He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Isaiah 53:3


I brought you this scripture last Monday, telling you how meaningful it was to me. I believe this kind of suffering is familiar to many who live with mental health issues. They, too, have such experiences as part of their lives—lives that had already been made difficult by the symptoms of their condition.

If you are one of these individuals you will know what it is to be despised and rejected. You will know what it’s like to be looked down on and to be ostracized. You will know emotional pain.

Few will understand this kind of pain unless it has been part of their own experience. For that reason, sincere compassion can be hard to come by for those who suffer.

Emotional pain is difficult for many people to understand. And so, many suffer, having the severity of their pain doubted by friends. It’s hurtful when people show they don’t believe you or don’t care. But that’s what often happens.

We all need compassion when we’re hurting. Even Jesus longed for compassion in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked his disciples to stay with him. Can you imagine how painful it must have been for him when they slept, as though they didn’t care about what faced him?

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” he told his disciples. (Matt 26:38); And later: “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. (Matt 26:40)

Isaiah wrote the words at the top of this piece to describe Christ’s suffering—suffering that’s so much like what individuals with mental ill health go through. They’re often treated like Christ was, though of course Christ’s pain would have been much more severe. Few of us will have to suffer the cross as he did. Imagine receiving such treatment when you had done nothing wrong!

Isaiah’s description of Jesus shows us how he is able to identify with our own deepest pain. When we’re hurting, he’s the best person to go to for compassion. Only he understands. He’s been there.

What a friend we have in Jesus!