As the Pastor read through the process of the crucifixion, what struck me the most throughout the awful depiction of the most horrendous example of suffering was that every aspect of the crucifixion was intended to cause pain. Pain wasn't just an unfortunate side effect of the death penalty. It wasn't a malfunction of equipment of death. We all have heard of capital punishment proceedings in the past where people, equipment, or medication have failed, leaving the death process slow and painful for the accused. The crucifixion wasn't even a dereliction of responsibilities by the Roman officers, as we often see depicted in movies, where those responsible for death have such extreme hatred that they purposefully make the process more difficult and painful for the prisoner. No, the purpose of the crucifixion was to cause PAIN. The Roman soldiers who beat, abused, and maligned Jesus Christ were following orders when they struck Him with the whip. They were following protocol when they nailed His feet and hands to the cross.
As agonizing as it is to listen to the process of crucifixion and what our Lord endured, it is at the same time encouraging because we know the end result of His suffering. I think that as we go through this life with trials and disappointments, and confusion and pain, it is comforting to know that our Savior knew pain. He knew the shame of embarrassment. He knew the agony of abuse. He knew the piercing ache of abandonment and betrayal. He knew the torture of physical pain and mental anguish. Nothing we have experienced is this life is unknown to Him. He truly does know our pain. (See Isaiah 53).
The pain Jesus endured was for our good - without it, there was no atonement for our sins. But this pain should also remind us that our Savior isn't a far-off distant, detached god who doesn't care or empathize with out lives. He weeps with the abandoned child. He is pained when we feel ashamed and separated from God. He mourns with us when we lose the ones we love. He hold us and says, "I understand" when we go through the difficult trials in this fallen world.
What's even better than having an empathetic Lord is having one who will never waste the pain that we endure. He will take your lonely, broken heart and heal that pain, but also use the experience so that you can truly empathize with someone else. I can never understand a drug addict's ordeal and suffering, but I do remember the shame of self-abuse. I don't know the awful experience of a broken marriage, but I can understand the perfectionist's fear of never measuring up and the fear of failure. The people that we can most help are ones who are experiencing the same pain from which we'd been delivered. God won't waste the pain you have experienced in your life as long as you allow Him to heal you and use you.
I found this quote the other day and thought it summed up everything I've been trying to say:
"You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience." ~AB Simpson