Last week, we looked at how prayer can become much more powerful and rich when we mention specifics in our conversations with God. We found out how prayer naturally becomes more focused when facing crisis as we looked on as Saul was languishing for three days without food or drink. But the verses before this call for a second look. In Acts 9:4, 5, we can imagine Saul’s shock as we read about his face-to-face encounter in vision with the Lord Jesus Himself. And Jesus says right at first, “’Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” That’s an intriguing question. Why are you persecuting me? Saul could have wondered, what does He mean when He’s the One who’s leaving me paralyzed here with shock on the ground?
But the question really shouldn’t surprise us all that much when we take into account Jesus words in Matthew 25:40: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Jesus identifies deeply with His people. He’s not One who sits back carelessly watching while we suffer. He empathizes deeply with what we are going through, so much so that we could say He’s experiencing it with us. But is this deep identification only one way? We can never claim to know what Jesus goes through. Isaiah says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9) His experience is of course much higher than anything our human minds could even slightly begin to fathom. But, at the same time, Christ calls us to enter into his life and experience, to follow in His footsteps. Paul exclaims excitedly in his epistle to the Corinthians, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
We’re able to reach for Christ’s character and each challenge that helps us grasp more deeply Christ’s life and sufferings, we can take as a blessing that helps us realize true discipleship. This doesn’t mean we should take pleasure in sufferings, but we can see the value in them even when our hearts groan. We can see tough times as a chance to hang on to God’s promises and cherish His presence more deeply.