To the Sinners and Sufferers

I know that I am a beloved child of God and a friend of Jesus. I’ve known that since I was a kid. I talk about it, read about it, sing about it, even pray about it.

But most days on this earth, my felt experience is that of a sinner and a sufferer.

I know that I am made righteous with God because of Jesus. But lately, I have been painfully aware of my lack. Of my need. Of how much I screw up. How often I get it wrong.

I know that the healing peace of Jesus is offered to me each day. But what describes most of my days is anxiety rather than peace, it’s frustration rather than calm, it’s pain rather than joy.

It feels like something should be different.

I think that’s what draws me longingly to the idea of eternity. I have a gnawing sense that things aren’t right, that they should be different. And it’s comforting to know that they will be.

But in the here and now, so much of life is sin and suffering.

Yet I think it’s the awareness of my sin and my suffering that bring me the closest to the heart of Jesus.

Jesus came not for the righteous, but for the sinner (Mark 2:17). He draws closest to the sinner. Not the one who sins the most, but the one who most acknowledges the sin they do have. Not because he loves the sin, but because it is in the process of acknowledging one’s own sin that we allow Christ to heal us. And that is His greatest delight.

Lately I’ve been stuck in 1 John 2:1: “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus’ desire is not that I sin. But when (not if) I do, I have come to know that he is my advocate with the Father, fighting for my righteousness. A righteousness that is not my own. And that is Jesus’ greatest delight.

I think I am more aware of my sin these days not necessarily because I screw up more (although some days it feels that way), but rather because of God’s grace. It’s a great mercy to be made acutely aware of your sin and helplessness. Because it’s in that space that we are drawn closest to the patient and forgiving heart of Christ. Christ is found on the other side of repentance.

Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest (speaking about Jesus) who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

The word translated for empathize quite literally means to co-suffer. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to co-suffer with us.”

Suffering draws me closest to the heart of Jesus, because in that process Jesus is co-suffering with me. Jesus did not only suffer for me in the past, but He is also suffering alongside me now. He wears my pain. He carries my burdens. I partake in the very heart of Jesus through my suffering.

The very next verse in Hebrews writes: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Jesus is co-suffering alongside me, so I can approach the throne of grace with confidence. What’s more, it’s there that I find the mercy and grace I need for today.

I look forward to the day sin and suffering will be no more. But until then, may my sin and suffering drive me right to the heart of Jesus.

If you’re a sinner, you’re in good hands. If you’re a sufferer, you’re in good company.

To sin and to suffer. This won’t be my experience forever. But most of the time, this is my experience for right now. And it’s what has been drawing me to the heart of Christ more than anything else.

Your fellow sinner & sufferer,