Our Suffering Article

Yet it was our suffering he carried …
We just figured that God had rejected him,
that God was the reason he hurt so badly.
But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so.
Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him.
He endured the breaking that made us whole.
The injuries he suffered became our healing.

(Isaiah 53: 4–5, The Voice)

 

All of us are tattooed. Whether we wear them on our skin, or they are more like invisible ink—only seen at certain angles when we’re hurting or vulnerable. We’re all marked.

Nine-year-old Amelia lived in an abusive home—her father beat her, physically and verbally. Amelia took her wounded soul to school, where the kids sensed she was tattooed with rejection and fear. So they called her names and left her out of games. As a teenager, she abused drugs as a way to numb the fear. The label ‘addict’ now marked her skin.

Jackson grew up in the embrace of the church. His parents had high standards, and when he did well at school, he sensed their pride. They never told him they loved him—they showed him through their Christian service. He tried even harder, and became an A+ student, then scholar. As an adult, he built a successful career. He served in church … and served, and served. But he was still not sure he was worthy of love. Was he, too, tattooed with rejection? Did he harbour scars not
as easily seen, but still deeply felt?

We are all tattooed. At Easter, we remember the one who was wounded and marked for us, suffering a cruel death on the cross. ‘[Jesus] was how the God of gracious, saving mercy had personally joined the flesh of the world, lived among us, and was put to death. He’s Emmanuel, “God with us”,’ says theologian Elizabeth Johnson.

But people thought Jesus was the problem—they thought God had rejected him. ‘It was our suffering he carried, we just figured that God had rejected him,’ says Isaiah 53:3.

He was marked with our rejection. He wore our tattoos. Jesus bore the marks we gave him—and we put him to death.

But, oh, that is not the end of the story. That is not the end, by far. Jesus did not remain marked and broken. He rose from the dead! God chose to break the cycle of violence. Instead of wrath, he chose restoration. And in overcoming death, God proclaimed new life, acceptance and healing for all.

‘He endured the breaking that made us whole. The injuries he suffered became our healing,’ proclaims Isaiah 53:5.

This was the climax of the message Jesus had been preaching all along: that God was bringing his Kingdom to earth. Where there was violence, he chose forgiveness. Where there was hate, he chose love. Isn’t it like God to bring the greatest good, from the world’s darkest day?

‘To believe in the resurrection is not to believe in a scientific miracle. It is to believe in God. It is an act of hope in the God who created you and everyone else and everything else, who has the love and power still to recreate,’ says Johnson.

Even today we can bring our invisible tattoos to Jesus. When we bring him the offering of our sin and pain, he offers back to us healing and forgiveness. He gives us a life unmarked—where the dark ink of our tattoos, are replaced with the scars from Jesus’ hands.

 

A Prayer …

Jesus said: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:28–30).

Lord Jesus, take every anxious and fearful thing in me, and give me a deep rest within my soul. Please lighten my arms of the burdens I carry, so I may raise them towards you. I entrust myself—body, spirit and mind—into your care. Walk closely with me, I pray.