Chapter OneSession 1
THE BIG PICTURE
I think one of the most painful and uncomfortable feelings a
human being can experience is the feeling of loneliness. If we
could carefully peel back what is really going on when a person
says, "I feel lonely or isolated," we would often find at the
core of those claims one recurring phrase: "No one understands
how I feel." We have all felt it, and most of us have said
it on various occasions. In life's painful moments, we all have
a sense that no one understands where we are coming from,
how we hurt inside, or what we are feeling.
One of the loneliest times of my life was shortly after the
unexpected death of my father, who died suddenly of a heart
attack. My wife was very kind through those painful and
heart-numbing days, as were many others. Several people
from Willow Creek drove 175 miles to stand with me alongside
my dad's grave. It was a very moving experience.
However, even in the midst of all this care, I remember feeling
over and over that nobody really understood what I was
going through. It didn't help much when some well-meaning
person would come and say, "Bill, I know what you are feeling.
My Aunt Edna died several years ago and I still miss her. I
know what it's like." I would think, "I know you mean well,
but you just don't understand." Through that time of grieving
I learned a principle I have tried not to violate since. When
people lose loved ones, I never say to them, "I understand."
Now I go to people and say, "I'm sure I can't understand how
much you must have loved your dad or wife or child. I'm sure
I don't understand all you are feeling. But I do love you, and
I'm here for you."
We can pray, cry, and listen to those in need, but deep down
in every person is the yearning to have someone, somewhere,
understand us perfectly and totally. We all hunger to have one
person who knows just how we feel and who will never leave
us in the middle of the hard times. The good news is that
Jesus Christ is that person. As the old hymn says, "No one
understands like Jesus."
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 Describe a time you felt like no one could understand
what you were going through. How did realizing that
Christ understood your pain help you through this
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read Philippians 2:5-11
2 When Jesus left the glory of heaven to be born in a stable
and live as a human being, what did He give up?
3 From this passage and your knowledge of the life of
Jesus, what pain and suffering did Christ experience
when He walked on this earth as a man:
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "Jesus Understands Relationships"
JESUS UNDERSTANDS RELATIONSHIPS
I would guess that few of us have spent much time pondering the fact that Jesus was born into a family.
He knew what it was like to have parents, brothers, and sisters. He knew what it was like to be a
baby, a toddler, a young child, an adolescent, and an adult who interacted with others. Jesus also
knew what it was like to have friends. Peter, James, and John are often identified as close friends of
Jesus, and He also had intimate friendships with Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and many others.
You might say, "Why does this matter? How does this impact me?" Well, from time to time, most of us cry
out in frustration, "No one understands what it's like to face what I am facing." Young people say, "My parents have
long forgotten, my teachers don't care, and my friends are having the same problems I'm having. Nobody understands.
There's no help." As adults, we can feel like no one understands when our relationships are in turmoil. When this
happens you can say, "No one understands," but you need to add two more words: "like Jesus." Jesus has been there.
He's walked that path. No one understands like Jesus.
4 In 1 Peter 5:7 we hear this invitation, "Cast all your
anxiety on him because he cares for you." Tell about a
time you cast your anxieties and problems on Jesus
concerning a relationship. How did you sense His care
5 What is one relationship in your life that is broken or is
not what you feel it should be?
What can your group members do to support you as you seek
healing in this relationship?
Read Snapshot "Jesus Understands Work"
JESUS UNDERSTANDS WORK
Did you ever stop to think that Jesus was a carpenter for a greater period of time than He was a teacher
and preacher? He spent more time in the marketplace than He did in the temple. I think He was probably
more at home in a woodshop than He was in a religious workshop or seminar. And I'm sure He
had more contacts socially because of His carpentry trade than He had because of His religious
involvements. In Mark 6:3 we read that people referred to Jesus as "the carpenter." He was not just
the son of a carpenter, but was recognized as an accomplished carpenter in His own right.
In that day for someone to be a carpenter meant being highly skilled, multitalented, and callous-handed. The
fact that Jesus was a carpenter meant He knew all about exhaustion after a full day's work. He knew all about
frustration because of rain, snow, broken tools, and pay disputes. And He certainly knew the battle with monotony and
boredom when He had to make thousands of bricks day after day.
Because of this, Jesus knows all about what it means to live with the many frustrations that come with our
daily work. He knows about our marketplace temptations, frustrations, and pressures. He's been there. He understands.
6 In what ways are you feeling bogged down, frustrated,
or at the end of your rope with your work?
Take some time as a group to pray for these concerns
expressed. Remember, "No one understands like Jesus."
Read Snapshot "Jesus Understands Pain and Suffering"
JESUS UNDERSTANDS PAIN AND SUFFERING
God had no intentions of shielding His Son from pain and suffering. All the way back in the book of
Isaiah, centuries before the birth of Jesus, the prophet predicted that the Messiah would be "despised
and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering" (Isa. 53:3). Right from the first
day of Jesus' public ministry the ridicule began. People said, "He's a carpenter, a blue-collar worker!
The Messiah can't come from a blue-collar family!" People also remarked, "What good comes from
Nazareth?" and critics mocked and questioned Jesus' claim of virgin birth. And, finally, Jesus was a Jew
during the time of Roman occupation, so people ridiculed Him because of His race.
Jesus also knew about rejection. His own brothers didn't even believe in Him until after His resurrection.
One of the twelve disciples, Judas, betrayed Jesus with a kiss, and His other disciples deserted Him in His hour of
greatest need. The people Jesus was dying to save were the very same people who shouted, "Crucify Him! Kill Him!" And
then, in that hour on the cross, when Jesus bore our sins on Himself, God the Father Himself rejected His very own Son,
leaving Jesus to cry out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
And finally, Jesus knew all about physical pain. He was beaten, flogged, scourged, slapped, and crowned
with thorns. The cross He would die on was strapped to His back and He had to carry it to the place of His public
execution. Nails were driven into His hands and feet, and a sword was plunged into His side. The phrase "familiar with
suffering" may indeed be the understatement of history.
7 Jesus suffered pain, rejection, and humiliation so that
we might be able to receive forgiveness for all our sins.
How do you feel when you realize Jesus endured
unimaginable suffering and pain because He loves you
and wanted to offer you salvation?
8 Describe one area of your life in which you are experiencing
pain and suffering at this time.
What can your small group members do to support you in this
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
Meeting Jesus in His Suffering
In the coming week, read Matthew 26-28. Take time to
reflect on the following questions:
What did Jesus suffer as He gave His life for me?
What would I have to experience if I had to pay for my
What can I do to express my appreciation for all Jesus did
for me when He came to this earth as a man?
Extending Jesus' Love to the Hurting
Identify one person you know who is going through a difficult
time and needs support and encouragement. Commit
yourself to do three things:
Pray for that person to experience God's strength and care
in the coming days.
Through a phone call, a letter, or face-to-face contact, communicate
to that person what you have learned in this
study about how Jesus understands what they are facing.
Find one specific action you can do to help lighten that person's
load and lift his or her burden.
Be sure one member of your small group is praying for you as
you minister to this person. Ask this group member to keep
you accountable to follow through on this commitment in the