MAY 11 – HUMAN SUFFERING: LEARN WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT IT

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

HEBREWS 2:18

Anything that gets as much space as the doctrine of human suffering gets in the Scriptures should certainly receive careful, reverent attention from children of the new creation.

We cannot afford to neglect it, for whether we understand it or not we are going to experience some suffering.

From the first cold shock that brings a howl of protest from the newborn infant, down to the last anguished gasp of the aged man, pain and suffering dog our footsteps as we journey here below. It will pay us to learn what God says about it so that we may know how to act and what to expect when it comes.

Because suffering is a real part of human life, Christ Himself took part in the same and learned obedience by the things which He suffered.

It should be said that there is a kind of suffering which profits no one: it is the bitter and defiant suffering of the lost. The man out of Christ may endure any degree of affliction without being any the wiser or the better for it.

There is a common suffering which we must share with all the sons of men—loss, bereavement, heartaches, disappointments, partings, betrayals and griefs of a thousand sorts.

But there is such a thing as consecrated griefs, sorrows that may be common to everyone but which take on a special character when accepted intelligently and offered to God in loving submission.[1]

  1. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

That Jesus’ humanity is genuine can be demonstrated, says the author of Hebrews, by the fact that Christ was tempted. He personally experienced the power of sin when Satan confronted him and when the weaknesses of our human nature became evident. Jesus experienced hunger when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, thirst when he asked the woman at Jacob’s well for water, weariness when he slept while the storm raged on the Sea of Galilee, and sorrow when he wept at the grave of Lazarus.

As high priest, through his sacrificial work, Jesus removed the curse of God that rested on man. Because of the forgiveness of sin, God’s love flows freely to the redeemed, and Jesus stands ready to help. Those who are being tempted may experience the active support of Jesus. They can expect nothing short of perfect understanding from Jesus, because he himself suffered when he was tempted.

Of course, Jesus did not share with us the experience of sin; instead, because of his sinlessness, Jesus fully experienced the intensity of temptation. He is able and willing to help us oppose the power of sin and temptation. As he said to the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee, “Your sins are forgiven.… Go in peace” (Luke 7:48, 50), so also Jesus shows his mercy, peace, and love to us. He is our sympathetic High Priest.[2]

18 This verse underlines the assertion that Jesus can be a “merciful” high priest because he (unlike the angels) has shared and therefore understands our human weakness. In the NT it is always difficult to know whether peirazō (GK 4279) should be translated “tempt” or “test”; both senses are inherent in the verb, and both apply to the experience of Jesus, “tested” by his Father and “tempted” by Satan (Mt 4:1–11); his passion was the supreme “test” (12:2–3). In Hebrews the verb is used of the Israelites “testing” of God (3:9) and of God’s “testing” of Abraham (11:17); but in 4:15, where it is used again specifically of Jesus, the qualification, “yet without sin,” suggests temptation to do wrong. That Jesus shared our experience of temptation, though without succumbing to it, is one of the most profound indications of his real humanity—and our assurance of his understanding and effective help when we are tempted.[3] 2:18 The fourth blessing is help for the tempted. Because He Himself has suffered and has been tempted, He is able to aid those who are going through temptation. He can help others going through it because He has been there Himself.

Here again we must add a word of qualification. The Lord Jesus was tempted from without, but never from within. The temptation in the wilderness shows Him being tempted from without. Satan appeared to Him and sought to appeal to Him by external stimuli. But the Savior could never be tempted to sin by lusts and passions within, for there was no sin in Him and nothing to respond to sin. He suffered, being tempted. Whereas it pains us to resist temptation, it pained Him to be tempted.[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of Hebrews (Vol. 15, p. 78). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 57). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2164). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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