/ suffering / Keith Evans

Persevering to the Point of Bloodshed

“Enough is enough!”

There are times this is the very cry of our hearts. Oh sure, we believe the truths that God’s grace is sufficient for each day. We believe we need not worry—that God cares for us. We believe he always provides the means to bear up underneath the present burdens (1 Cor 10:13). But doesn’t our experience often seem to disagree with these things we know to be true? We think, “I can’t take one more thing, Lord!” Or, “now this feels like the single straw that breaks…not the camel’s back…but my back!”

I’m sure this has been your experience. It may be your experience at this very moment, thinking you might not be able to keep going. Hebrews 12:3-4 is a close friend in times like these. Of the Lord Jesus, the author says:

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

That latter sentence may feel like a heavy word. It may strike you as, “You think your present difficulties are rough, it isn’t near as rough as it could be!” I have seen many disheartened by interpreting this passage in such a way. As though God were saying “suck it up, it’s not as bad as you think”—like the uncaring parent who flippantly says to the injured child “walk it off” or “brush it off.”

But that is actually the farthest thing from the Lord’s encouragement here. It is just the opposite. The first sentence (vs 4) grounds us in how we should be interpreting the second sentence (vs 5). The author is actually calling us to look upon Christ who did endure to the furthest extent. He alone is the person who bore the full brunt of suffering this life has to throw at us, and he overcame!

The encouragement for us, as we look to Christ, is that he bore such suffering for us, ensuring that we will never be pushed to the point of being “broken.” It is along the lines of what Paul says elsewhere:

“We are afflicted…but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:8-10)

The concept that the sword will never go the full way with me—the Lord will always ensure it is pulled back from the ultimate brink, is utterly encouraging. Not so with Christ, but always so with me. The idea that present troubles will let up before the ultimate piercing and final sword thrust, results in a contentedness amidst the horrendous storms. I can say in my own heart,

Okay, Lord, if you could resist and endure all the way—to Hell itself as it were—then in your strength I know I can resist what I’m facing a little bit more…my present sufferings are nowhere near what you’ve already done for me…so what I’m facing is “easy” for you by comparison.

And his answers always come in his timing. Often deliverance comes “with the morning,” as the scriptures often speak. How frequently have we had the experience of “when will this relent, Lord?!” and his salvation literally comes with the new day? It seems almost as though it is a biblical timeframe or something.

And sometimes his answers and relief come from the compassion and care of a friend—and when such is the case, we say along with Paul, “therefore we are comforted.” (2 Cor 7:13) Or perhaps the deliverance comes in any number of ways, but when it does, we can agree that, in hindsight, it was “momentary and light” as Paul continues in the 2 Corinthians 4 passage quoted above.

All of these trying experiences and agonizing sufferings are pressing us into the image of Christ—conforming us to his pattern and the pattern of the cross. It is, after all, as Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11, Oh that we would know him in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that we may know him and the power of his resurrection.

Those times when it feels like “enough is enough”, if we look to the One who endured to the fullest extent possible, we find a strange fellowship with him in the experience. We find a nearness of Christ in the midst of agony. It is as though we can flip the infinitely famous passage in Hebrews 4:15 around on itself, and find comfort in suffering. That in our weakness, we sympathize with our perfect high priest, who has endured every aspect of our human experience, and yet he did it without sin. And when we suffer with him and like him, though always tainted with sin, we understand what he has endured on our behalf, just a little bit more.

And for that, we can rejoice, and indeed that is enough.

Keith Evans

Keith Evans

Professor of Biblical Counseling (RPTS); Pastor; Married to Melissa. Father of 4 wonderful girls.

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