There is a hymn, written by Frank Graeff, in 1901, which asks, the question, “Does Jesus care?”
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained? Does Jesus care when my way is dark? Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed? Does Jesus care when I’ve said good-bye?
The scriptures answer this question in the affirmative: Yes, Jesus does care. The apostle Peter says concerning the care of God and the appropriate response to that divine care: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7; NKJV)
As the apostle penned those words, he was writing to Christians who might have reason to doubt that God cared for them. They were saints who were facing persecution and hardships because of their faith. Peter reminds them of the proper manner in which they should answer this persecution: with love and kindness. (cf. 1 Peter 3:13-17) He also reminds them that Christ suffered on our behalf. (eg. 1 Peter 3:18, 4:1). He says concerning their problems: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13; NKJV)
The example of Christs reminds us of several important things in relation to suffering and the love of God. Firstly, suffering does not preclude the love of God. Many think to themselves that if God really loved them then He would never allow them to feel pain. But God surely loved His Son, Jesus, and Jesus still suffered. He experienced abandonment by His friends and students. He experienced betrayal. He experienced beatings and torture. He experienced an excruciating and public death. There is no heart-ache, pain or sorrow that Jesus cannot empathize with, having suffered similar in His own flesh.
But through it all, Jesus held to His faith in the love and mercy of God, the Father. He confessed this faith, saying to God in prayer, “for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:25) With His final words He commended His soul into the Father’s hands (cf. Luke 23:46). Jesus knew that God cared for Him, even in the midst of misery and sorrow, and that such suffering did not signify that God was uncaring.
The example of Christ also reminds us that good can come through suffering, if we face it with faith. The suffering of Christ was not without purpose. It served to bring salvation to a world which desperately needed it. As Peter reminds us, Jesus suffered for us. Elsewhere, we are reminded that no suffering is ever pleasant as we are going through it. But that does not mean we cannot grow through it, and even from it, nor does it preclude the possibility that the suffering might in some way prove beneficial. It is a rather short-sighted perspective which refuses to consider that sometimes God might allow us to experience grief because doing so is, in one fashion or another, good for us, leading to greater joy afterward, if we allow it to. (cf. Hebrews 12:3-11) That’s not necessarily a message you want to hear in the middle of suffering, but that does not make it a false argument.
Finally, though, the suffering of Christ reminds us that Jesus cared enough about us to suffer on our behalf. When you find yourself doubting whether or not God cares for you, remember the counsel of the Bible, which reminds us, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32; NKJV) Why would God care about us enough to allow Jesus to suffer for us, but not care enough about us to do more for us, when we turn to Him in faith, through Christ.
God does not promise to take away all of our cares and sorrows in this world. But He has promised to give His children strength to face those cares, if they trust Him and follow where He leads them.
When we find ourselves wondering, “Does Jesus care?” we can answer with the old hymn-writer, “Oh yes, He cares. I know He cares.” And in so knowing, let us follow the advice of the apostle, by humbling ourselves before God and casting our cares upon Him.
The church of Christ invites you to come study and worship with us to learn more of how we might experience the love and mercy of God, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.