Study Guide: Lessons from the ER

Sunday August 6, 2023 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Greg shares physical challenges he's experienced lately and how during a visit to the emergency room, he began to understand the meaning of sharing in Christ’s suffering. He uses this experience to show how God meets us in our sufferings and uses them to bring about the transformation of knowing Christ.

Extended Summary:

Greg Boyd opens his sermon this week by sharing about the physical issues that he and Shelley have faced over the last few weeks. He uses his experience to help us understand the New Testament teaching about suffering and how we can find joy and peace in the midst of the challenges we face.

Last week, while Greg was sitting in the emergency room waiting for about ten hours while fighting a fever and massive pain, he experienced extreme thirst but was not allowed to drink anything while waiting for the doctor. It was during this time that Greg sensed God saying “Greg, it’s time to learn.”  This was not about ascertaining new head information, but to learn from his pain. Greg was reminded of Romans 8:28, which reads: “We know that in everything God works for the good with those who love him, who are called according to his purposes”.

In everything—every circumstance, however painful and challenging—God wants to work with us for our good. While God doesn’t cause those suffering circumstances, God works in them, bringing good out of evil. As Greg lay suffering in pain, he felt the Spirit saying to surrender his suffering over to God, and God would use it to grow him.

After about two hours of praying in this condition, feeling like he might die of thirst, Greg had a vision of Jesus on the cross. Covered in blood with his face was badly beaten, Jesus said to Greg, “I thirst.”  Jesus hadn’t been given anything to drink since his arrest, and he had just spent the day under the hot Palestinian sun, getting whipped, mocked, and beaten. By the time Jesus was crucified, he probably hadn’t been given anything to drink for 12-13 hours.

It’s one thing to know in your head that Jesus was thirsty. It’s a totally different thing when you know Jesus’ thirst. This is what Paul calls sharing in Christ’s suffering. Paul wrote:

For [Christ’s] sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and….that I may know Him and the power of his resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. — Philippians 3:7-8, 10

Paul longed to know Christ well enough to “share his sufferings” in order to become like him in his death and then be resurrected into God’s eternal kingdom. When Greg got his mind off his circumstances and surrendered to God, he put himself in a position to understand what it means to share in Christ’s thirst.

Greg shared in Christ’s sufferings and Christ in his. But there is one big difference. Greg did not choose this pain, his experience of thirsting. Jesus did choose his, and he chose it for all of us. Greg realized that Jesus chose this kind of intense suffering out of love, and God uses all of the miserable experiences to make us a better fit for the coming kingdom, which is the greatest good there could be.

Reflection Questions: