By Manuel M. Melgoza © 2018
Someone once popularized the phrase “I feel your pain.” Does anyone else truly feel our pain?
Madison, my daughter, loves for me to tell her stories, always hungry for another. When she was 8 years old, I was telling her something that happened when I was 8.
I lived in a small city in the mountains of Central Mexico in the first several years of my life. Our seasons were two – “rainy” and “not rainy.” I had never seen or experienced snow.
My father moved our family to the United States shortly before I turned 8, when I spoke only Spanish. On one of my early days in a small school near the foothills of rural California, it began to snow when my school bus arrived at the school. Having never witnessed such a sight, I was filled with wonder. A Mexican-American boy whom I had befriended, Nicky, spoke English and Spanish. Since the school bell signaling time for school to begin hadn’t rung, he said let’s go play in the snow. I ran and joined him in the ankle-deep powder.
Abruptly, I sensed that something went wrong. Nicky told me that we were being summoned to our classroom. When we got there, our teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, said something to Nicky. (She didn’t speak Spanish.) Nicky interpreted that we were to leave our jackets in the room and go stand outside by a post. We did, while the rest of the class filed their way inside. Moments passed, and Nicky suggested we go and play some more. So, we did.
Mrs. Schmidt interrupted our play by calling for us to go inside. She led Nicky to one bathroom, had me go wait in another, and closed the door. I didn’t know what she said or what she was going to do. She returned to my bathroom and spanked me with a paddle. Later that day, Nicky told me that she spanked me because we were playing in the snow. But, she didn’t spank him. Nicky didn’t explain why, though I suspect he must have blamed the incident on me.
I had no idea that playing in the snow was considered misconduct, and I didn’t know why Mrs. Schmidt had taken our coats and posted us in the cold outside. Maybe I should have known better than to go out to play in the snow, but I didn’t think of it at the time.
When I related this to young Madison, I looked over and saw her crying. She asked repeatedly why the teacher had done this, and “didn’t she know I couldn’t understand?” And why had she punished me and not Nicky? Madison instinctively recognized the sting of injustice. Witnessing Madison’s reaction overwhelmed me. It was as though God re-opened a wound that had scarred over, showing me the painful incident from His perspective. I started crying, weeping for that little boy, that former “me” who had endured a humiliating injustice. Until that moment, it had been only a distant, unpleasant memory.
Sensing that there was much more to this, I continued sharing with Madison.
God is perfect. (Matthew 5:48; Deuteronomy 32:4) He knows all things. (Job 34:21-25; Psalm 139; Proverbs 15:3) Thus, He “sees” and perceives perfectly – with no interference. He knows the deepest parts of our hearts. (1 Chronicles 28:9) He knows us in such great and minute detail (our “inmost being”) that even “every hair on our head” is numbered, by Him. (Matthew 10:30) He also feels. (Psalm 103:13-14; Isaiah 53:3; Mark 6:34; Luke 7:11-15; 10:21; John 11:33, 35) Jesus became flesh and lived as a human among us. (John 1:1-14) He felt pain as humans feel it. He condescended from Glory to humanity, felt the humiliation of rejection, blasphemy, injustice and torture. (John 18-19; Luke 22-23) He felt the weight of all the sins of mankind. Yet He loves us, loves me.
Would He exhort us (“follow me”) and ask us to take up our crosses daily and follow Him if He weren’t willing to share our trials and ordeals, as well as our pain? After all, Jesus is described as a man of sorrows, not willing, if we suffer for His name, that we suffer alone.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. (Isaiah 53:3)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
When Mrs. Schmidt posted me in the outer cold, Jesus knew. Because He knows perfectly, he knew precisely what I felt and how I felt – confusion, lack of understanding, cold. My imperfections – ignorance, idle thoughts, etc. – shielded me from the full impact of the moment. Not so for Jesus.
When Mrs. Schmidt paddled me, Jesus felt my pain and experienced the injustice I was enduring. Unlike me, He felt it perfectly, without the shield of self-protective mechanisms built-into us humans so we can cope with such moments. For reasons known only to Him, He permits us to experience pain and suffering and to endure others’ wrath. But, He does it at great pain to Himself. Perhaps one reason He allowed the above incident to happen to me is so I would know Him better, and about how deeply He loves me.
People say we ought to see things from God’s point of view – “through His eyes” so to speak. That is wise. But it’s worth noting that – because God’s perfect knowledge includes what is in our minds and hearts and what we are seeing at every moment – He can (and does) see things through our eyes. It is as though He steps into our shoes.
Imagine Jesus enduring the sufferings on the day of His crucifixion, and then also the full impact of every painful experience through my eyes just so I can be reconciled to the Father! Multiply that by the suffering of millions throughout the world. How great a love this is, that He willingly takes upon Himself our sufferings so that we can be reconciled to God in Heaven! My trivial humiliation and self-pity are rubbish compared to Christ’s sufferings.
Some time after sharing these events with Madison, I had occasion to share with my mother, who was then undecided about yielding her life to Christ. I illustrated my point through a story my mother herself recounted to me when she and my siblings lived in Mexico alone without my father, while he worked in California.
During her pre-adolescence, my grandmother assigned Mom heavy domestic responsibilities given my mother’s young age. Mom was the oldest girl, with several brothers and sisters. One late afternoon, my grandmother sent Mom to fetch water from a spring-fed pool of cold, clear water – ojo de agua. Their family home lacked plumbing, so water had to be carried (in a clay pot) from the natural pool. Neighbors also drew water from there for household uses. When Mom reached the el ojo de agua, it was near dusk. As Mom dipped the pot into the pool, she fell into the cold water, and was drawn by the current into the deepest part.
Mom had not learned to swim. No one was around to help. After flailing around, it seemed to her that it was futile to continue struggling. My mother surrendered, allowing herself to sink, yielding to death.
Unexpectedly, calmness overwhelmed her! Mom floated to the surface and gently drifted to the edge.
She hastily grabbed her pot and headed home, soaking wet. As she walked down the dark street, she saw peoples’ silhouettes, but somehow felt embarrassed. She heard a man joking and laughing at her, poking fun. How anyone could find such a scene humorous, I don’t know. It seems insensitive, but is all too real.
My mother continued home. When she arrived, she reported the incident to my grandmother. Oddly, grandmother expressed more concern over Mom’s clumsiness and carelessness than her safety. Mother got a scolding, but no pity. At that moment, she felt as though no one cared.
Fast-forwarding to the present, I reminded my mother of what she endured, and I explained how Jesus was with her that evening. Whom did she think saved her from drowning after she had given up, I asked. Who had given her that sense of calm and peace to replace her panic and horror? I explained to her how Jesus feels our pain perfectly, how he felt her coldness and wetness, her humiliation at being taunted by that man, her embarrassment while walking home, and the feeling that nobody cared even after they learned that she nearly drowned. My mother was moved by my words, but not yet ready to make the breakthrough I had hoped and prayed for. That would come later.
The depth of God’s love for me (and all mankind) is beyond understanding. (Ephesians 3:19) He allowed Himself to be crucified. Why? For me. So I could join Him in Heaven for eternity. To provide a way for all who put their trusting faith in Him to join Him there forever. Without His sacrifice, this could never happen. (2 Corinthians 4:7-5:21) For this, He endured unimaginable pain. And much more. Though God, “He lived to die, rejected and alone; like a rose, trampled on the ground, He took the fall, and thought of me, above all.”
He still endures our pains, sufferings, injustices, humiliations – since “He knows His sheep” – us. He lives in us, experiencing what we experience. From this viewpoint, He never stops suffering for us. Though we can’t fathom His pain, He knows our pain. Unlike people who conveniently let us take the fall for them, Jesus took the fall for all of us, though he deserved none of it.
 If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
2 thoughts on “Mom, Who Felt Your Pain?”
Thank you so very much for this chapter brother! Awesome perspective, so special!
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Thank you Irma!