During a crisis in which he was hospitalized, he worried all the time that Mark and his sister didn't know. They both called him every day, but he didn't remember their conversations. After years of being content with being the most peripheral person in their lives--content also with them being some of the most peripheral people in his life--suddenly he couldn't stop thinking about them.
Mark and I agreed that if he wanted to go spend some extended time with his dad, that would be the time. His dad could still remember who he is. He wanted to see Mark. Mark could afford to take the time off work.
So he was out of town visiting his dad for several weeks.
While he was there, I began working on this series on suffering, and once when he called me I asked him about what words he associates with suffering, what he thought was the cause, what was the solution.
Here's the backstory to his response. After Mark graduated from college with his BA in Bible, he interned in a church near his father's home, Temple Baptist. Every time we have visited his dad since then, we attend church there. They are like family to us, and have supported us in countless ways for the past 30 years. So while Mark was visiting his dad last winter, he attended church with his dad, and also attended whenever he could at Temple Baptist. Since he was there for several weeks, they worked him into the schedule for both music and speaking.
Coincidentally, he had chosen to speak on suffering.
So he didn't answer my questions very thoroughly. But he left me with these gems from Scripture:
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
(Hebrews 2:10 ESV)
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.(Hebrews 5:7-8 ESV)
This is a great comfort to me.
Sometimes when some painful difficulty comes into my life, I feel like I'm being smacked on the head for doing something wrong, and I can't figure out what it is. These portions of scripture reveal that even Jesus benefited from suffering. God the Son, sinless and pure, was perfected, and he learned obedience. Since Jesus tried to avoid suffering, I'm not wrong to want to avoid it either. However, I hope that I can also learn from his courage and grace in in the face of necessary suffering. I would like to be perfected through it, and I would like to be a more obedient child of God.