Why should I follow Jesus if I'm still suffering?
Why should you follow Jesus if you’re still suffering?
A poignant question that haunts many of us. We have committed our life to Jesus, we are faithful to our church communities and/or our prayer life. However, despite our seemingly faithful life, we are still experiencing the pains and struggles from before our commitment.
If Jesus is not going to take our troubles away, why should we follow him? Jesus was confronted with query very similiar to this and he responded in a very unexpected way (as we have come to grow accustomed to from Jesus). I am primarily going to be pulling from an interaction in Matthew 11, but first John the Baptist.
Do you remember John the Baptist from the beginning of Jesus’ story? He was a crazy guy who lived in the wilderness, ate locust and wild honey, and sported a ridiculous fashion. He is also the one who would prepare the stage for Jesus’ arrival and would eventually baptize him.
Well, that same guy went to prison.
While in prison, John hears all the stories of what Jesus is doing: healing the sick, casting out demons, eating meals with tax collectors and prostitutes, and it left him scratching his head. Surely, this is not the Messiah he had envisioned. He was waiting for the hammer to drop, but Jesus was not showing any signs of this.
I mean, John rotting in prison right now! Surely this was not part of the plan!
(3) So he questions Jesus, Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?
Meaning, John the Baptist had the highest expectations of what the coming Messiah would do and accomplish and Jesus was seemingly not living up to any of those expectations. He was not casting out the Romans, but instead demons; he wasn’t eating with royalty, but with sinners and tax collectors. What gives?
There are many expectations people come to Jesus with. For some, they expect that by committing their life to Jesus all their worries, anxieties, illnesses, or stress will be alleviated. However, they are soon met with the harsh reality that following Jesus does not always lead to a road of comfort, health, or security.
So if Jesus is not going to fulfill what we expect, why should we follow him? Does Jesus actually have anything to offer if he doesn’t provide us with what we desperately need?
All I want is a peace of mind from my anxiety and depression. I hate these cold thoughts of imagining a life where I am no longer in it. Why won’t Jesus free me from the shackling restraints of my mind.
I do not feel safe anymore. The world is a dark place and I can’t seem to find a place where I can feel completely at peace. Why won’t Jesus provide me a place where I can be safe?
My health is declining and there is nothing I can do about it. The doctors have tried everything, I have remained faithful, and yet I am slowly dying. Why won’t Jesus heal me?
There doesn’t seem to be anyone who loves me. I have friends and family, but I don’t feel desired, pursued, or wanted by anyone. All I want is for someone to value me and to show me by their love. Does Jesus even love me?
These are not bad things for us to expect from Jesus. And the same is true for John the Baptist. He was a faithful predecessor to Jesus and yet here he sits, rotting in prison. Maybe you call this doubt, or a lack of faith on John’s part.
I call it life.
Notice what Jesus does next. John is doubting Jesus, but Jesus never belittles or doubts John. In fact, he does the very opposite:
(7-10) Speaking to the crowds about John, What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in king’s palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
Jesus exalts John the Baptist to the crowd saying, you went into the wilderness to see a prophet, but you witnessed someone who is more than just a prophet. He is the one that was promised in Isaiah and Malachi. Even in the midst of doubting who Jesus was, Jesus exalts John the Baptist in front of all these people.
You should follow Jesus because even as you doubt, slander, and walk away from him, he is still exalting you.
Notice that “exalting” John does not mean that he is released from prison. In fact, John would die in prison before seeing Jesus’ mission on earth coming to its completion. Jesus did not bend to the desires of John and what John expected.
Jesus is not a vending machine that we can merely stick our “faith coins” in and receive whatever it is we are desiring. There are many things in your life that you will suffer through and experience that Jesus will not provide you a direct relief from. That’s the reality of life and something that becomes more and more evident the longer we live. So, what’s the point in following Jesus, then?
Jesus will exalt you to play your role in the Kingdom of God.
(16-17) To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
This generation (you, me, humanity right now) have expectations of what the Kingdom of God should look like. Like children in a marketplace expecting people to dance to their music, we have an expectation of what Jesus should look like. We have an expectation of how things should be done in our life and in the world.
(19) But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.
Notice that Jesus leaves this interaction by stating it is not about how much you know, but by how things play out in reality. Basically, ‘just watch and see what happens.’
All expectations of what would happen are blown out of the water when Jesus hung on the Roman cross. But that’s what Jesus does; he shakes us out of our expectations and reveals a new reality to us. He reveals a love that transcends anything that we have ever experienced. I don’t know what you are going through right now, and I can only imagine that it is painful.
But do not discredit Jesus’ love for you by his lack of redeeming you from your pains; Jesus has never worked this way.
Jesus exalts you by dying for you.