Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:3

 

Difficult to look beyond the isolated reflection of an autumn leaf.Are you still recovering from Thanksgiving celebrations after two days of digestion and perhaps one day’s rest from Black Friday madness? I hope your Thanksgiving was one filled with reciprocal love between friends and family, deep connections with God and your faith community, and perhaps even a great shopping deal on that must-have electronic gadget. Thanksgiving week is often filled with diverse experiences depending on what country you live in, the traditions of your family, or your stage of life.

My wife and I usually head over to some relative’s feast, hunt for a Christmas tree on Friday or Saturday, and then prep for Sunday services. These are all usually pretty joyful things in a typical year.

But perhaps we’re having an atypical year. My wife’s mother has been exhibiting extreme symptoms from Parkinson’s dementia that have brought a lot of grief and suffering to everyone involved. Her father just received some really bad health news this past week, which I won’t go into detail here. Ministry budgets are tight, so people are stressed and wondering if more cuts will need to come. A faithful ministry partner is leaving our church to begin a new ministry on the east coast. This has been a difficult week that no amount of good food or acquisition of any electronic gadget can fill. I want to “get in the spirit” of this Thanksgiving season, but there’s just so much bad news that it’s just harder for me this year. Perhaps you know someone having a tough time. Perhaps this person is you. What does our Scripture have to say?

“Consider him who endured such opposition.” The Bible doesn’t offer a trite saying to cheer you up so I won’t try either. Instead, God offers himself. Jesus, the Lord of the universe, chose to endure ridicule, abandonment, betrayal, and physical pain. As our churches prepare for Advent, I can’t help but think of the name, “Immanuel.” God with us. God in our skin. The Suffering Servant. So I will consider him this Thanksgiving week and trust that gratitude will find its way out of my broken heart and toward my lips in due time. Learning to experience actual joy amidst suffering like Jesus is what we’ll focus on in tomorrow’s devotion.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Was this past Thanksgiving week one filled with great news or bad news? If there were good things, what were you most grateful for? If there were bad things, what was the most devastating? Do you have a faith community with whom you can share joys and endure griefs?

Does it help you to know that Jesus himself endured so much physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual pain? Have you ever experienced gratitude amidst suffering and hardship? If so, what helped you grasp gratitude when it wasn’t natural to do so?

How could you offer comfort to someone suffering this week? If you are experiencing hardship, whom could you reach out to?

PRAYER:

Father, it comforts us to know that Jesus himself experienced so much suffering and chose to endure it for our sake. Yet we have some very real hardships going on that are robbing us of our joy. As we prepare for worship tomorrow may we know that the best worship we can offer you is an honest heart that doesn’t hide our disappointments. Fill us with gratitude as we realize how much you have given us for this life and the life to come. Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryEnduring Hardship, Pursuing Peace (Hebrews 12:1-16)