Learning Obedience through Suffering

Though Jesus never sinned, he did expose himself to weakness. The experience of Jesus included suffering. Look at Hebrews 5:7-8. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” How did Jesus learn obedience through what he suffered?

When my oldest son, Jack, was three years old he took three things with him everywhere he went: his blanky and two stuffed dogs named Be-yo and Other Be-yo. One Sunday morning as we were getting ready for church he found a backpack and asked if he could fill it with toys to take in the car. I said yes. He went about filling it and soon was ready to go. I had a class to teach that morning, and we were already running a bit behind.

As we were driving down the street, Jack took out each toy. About ten minutes away from home he asked with worry in his voice, “Dada, did you get blanky and Be-yos?” I replied, “No, you always get them.” With his lower lip dipping a bit now, he asked, “Can we go back?” But we didn’t have time to go back.

I wanted to go get them, but we couldn’t. I also knew he would be ok without them. A few minutes later I looked back at him and saw tears welling in his eyes. But he didn’t make a sound. He sat there, silently obeying my words. He didn’t fight back or negotiate. He learned obedience through what he suffered.

It is possible to learn obedience through suffering without our sin being the result of the suffering. Some things will come into our lives like a forgotten Be-yo, and we will wonder what happened. How did we get here? What must we have done? The answer may be that we’ve done nothing extraordinarily sinful, but there is a lesson to be learned. If Jesus, being perfect, had to learn, we, being sinful, must learn too.

In suffering, we learn obedience. We learn what it’s like to trust in the goodness and love of God. We learn to trust him in all things – not only in good things. In the darkness, God can be trusted because he is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Though some terrible things may be included in that “all things,” taken together with the whole of our life, God will work it ultimately for our good and his glory.

So, when suffering comes, as it inevitably will, we can suffer under the mercy of God. And somehow through it all, he’s bringing us to a closer experience of himself. When we suffer, our heart breaks open to God in ways that it can’t otherwise. And what has Jesus given us at a time such as that? A throne of grace.