Do you think Jesus would understand?” my counselor asked.
The correct answer was “yes,” but I couldn’t utter that one word. I stared at the ground as I contemplated whether or not Jesus would really understand how I felt. Sure, he endured colossal agony, but did his pain weigh on him like my pain was weighing on me? He was the long awaited Messiah. How could he possibly grasp feeling insignificant and burdensome? My counselor stared at me as I tried to find something to say. “When I think about Peter’s three denials and how those incidents may have made Jesus feel, then yes, I could see how Jesus might understand. I mean, he knew his followers would be persecuted and killed, so I’m sure he felt like knowing him and being his follower was a bit of a burden,” I explained. “A necessary burden, but a burden nonetheless.”
Before I could continue retelling stories from the Gospels, my counselor stopped me and said, “You’re thinking about Jesus in his historical context. Think about him personally. Would he understand how you feel?” I was silent, still unable to utter that one word. “Did he feel alone in his suffering, like no one really understood what he was enduring? Did he feel like you feel now?”
At that moment, I realized I no longer thought about Jesus as a person. He had become a book to me. After several months of endless health complications, I placed Jesus on a shelf and let him collect dust. That was his punishment for not being a person—a friend—to me when I needed him most. He had to stay on the shelf until he proved he really was more than a book full of stories.
When my weeks of suffering began, I truly saw Jesus as a loving and faithful friend. But as my suffering progressed, he disappeared. For months my cries went unanswered. I came to him time and time again, but he didn’t seem to be there. Where was he?
The good, “Christian” answer is that he was right there with me the entire time. In the midst of the pain, the Prince of Peace was there. As I struggled, the Man of Sorrows shared in my suffering. I’m a theology student. I know these answers like the back of my hand. But what I know does not always align with what I feel. My wrestling with what I know and what I feel is best illustrated by one of the most controversial Christian songs, “A Prayer.” In a live recording of the song by Kings Kaleidoscope, the lead singer repeatedly asked where Jesus is in the midst of everything happening? Instead of immediately recording a response by Jesus, Kings Kaleidoscope recorded what many of us hear in these seasons of suffering: silence. For thirty seconds, all we hear is deafening silence. Instruments finally began to play, but Jesus still hadn’t uttered one word. Almost a full minute after the questions ended, Kings Kaleidoscope finally portrays Jesus as responding, and the response is too incredible to even write here (you’ll have to listen to it).
Throughout the past few months, I’ve been living in those thirty seconds of silence. I’ve been asking questions Jesus hasn’t responded to. I’ve been coming to him with tears, begging him to come close and wipe them away. I’ve been lost and lonely, wondering where he’s at. I’ve been living in those thirty seconds of silence. I’ve been anticipating that moment where Jesus breaks through the darkness and shouts, “I’m right beside you! I feel what you feel!” But perhaps the silence has a purpose. Perhaps the silence is growing my faith.
Cover photo by Luke Ellis-Craven.