Jesus promises living water to the woman at the well, a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. And she asks him, “Where do you get that living water?” — a question that many of us ask. What is the secret to receiving the gift of abundant life that Jesus promises? (John 4: verses 11, 15)
I think that this Hebrews reading offers one answer, though not an easy one. The text says Jesus learned “obedience” (that is, deep listening for God, or the power to receive abundant life) through what he suffered. (Heb. 5:8) I doubt this means we are to seek out suffering. Instead, I see it as invitation to receive the suffering life brings, trusting that Jesus is with us in the depths of our pain.
Suffering comes in many forms, in poor health, in loss of a loved one, in the sudden inability to support one’s family, in war and disaster. When it comes, our first instinct may be like the psalmist’s: to seek wings like a dove to fly away and be at rest, away from stress and pain, far from violence and strife! (Ps. 55:1-3)
But perhaps today we are invited to meditate on other possible responses to suffering. Might suffering be a source of new strength, when engaged with deep trust in God? Rather than running away or avoiding pain when it comes, a more fruitful response might be to move steadily forward through suffering, holding fast to God. If we practice trusting God in our heart and soul, binding that trust to ourselves and fixing it in our daily lives even during the good times, it may be that when bad times come, our habits of trust can help us receive even suffering as Christ’s living water. (Deut. 11: 18-28)
— Norvene Vest