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What we learn about Jesus through Rio Ferdinand’s wife

Tim Chester | 15 Feb 2019

He was despised and rejected by mankind,

a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

(Isaiah 53 v 3)

A young woman poked her head in. “Can I come in?” She smiled, all bright and breezy. She was a counsellor, she explained, and had come to talk to us about therapeutic support available to families in our situation. Rebecca took against her on sight.

In Thinking Out Loud, the England football player Rio Ferdinand describes the loss of his wife, Rebecca, to cancer. Rebecca grew close to the nursing staff who cared for her. The one exception was the counsellor.

“Tell me this,” Rebecca asked her coldly. “Have you ever lost someone close to you?” “Well, no, I can’t say I have,” the young woman replied. “But I have trained.” Without another word, Rebecca shifted onto her side to face the wall, and after a few awkward minutes the counsellor backed sheepishly out of the room. “Don’t let her anywhere near my kids,” Rebecca told me flatly, once she had gone. “What the hell does she know? She’s never had to live through anything like this. What a pointless waste of time.”

The Beauty of the Cross

The Beauty of the Cross

£8.99 £7.64

Lent devotional in Isaiah 52 - 53 to help you delight in the beauty of Christ.

Not only was Jesus fully human; he was also a suffering human being. He was, as the King James Version famously puts it, a “man of sorrows”. He shared our humanity and he shared our pain. It was familiar to him. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said on the night before he died (Matthew 26 v 38). “Grief was his intimate, inseparable companion,” says John Newton.

This is Christ’s love for us. All this he willingly accepted because his love made him determined to save us. And this is the beginning of our love for him. We love because he first loved us. Meditate on the Saviour’s love for you, see his sufferings as the measure of that love, and your love for him will grow.

Remember Rebecca Ferdinand’s words: “What the hell does she know? She’s never had to live through anything like this. What a pointless waste of time.” The counsellor had been “trained”. But it’s only by experiencing suffering ourselves that we are truly equipped to empathise with others. And Jesus has been equipped through suffering to sympathise with you in your suffering. “It was fitting that God,” says Hebrews 2 v 10, “should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”. Jesus does know; he has lived through suffering; he is never a pointless waste of time.

It also means our suffering need not be a pointless waste of time. It may be that God is equipping us to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1 v 4). Don’t use your suffering to exclude the world. Use it to connect to others so you can receive comfort from God through others and offer comfort from God to others.

This is an extract from Tim Chester's new Lent devotional, The Beauty of the Cross. Delight in the beauty of Christ afresh this Easter; buy it here

Tim Chester

Tim Chester is a senior faculty member of Crosslands Training and has written over 40 books. He has a PhD in theology and PgDip in history along with 25 years' experience of pastoral ministry. He is married with two grown-up daughters and lives in rural Derbyshire where he is part of a church plant.

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