Christian, if we ever need genuine sympathy, it can be found in the sympathizing Jesus, who mingled His tears with the bereaved sisters of Bethany and suffered more than we can imagine. We see Him at various times in scripture weeping. For example, He wept at the grave of Lazarus when he died, He lamented for Jerusalem, and even for the world while at Gethsemane. (See John 11:35, Matthew 23:37, and Matthew 26:37-38) The compassionate Jesus cared for His people in Israel while in the wilderness by providing them with their every need: manna, water, and the pillar of cloud and fire. In Deuteronomy we see these promises and provision through the Lord in various places. In Deuteronomy 29:5, the Lord reminds Israel of this: “And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.” Then again He promises them, “Your sandals shall be iron and bronze; as your days, so shall your strength be…The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, ‘Destroy!’” (Deuteronomy 33:25, 27)
We are also told many times in Scripture to rely on the Lord for our strength and power, whether in times of distress or times of prosperity. In 1 Peter 5:7, Peter tells us, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Similarly in Psalm 55:22 the psalmist exhorts believers to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” In the story of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus, Jesus speaks of Himself as renewal and strength, saying to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Jesus loved, cared for and had mercy on countless people during His earthly ministry. For example, when John the Baptist’s disciples inquire about Him being “the Coming One,” Jesus confirms His miraculous care for those around Him, telling them, “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Luke 7:22b) Because of Christ’s unfathomable understanding and mercy upon us, as believers we know that when we need strength for the way, we should come to the One whose strength is made perfect in our weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9)
Let us consider the story and situation of Job in regards to suffering and Christ’s genuine sympathy. In Job 1:1 we are told he was “a man who was blameless and upright, one that feared God and shunned evil.” God had so blessed him for his obedience that he was “the greatest of all the people of the East.” (Job 1:3) He possessed seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred female donkeys, and had obviously prospered in his livelihood by God’s hand. Yet God allowed Satan to test Job by taking everything he possessed, including his family. Satan smote Job with boils so that he was forced to be quarantined from the remainder of the community. His wife urged him to “curse God and die.” (See Job 2:9) His three comforters asked him to confess his sin. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust him.” (Job 13:15) Even right after he has just found out that his entire household and all of his sons and daughters have died, Job still praised the Lord, saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Even though Job was suffering, the eternal God still ministered to him for his faithfulness and blessed him. Several times Job referenced “the shadow of death” in this book about his life and this experience of suffering, much like David used it in the well known Psalm 23 where he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Let us consider for a moment a famous psalm by David, Psalm 103. At the time when he wrote this, we can conjecture that David had already walked through many valleys of death. He had fought and killed a lion, a bear, and the mighty Goliath. David’s secret weapon in these feats was not his physical strength and power, rather, the power of the Lord. He admitted to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” Then, when David was in the palace, Saul threw a javelin at him, and his own son, Absalom, eventually tried to kill him, hunting him as a partridge. Finally, as David approached the last dark valley of life he wrote in this psalm, “I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding and guiding me all the way.” (Psalm 23:4) We know that as believers, just as God would never leave David, He will indeed never leave or forsake us. As Moses told all of Israel when they were wandering in the desert, the Lord promised them and promises us: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Beloved, this is a resource we have in our own beloved Christ.
The Love of Jesus
In Christ, we also have the amazing, unmerited resource of His divine, sincere, enduring and unfailing love. This sincere love can be found in the heart of the God who told forth its love in drops of blood. There is indeed no other love like the Lord’s love. In John 15:13, Jesus taught this matchless love saying, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jeremiah also testified to the Lord teaching about His love, saying, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3) The best description of the sincere love of Christ came from Solomon. In Song of Songs 8:6-7, he wrote this description: “For love is as strong as death…many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.” Jesus indeed loved us to the end of His ministry and will continue to love us throughout eternity. (See John 13:1) The Lord’s love for us is unquenchable because He loves us from everlasting to everlasting, regardless of what we have done. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul teaches, “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus’ love for us is also an enduring and unfailing love. In Psalm 37:25-26, the psalmist claimed, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging for bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed.” Jesus continues to love throughout the ages, from young to old. He loved Peter even through his denial of knowing Him, even back into the fellowship again. We see countless hymns in which this reality is brought forth in beautiful poetry. In the hymn, Glory to God on High, by Thomas Kelly, he wrote these words: “Love that no tongue can teach. Love that no thought can reach. No love like his. God is its blessed source. Death ne’er can stop its course. Nothing can stay its force. Matchless it is.” In George Robinson’s classic hymn I Am His and He Is Mine, he wrote, “Loved with everlasting love, let by grace that love to know; gracious Spirit from above, thou hast taught me it is so! Oh, this full and perfect peace! Oh, this transport all divine! In a love that cannot cease, I am His and He is mine.”
We also should be assured that we each have perfect protection in Christ. In Isaiah 43:2 we are told, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Psalm 46:1 likewise teaches us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Beloved, be confident in the fact that the one who made and holds the universe together has promised to be our shield, buckler, fortress, and high tower. Philippians 4:4-7 teaches us to let the God of peace also foster His peace in our lives. Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always…The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Psalm 91 promises us equally beautiful blessings through our Lord and Savior. The psalmist praised, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)