“Don’t you just hate Christians whose lives have always been so happy?” a friend said to me some years ago. “I have no interest in hearing their testimony and little interest in hearing them teach, because I cannot relate to that.”
I thought it was an odd thing to say. At the time, I believed that if I always sought God in every aspect of my life, committed to being obedient to Him, then everything would always work out all right. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…”(Romans 8:28).
But then I faced a crisis where everything did not turn out all right. I sought God and earnestly believed He had led me to marry a man who loved Him. Five years later the marriage disintegrated. Still I believed that if I prayed hard enough or fasted long enough, this marriage could not end in divorce. But then it did. And where was God?
Hebrews 5:7-9 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of his reverent submission. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what he suffered, and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”
Knowing what was coming, Christ begged God in utter desperation to deliver Him from this fate, and He was heard – but being heard did not change what God had called Him to do. Even though Christ was already perfect by nature, there were apparently some things that even He could only learn by experience. Christ learned the full meaning of obedience through His suffering. And through this experience of suffering there occurred a completion of His perfect nature – the kind of completion that connects him to us in the most intimate, empathetic ways.
Christianity is all about relationship -- our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
It is not our all-too-happy Christian lives that draw us most deeply into relationship with others – but rather it is our pain. The honest pain that testifies, “Yes, I have been there and I know it’s hard and it hurts.” It is in these tender places that our lives can most powerfully testify to Christ and His Gospel – not that He will rush in like a superhero and remove the pain, but that He is faithful to walk with us regardless of what He asks us to walk through. For in those places of pain, He is most poignantly there.
Do we really want to be perfected? It is a question not to be taken lightly. If Christ, being perfect in nature had to suffer to learn obedience and experience a completion of his perfection, we can only speculate what it would take to complete our own sanctification.