t he save his friends the pain and sorrow of Lazarus’ illness and ultimate death?

The answer is found in verses 4 and 15 of chapter 11. Jesus says, “it is for the glory of God... and for your sake… so that you may believe.” Jesus is basically saying, he loves his friends so much that he allowed them to go through sorrow and hardship. That seems crazy, doesn’t it? When I think of loving someone, I want them to suffer and be in as little pain as possible, but Jesus viewed their suffering in a different light. Jesus knew that when they saw and witnessed his power over death, by raising Lazarus from the dead, his glory and love would shine bright. As they saw the glory of God unfold, their only response would be to believe and rejoice in the Son of God. Their pain, suffering and heartache would draw them closer to himself, resulting in greater joy, comfort and worship.

What does this mean for us? It means that our suffering and struggles, no matter how small or large they may seem, have great value and purpose. This doesn’t make our suffering any easier. Rather, it shows us that there is great joy to be found in the midst of our pain.

All of us will walk through seasons of pain and suffering at some point in our lives. But we also have the opportunity to view these painful seasons differently. Let us not run from pain and suffering but rather let us run to Jesus. In the midst of pain and struggle, we can thank God for our suffering, because we believe and trust that knowing Jesus is of greater worth and value than easing our pain could ever be.