By Lindsey Gendke
Suffering surrounds us. Whether we walk in the church or walk in the world, we are all familiar with problems like divorce, death, disease, depression, abuse, addiction, affairs, and more.
My own story of suffering began with a broken family at fourteen, followed by depression, suicide attempts, and a ten-year climb back to recovery. But I grew up in a Christian family. I went to church. I knew about Jesus and how he had died on the cross to “set me free.” So what went wrong? Why wasn’t the gospel (or the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection) enough to shepherd me out of those years of darkness?*
A few years back, I attended a week of prayer in my former, Texas church, and the speaker, Paul Coneff, nailed my questions head-on. For the first time, I found the gospel story relevant to my story, and I wanted to know more. So I took Paul’s three-month prayer and discipleship training,** and then I helped him write his message into a book called The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours.
Jesus Didn’t Just Die for Our Sins . . . He also Died for Our Suffering
As I helped Paul explain in our book, many Christians are “saved, but not free” because we have overlooked the most relatable parts of Jesus’ story. We have overlooked his suffering—his abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and other unfair treatment. But Jesus repeatedly said He must do three things to complete His mission: He must suffer, be killed, and be resurrected. Hebrews adds that Jesus suffered to identify with us in every way and to help us when we suffer and are tempted. (Luke 9:22; see also Isa. 53; Luke 22:15; 24:24-27, 44-46; Acts 3:18-24; 17:2, 3; 26:22, 23; Heb. 2:10, 17, 18; emphasis added).
Indeed, it is this personal identification that allows Jesus the right to comfort and heal us, not just for the future (heaven), but also for the here and now.
What do we mean by personal identification with Christ? Consider how the following individuals, featured in our book, connected their stories with Jesus’ story, leading to healing, freedom, and ministry.
Real Stories, Real Hope
First, consider Amber. Amber was betrayed by her husband while pregnant with their second child. Because of John’s affair with another woman in their church, she ended up separated from him before and after their daughter’s birth. When Paul shared his three-step prayer process,** she connected with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, because Jesus was also left alone, abandoned, and betrayed at a critical time in his life.
Then there were Diana, Sandy, and Anna. All three were abused as children (verbally, physically, and/or sexually), and this led all three to problems in adulthood. Diana lived with fear, anxiety, diarrhea, and panic attacks. Sandy stayed in an abusive marriage for seventeen years. Anna grew to hate men, even becoming afraid of her adult sons, and suffered depression with oppression for years. All three women discovered a Jesus who suffered the humiliation of abuse as He was stripped naked, mocked, taunted, and beaten with whips.
Rejection and Addiction
John (Amber’s husband), Rick, and Keith, all felt rejected and unimportant in their childhoods, which led to numbing their pain with extra-marital affairs for John, pornography for Rick, and drugs for Keith. But when they received prayer, all three men were able to identify with a Jesus who felt rejected by His Father, and who hung on the cross thirsty for relief, but who said no to temptation. All identified with a Jesus who “became sin” on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21).
Abandonment and Depression
And then there was me. As I took Paul’s training and helped write his book, my story became the last one we added (chapters 5, 6, and 7), because I couldn’t help but be changed by a God who had suffered in every way I had. (See bottom of this article for more on my story).
How Can You Relate to Jesus?
Can you see how Jesus identifies with you? Do any of his experiences sound familiar to yours?
- Abandoned by those closest to Him in His time of need
- Struggling to surrender His will to His Father
- Betrayed, denied, and lied about by close friends (Luke 22:47-48, 54-62)
- Stripped naked (Matthew 27:27-28)
- Physically violated (Matthew 27:29-31)
- Shamed and humiliated
- Mocked, spit on, blamed
- The object of racial, religious, and political prejudice by men in power over Him who should have been protecting Him
- Tempted to numb His pain
- Tempted to believe His situation was hopeless and useless
- Cried out to His Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?” in His deepest, darkest moments on the cross
- Not seen, heard, valued, understood, appreciated, or respected
- Not safe
- Unjustly accused, convicted, and murdered.
If you would like to make Jesus’ story personal today—and if you would like his story of victory over darkness to become your story—you can begin by praying the sample prayer below. And of course, you can read more, and find more sample prayers, in our book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel.***
Dear Lord Jesus, Thank You for choosing to fulfill prophecy, going through the same experiences I have (fill in where Jesus identifies with you):
Thank You for suffering in Your soul, dying for me, taking to death all the ways I’ve been wounded in life, and the ways I’ve trusted in my own strength to provide for myself, to protect myself, and to prove who I am. Thank You for healing my wounded heart and setting me free from (add your own personal struggles): _______ as I receive my truest, deepest identity as (Your son or Your daughter) through Your resurrection power, In Your name Jesus, Amen.
*Read my blog at www.lindseygendke.com.
**For more information on The Hidden Half of the Gospel, or to order the book, visit www.hiddenhalf.org. You can also purchase the Kindle edition at amazon.com.
***For more information on Paul Coneff’s prayer and discipleship ministry, visit www.straight2theheart.com.