Do Christ and God the Father have compassion for sufferers?
"And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14).
"But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).
"If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:11).
Why doesn't God relieve the suffering of mankind now?
"Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:5-6).
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those that are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37).
The unwillingness of mankind as a whole to believe and obey God is the real reason for a suffering world. Only when mankind genuinely repents, after Christ's second coming, will all people come to understand the relationship between faith and mercy. God is eager to show mercy and shower compassion and kindness on them. But their repentance and cooperation are prerequisites.
Sadly, for most people that will have to wait until Christ changes the attitudes and behavior of the whole world. In our age people simply are not willing to submit themselves to God's will. As Jesus explained: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me" (Matthew 15:8). Mankind suffers as a result.
What has Jesus Christ already done to relieve suffering?
"He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17).
Christ's death paid for our sins so we can be reconciled to God (Colossians 1:21-22). So why do people continue to suffer? Although Jesus took on Himself the death penalty we earn because of our sins (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 10:10-12), that does not mean that all the immediate consequences of sin are removed. Sin brings enormous suffering of body and mind. Indeed, the two are closely related. A negative mental or emotional state can cause certain types of physical illness.
One of the reasons Christ came into the world was to deal with our physical and emotional afflictions. His personal suffering makes our physical and spiritual healing possible. Before His death by crucifixion, He was cruelly beaten almost beyond recognition as a human being. He took on Himself even the physical consequences of our sins so we, through Him, can be healed (1 Peter 2:24). Also, because of His sacrifice, the time will come when all suffering can be abolished forever (Revelation 21:4).
How did Christ define His mission at the beginning of His ministry?
"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD" (Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2).
The Father sent Jesus to fulfill this Scripture (Luke 4:20-21), written hundreds of years before by the prophet Isaiah. This was in addition to His primary mission of giving His life for the sins of humanity. The four Gospel accounts all attest to Christ's exemplary life in relieving the sufferings of His fellow human beings.
How did Jesus fulfill this Scriptural mission?
"And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them" (Matthew 4:23-24).
Did Jesus empower His disciples to heal others?
"Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick" (Luke 9:1-2; compare Mark 6:13; Luke 10:1-9).
Healing has always been one of God's blessings for mankind. Yet few have confidence in this wonderful biblical truth. When we are ill, we are instructed to ask the elders of the Church to pray for us, anointing us with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14). We are then told that "the prayer of faith shall save the sick" (James 5:15). The oil used for the anointing is symbolic of the healing power of God's Spirit.
When an elder is not always available in a specific geographical area—because the Church has always been a scattered body—God has provided a scriptural way for us to deal with this situation. Specially anointed cloths can be sent to the sick on request (see Acts 19:11-12).
Also, both Christ and Paul instruct Christians to celebrate the New Testament Passover service and to partake of its symbols (Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). The wine we use in this service represents Christ's blood shed for our sins, and the bread represents Christ's body, which was broken for us. Jesus Christ took our physical, mental and emotional sufferings on Himself. He is the prophesied "servant" of Isaiah 52 and 53 who suffered for us. Carefully read these chapters to understand the suffering Christ went through for us. Then compare them with the eyewitness account of His suffering in Matthew 26-28.
What other special assistance does Christ's suffering make available to us?
"Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:17-18).
Only Jesus Christ set a perfect example of avoiding sin. During His lifetime on earth He steadfastly resisted temptation. He never once gave in to sin (1 Peter 2:22). He remained close to the Father and prayed earnestly in time of need (Mark 1:35; John 11:41-42). Yet He, too, had to cry out to God "with vehement cries and tears" (Hebrews 5:7). When we approach our heavenly Father in prayer for the help we need, we can know that Jesus Christ, our Intercessor, understands the struggles we have with our physical, human weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).
Since sin plagues us all, we must have help in overcoming it. As Paul explained, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find" (Romans 7:18).
Paul knew from whom he could receive the help he needed to fight sin: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).
Over and over again in the Gospel accounts we find Jesus of Nazareth meeting human suffering head on—taking action to relieve it in others. He was full of compassion and set for us a perfect example. Our Savior knows firsthand what it is like to resist the pull of the flesh and to successfully conquer it. He knows exactly when and how to help us combat sin. He wants us to come boldly to Him for relief-for strength to resist-whenever we need it (Hebrews 4:14-16).
In what other important way did Jesus relieve suffering?
"And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34).
The world sorely needs proper education in biblical principles to learn how to live. As the Hebrew prophet Hosea lamented, people's lives are "destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6).
The principle of cause and effect has never ceased to operate. Suffering is the effect that is so often caused by ignorance and sin. To confront suffering effectively, we must live in harmony with biblical laws and principles. Otherwise we will bring needless suffering on ourselves.