Suffering without Complaint
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
~ John 16:33
If you have ever read the book or seen the movie Papillon, it was a wonderful work about a Frenchman who was sentenced to service in the French penal colony of French Guiana in South America, known as Devil’s Island because of the heat and extreme harshness of prison life. The book is very long; its sheer length is a part of its story. The convict tries to escape repeatedly, and the conditions he endures during these escape attempts are terrible: no food, at sea without water for day after day without shelter from the sun.
He makes these attempts with his best friend; and in the middle of this massive book, there is one line I remember so very clearly: “Neither of us ever complained.” It is difficult for us to picture how terribly they suffered, in a tiny boat in an equatorial climate, with no food or water or compass, nor shade of any kind. Simply hoping that they would be pushed to shore in Central America before they died. And neither of them ever complained.
Nor did Christ complain. His lot in life was to be tortured to death. And there is a majesty in the acceptance of horrible suffering without complaint. Like most Christian values, this is contrary to the teachings of life experience and the values of the world. We learn to think we have rights, we learn to demand relief and scream our pain expecting that others will help. But acceptance of our tribulation in life is taught, not only by Christ’s example, but by Paul and other apostles in the later books of the Bible.
Why, we might ask, did Christ have to suffer so? Was His death and resurrection not sufficient? My idea about this, is that Christ suffered maximum pain so that we might know that God understands our suffering. Not intellectually, but by experience. He has felt as much pain as any human alive, and the exact same kind of pain we might feel, if we are so unlucky as to endure true agony.
The two friends in Papillon did not complain, because each knew the other suffered exactly as he did. So we may find it in ourselves to endure the trials of life, by our loving relationship with One who suffered just as we do (and probably more severely). We have a companion in our trials, Jesus Christ; and we have hope in the end of our trials by His example.
Lord, thank you for your suffering. May I endure the pains of this life in patient hope, for I know they will end in joy. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer