When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, He commissioned them with practical instruction, including this principle: “ ‘A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master’ ” (Matt. 10:24). His disciples had already seen the religious leaders’ harsh treatment of Him, and He reminded them not to expect anything different. If they treated the Master this way, won’t those bearing His name be treated the same? (v. 25). He ends this warning with encouragement, though: do not be afraid in these experiences, because all truth of the matter will be known in the end (v. 26).
Many experiences of suffering are only known by those going through them. Some resort to wearing their suffering as a badge, seeking validation and affirmation for their “patiently born trials.” Others hide their trials out of a desire to not appear ungrateful, weak, or in discomfort. No matter if the experiences are exaggerated or hidden, there is One who sees all things as they are.
Words fail, human sympathy wanes, and it can be difficult to bring another into a full understanding of one’s own suffering. But there is One who needs no words, whose sympathy is abundant, and who can come into a full understanding sans articulation. By the trials endured at the hands of those He came to save, starting in being hunted as a child and culminating in a shame-ridden public death, Jesus has associated Himself with the most mistreated of humanity. Jesus knows what it’s like to endure unmerited ill treatment, to be misunderstood by those closest, and even to be watched at every turn for an opportunity for ruin.
His encouragement for the twelve remains for those today: the experiences that seem to be secret will be known. Even when no other human heart can know, Jesus knows. This too can inform the joy that James calls us to: we take joy in knowing that nothing is wasted (Rom. 8:28) and that God is overwriting the trials to work out eternal benefits of character (James 1:3, 4).