Jessica is an award-winning journalist and author with thousands of articles to her name. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 113 journalism awards during her tenure. She is author of More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and editor of Stories of Racial Awakening: Narratives on Changed Hearts and Lives of South Carolina United Methodists (2018), both from her newspaper’s the Advocate Press. She also writes fiction, represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency, and her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest from the American Christian Fiction Writers. A speaker and freelance writer, she has a faith blog at JessicaBrodie.com.
Ugly tears coursed down my cheeks. Why? How could this have happened? The betrayal hit me like a gut punch. I wanted to scream it all away, or at the very least tear someone apart with my bare fingernails. But even that wouldn’t make it better, wouldn’t erase what I was going through. I felt so alone.
The hurt felt worse than a knife. It felt like a massive, crushing weight obliterating every inch of who I’d been. And I was left alone to pick up the pieces, not even sure I could.
Sometimes, the hardships we go through seem unimaginable: A difficult, completely unfair illness cutting us down in the prime of our life. Debilitating financial or legal issues that seem to have no way out. Crushing betrayal or other emotional or physical violation. It’s the opposite of how we think life should go.
In the midst of my pain, I was on my own. I knew no one who’d been through what I was experiencing. There was no one I could confide in who’d truly understand. Talking to a counselor brought temporary relief but no real solutions. Blocking it out and staying as busy as possible only worked for so long.
Then came Jesus. In the darkness, in the depths of my pain, I realized: He knew. I didn’t even have to open my mouth to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal.
He’d experienced the worst pain, the deepest betrayal, the hardest suffering—none of it deserved, and all of it something He could stop if only He caved to temptation. Yet our Savior chose to bear the cup of sacrifice and endure. And it hurt Him—so very, very badly.
But for some reason, I’d never before understood this. Growing up, I’d been taught Jesus died on the cross, but His suffering seemed abstract. In paintings depicting the crucifixion, the holes from the nails had a bit of blood, and Jesus was frowning beneath His crown of thorns, but it was all rather contained—a PG version of what He’d really been through. Then His suffering was over and, whoosh! Our Savior was dressed in head-to-toe white with a glowing golden halo, smiling like He’d never been gasping for His last breath or sobbing from the pain of being sold for thirty pieces of silver by one of His twelve best friends.
But when I encountered Jesus in my sorrow, it wasn’t the Sunday school, family-friendly version kneeling beside me as I collapsed before Him in a darkened room with my prayer of surrender. It was the scarred-up Jesus, the One who remembered the ragged bloodstained holes from where they’d driven the nails in, who didn’t wince as they beat Him but cried out in agony, who didn’t just quietly and stoically accept that Judas let Him down but ached over the treachery.
This Jesus understood. And when I realized that, and I allowed him to meet me in my suffering, I was no longer alone.
Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared suffering when we walk with Jesus, which makes all the difference.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (ESV).” These aren’t just words on a page. There is true rest, a peace, in knowing Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden.
But not only is there rest, but also hope. While Jesus did suffer, His suffering ended. He overcame. He triumphed. As He told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Many years have passed since my tough time, and sometimes it feels like it didn’t happen to me at all, but rather to a character in a book I read. I still go through hard times, when I want to throw myself on the bed and cry, when I want to give up and surrender.
Yet now I have a secret weapon: I know God is with me in the center of my pain. And that, like nothing else, helps move me towards healing.
Sometimes we encounter someone who believes in us so fervently their faith inspires us to soar.
My teenaged self was miserable, overwhelmed by all the changes in my body and plagued by fears I’d never be good enough. My friends called themselves “lucky” and “blessed,” but I could never relate. I dreaded each day as my low self-esteem convinced me I was cursed and disliked, a misfit who’d never find joy.
Then I found myself in Mrs. Sampson’s tenth grade classroom.
Mrs. Sampson was the sort of teacher who made everyone feel valued and worthy. We had an A in her class, and all we had to do was maintain it. We were smart and funny, or so she made us believe—responsible and intelligent enough to handle the work she gave and then some. She looked us in the eye like we mattered, like each one of us was genuinely interesting.
A unique psychology arose: We wanted to be as good as she believed us to be! We didn’t want to disappoint her. It became a magical time of learning and growth, intellectually and emotionally. Later, when I taught, I wanted to do that same thing for my students, and as a mom, I try to do that for my kids.
Mrs. Sampson’s inspiration reminds me of the greeting in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In first century Palestine, it was incredibly difficult to follow Jesus. Early Christians faced persecution and death and were used to being hated. I imagine they had days when they struggled with feelings of worth and ability, much like I did as a teenager, not sure they could go on. I’m certain they struggled to know they were blessed as snide jeers—and worse—followed them everywhere they went.
But Paul wanted these early believers to rise above. His letter started with a bang of cheerful reassurance, as he reminded these Christians of who they were in Jesus: holy, loved, and so very fortunate in spite of their hardships. He wrote, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:1-3, ESV).
Like my high school teacher, Paul didn’t hide his encouragement. He showed he believed in them and genuinely wanted the best for them. He reminded them of who they were at their core: people chosen by God! God’s “saints,” he called them—special, endowed with gifts of faith and eternal soul-blessings beyond measure.