Suffering Leads to Resurrection: the Message of Holy Week

dawn approaching

Holy Week: the annual rememberance of Jesus’ activities in the week leading up to his resurrection, starting with Palm Sunday and culminating in Good Friday. This is a week that many times we just want to get through because it’s full of pain and loss. We see Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but he doesn’t put down the Romans and restore David’s empire, like his disciples wanted. We see him being anointed by Mary, but we’re told it’s an anointing for burial. We see him dining with his closest disciples and prophesying his betrayal and death. We see him grieving in the garden of Gethsemane as he lays down his desires, and finally as he takes on our sin — becomes sin for us — on the cross.

We look back on these moments knowing the end of the story is resurrection, but it is good and healthy for us to embrace the suffering of Holy Week as well, so that we can fully embrace the joy of resurrection. As 2 Timothy 2:11 says, “If we die with him, we will also live with him,” or 1 Peter 4:13 puts it, “Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”

Because of Holy Week, we know that our suffering has purpose.

See yourself in the story of Palm Sunday: Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph and praise, fulfilling prophecies that echo Ezekiel, sparking hope in all his followers. See him as zeal for the Lord’s house leads him to cleanse the temple of greedy false-religion-leaders, yet see how Pontius Pilate enters Jerusalem from the West, bringing Roman occupiers; perhaps this is the great showdown of Messiah and the pagan Romans? But no…Jesus pulls you aside and tells you that he is going to Jerusalem, not to conquer with war and violence, but to willingly give his life to the conquerers. To die. To suffer. What would your response be? Perhaps like Peter, you would say, “No, Lord! Say it isn’t so! Victory is ours! This is the time to win!”

See Lazarus raised from the dead, and wonder as his sister weeps at Jesus’ feet and he declares that she is anointing him — not for rule, not for claiming the throne of David, but for death. For burial. Perhaps you would think, “Why this somber atmosphere? Are we not entering victoriously? Why this sadness and talk of death?”

Do you feel the weight of this? I certainly do. I feel the mood of the room shift as Jesus’ demeanor lowers. As I see grief in his eyes, I musn’t let myself look away. This is Jesus, which means this is the Father. This is Yahweh revealing himself. This is beauty: the timeless self-existent One who’s very nature is to be self-sustaining, the only One that is. Two thousand years ago, He is; two thousand years in the future, He is; existing in one eternal moment. He who holds all things together by His word, that One is suffering, grieving, embracing a week of pain. Holy Spirit, help us understand.

Let’s join the Passover celebration with Messiah and his disciples. We remember that Yahweh delivered us from our slavery in Egypt and brought us to a land of promise. This, our annual feast day that unites us as a people and brings hope, as Jesus tells us that this Passover is different. This meal is becoming something unprecedented and macabre. He’s talking about death again: his death; he’s asking us to see the bread as his own body, broken; to see the wine not as wine of celebration, but as a picture of his blood poured out completely. Do you feel it? Do you feel the darkness come into the room as everyone around the table stops laughing and tries to process what the master is saying? He speaks now of being betrayed by one of us. What is this weight that Jesus is carrying? My appetite is suddenly gone for this feast.

We see our savior in the garden of Gethsemane giving full vent to the pain, the turmoil, the awful weight of what he is living. So intense is the grief that capillaries burst and he sweats blood. Let us pause and allow the Holy Spirit to connect us with the pain of this moment. This is our God, giving up his questions, his desires, his hope of change in exchange for submitting to the will of the Father.

Because of Holy Week, we can see that, just as Jesus’ suffering was leading to resurrection, so may ours. When victory is not happening, when our questions are unanswered, when the pain doesn’t go away and healing doesn’t happen, we see Jesus walking with us through suffering. He has not left us swept away in our pain. He has given us a framework for suffering, if we have eyes to see it.

I am reminded of the creation account in Genesis, when the earth was formless, void, broken and unformed. The Holy Spirit arrives to that place of confusion, and hovers over the face of the waters. In our turmoil, our suffering, our void, our confusion, if we invite the Holy Spirit into the middle of it, our suffering is sanctified. Purpose is introduced into our pain & confusion, and life / resurrection / creation will come from it.

This is the glory of Holy Week: that because Jesus laid everything down and as a result gave birth to a new world, a new way, a new people, so can we, by his indwelt Spirit embrace suffering with the same heart and join in his resurrection, both on the day of his return, and in the here-and-now, as our suffering is reframed into beauty. Holy Spirit, help us to reframe our suffering in light of the presence of Christ with us.

Where, in your own life, are you seeing loss? Where are you experiencing unrelenting pain? Those places where you cry out for God’s Kingdom to come as it is in Heaven, yet you aren’t seeing it? Let’s be honest with ourselves and our God. Yes, we believe that God heals, he delivers, he redeems, that His Kingdom has come, yet there are times where victory doesn’t come, where it even feels like God is leading us into suffering. Here, with Jesus in Gethsemane, we kneel with him to lay down our questions, to surrender our desires, to fall on the sword of love as our will is put to death and we open our hearts to receive whatever the Father has for us.

Surely, brothers and sisters, the cosmos are shaken when we — the bride of Christ — suffer loss & pain, yet turn toward Jesus instead of rejecting him. When we trust in him, even when it seems he led us into the pain. This is a grand cosmic love story which we are writing, as we say through tears, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

So take heart, you who suffer loss. Do not forget that you walk the path with Jesus, which leads through suffering, into a death to self, but will — it always shall — lead you to resurrection. You echo the words of the psalmist, as he says to the Good Shepherd, “even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me.”

Jesus, we choose to embrace this week with You, to let You wash our feet, to see Your grief and not rebuke You for it. We kneel with you in Gethsemane and say ‘Let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done, on earth, in my pain, in my healing; in my loss, in my gain; in my waiting, in my victory; in the valley and on the mountaintop, let Your will be done.’ Holy Spirit, teach us this week to see our suffering through the lense of Holy Week. Help us to see our pain with new eyes, that with You, suffering always leads to resurrection.

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Corinthians 1:3–7 (NLT)

PS) If you resonate with this article, I would encourage you to check out a new free online resource that Randy just completed called “Breaking Through”. It’s an all-new message he has put together on the topics of staying hopeful in suffering, how to process disappointment and burnout, and how to continue to believe for more when you’re in a place of lack. It’s a free online resource at globalawakening.com/breaking-through →

Joseph Cotten photographJoseph Cotten is Global’s Digital Marketing Manager, which means that he leads our efforts to accurately communicate our vision & values to you. Joe enjoys helping people connect with Global’s unique calling to minister. He also enjoys things of the geeky variety, has played guitar for a really long time, roasts his own coffee, has a beloved senior golden retriever named Pippin, and has a PhD in Underwater Basket Weaving. He does not have a PhD in Underwater Basket Weaving.
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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mary Beth Underwood · 1 years ago
    Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Angela Cheng · 1 years ago
    Thank you for this powerful word. It speaks volumes to me in time of deep loss.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Joseph Cotten · 1 years ago
      Hi Angela, I’m so sorry for your loss. I pray that you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in comfort during this time.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Karyn ONeel · 1 years ago
    Joseph, As a Catholic single mom of 6, I am impressed by this message. Redemptive suffering is a thing! Praise God! I also do not have a PhD in Underwater Basket Weaving, but do work in ministry and appreciate your gifts. Great job on the content marketing. Have a blessed Easter!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kim Jarman · 1 years ago
    well spoken and very timely Joseph. You are a gifted and blessed man. I like your down to earth style of communicating such an encouraging and uplifting word. Keep on Keepin' on with Jesus and his company of believers, for God is doing a marvelous work in you. God Bless Kim Jarman
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chris Brands · 1 years ago
    Nicely written Joseph! Hope you're well!
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    Nanita Staley · 1 years ago
    I agree with Carissa; this was very well written and inspired. I learned a long time ago to em brace the changes God brought into my life. One does not normally run to embrace suffering, but we must be willing to allow God to show us what He wants us to learn in the midst of it. Give us brilliant perspectives (sounds like Graham Cooke!) while we are slogging through difficulties, especially when we are in the Valley of Baca or the valley of the shadow of death as David calls it. And thank you, Lord, for bringing each of us out into the bright and sunny side that is on the other side of travail. Reminder to each one in the valley, one day we will be sitting on the throne with Jesus and we will see what all the suffering produced in each child of God!

    Blessings and Happy Resurrection Day!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Joseph Cotten · 1 years ago
      Yes! And that is part of the glory of Easter: the promise that, for all who are in Christ, resurrection is on the other side of death, that on the other side of the valley of the shadow of death, there is a table that’s prepared for me in the presence of my enemies. Perhaps we are learning that the feast is even available to us in the valley as well.
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    Mathew Jacob · 1 years ago
    Thank you Josef - powerful and inspired. Brought to memory this profound piece of writing - http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1984/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris.html
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Joseph Cotten · 1 years ago
      That's a moving piece! I love the perspective of Christ redeeming the suffering of believers.
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    JudieRose · 1 years ago
    Thank you for your article. I do find it difficult to embrace the pain of my past. Yet I do know it’s through that suffering (that I DARE NOT compare with Christ), that I can draw nearer to Him. Thank you, I do want to draw nearer but seem as I always draw SHORT. I believe suffering may be the key!
    Lord bless you, and thank you.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Joseph Cotten · 1 years ago
      That's powerful stuff! Allowing God to reframe & redeem our painful experiences is an opportunity to encounter Jesus in new and deep ways. This is a core precept of inner/emotional healing modalities — Sozo, ConnectUp, Restoring the Foundations, et al — where we invite Jesus to give us his perspective on our pain. I think there's something powerful about aligning our view of our suffering with the truth of God about it.
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    Carissa Hjellming · 1 years ago
    This was one of the most beautiful articles I have ever read . . . and that says A LOT, as I am an avid reader! I work as a lay counselor and certified healing practitioner at Patchwork Faith Ministries and my work carries me deep into soul care healing. Your words are Holy Spirit inspired. Carry on, warrior for Christ. Carry on!
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    Brenda Weatherington · 1 years ago
    How beautiful is this article. It struck a chord into my very being, into my soul. I believe I am healed from the cancer but I still contend with the side effects of the medicine I’m still taking. It causes horrific pain. Now I know why I’m going through this. Lord, I count it all joy.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Joseph Cotten · 1 years ago
      I'm so glad that the comfort I’m receiving is becoming a comfort for you as well, Brenda. I pray that you feel His nearness in this time, even as you contend with pain.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Helena Tiedeken · 1 years ago
        Thank you Joseph for your willingness and obedience to do God's will. Suffering truly leads to Resurrection of Holy Spirit power in us, as we learn to turn to Him rather than depend on ourselves. Jesus is my role model. Folowing in His footsteps has taught me to trust, believe and surrender little by little. I thank God for the Peace and Freedom of being able to leave the "grave" behind that I had created over my lifetime. Thank You Jesus for Life after Death of Life: a time for Resurrection and new life. Blessings,
        Helena (Mama T)