The Via Dolorosa is a path that winds its way through the streets of Jerusalem, and upon which millions have walked over the years. Why? Because another Man walked this path one day—the most painful day of His life. To see what the path looks like today, and find out why it’s called the Via Dolorosa, take a look at this short video below. Then read on to find out how God can give you the strength to get through the painful days in your life as well.
So what happened on the Via Dolorosa? That’s the path that Jesus took as He carried His cross to His crucifixion.
The words “via dolorosa” are Latin for “the way of suffering.” And while the Via Dolorosa is a path that many people have taken over the years, not many people ever really want to take the “way of suffering” in life. Suffering goes against human nature, and pain is usually a God-given indicator to let you know that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
But there are times when God may call you to take a path that leads directly into pain—not because He wants you to suffer, but because He has something better in mind for you on the other side of the pain.
– Like a pregnant woman who has to endure nine months of labor and the pain of childbirth in order to experience the joy of holding her newborn baby in her arms,
– Or like a teenage girl who has to break up with her boyfriend because she wants to remain pure for her future husband,
– Or like a man with a gash in his arm who has to endure the cleansing and stitching of the wound so that his flesh can eventually be healed.
Jesus showed us the key to making it through times of suffering like these: by keeping your eyes on the prize. As the Bible says:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
It was for the joy set before Jesus that He was able to endure the cross. If there was any other way, Jesus would have taken it. He said as much in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He had to walk down the Via Dolorosa. He prayed:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 25:42).
While none of us wants to enter into pain and suffering voluntarily—not even Jesus—He showed us how to do it when the time comes for us to enter into it.
He kept His eyes on the prize. When the guards came to take Him away, He went. When they asked Him to carry His cross, He carried it. And when He could carry it no longer by Himself, God sent someone else to carry it for Him:
“Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)”. (John 19:17). “As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross” (Matthew 27:32).
You can still see the place marked on the Via Dolorosa where Simon of Cyrene may have taken up Jesus’ cross for Him. It’s one of fourteen “stations of the cross” that are marked out along the path, stations that are replicated in many churches throughout the world. If people want to remember all that Jesus did for them in those last few hours of His life, they can walk around the perimeter of the church and stop to meditate at any of these fourteen stations, just as they can on the real Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.
Walking along the Via Dolorosa is a reminder not only of the suffering that Jesus endured for us, but also of the suffering that He sometimes calls us to endure for Him. As Jesus told His disciples:
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
Although no one ever wants to suffer, Jesus’ words are a reminder that some things are worth suffering for, that there is a prize awaiting those who endure it to the end, and that God wants you to have it.
The best way to go through suffering is to make sure you set your eyes on the prize. But it’s also important to make sure you’re setting your eyes on the right prize. There’s nothing worse than enduring pain and suffering, only to find that what you’ve been waiting for all along has been lost in the process.
If your hope is set on having the perfect family, and then something happens to destroy that perfection, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re working your hardest to get a promotion, then the promotion doesn’t come, you’ll be upset. If you give up your dreams in order to help someone else fulfill theirs, but then they blow it and waste all that you’ve given up for them, you might wonder if it was worth it.
Sometimes these disappointments come because our eyes weren’t on the right prize in the first place. Even Peter, who may have expected Jesus to ride into Jerusalem, overthrow the Romans and setup His new kingdom, was willing to die for Jesus as He ascended to His throne. But when Peter found out that Jesus had been arrested, and was likely going to be sentenced to death, his disappointment was evident. Instead of standing up for Jesus anymore, he denied that he even knew him. Perhaps it was because his eyes were on the wrong prize for the moment.
But God honored Peter still, just like He honors all those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. He eventually showed Peter that Jesus reigned in a kingdom whose authority went beyond Jerusalem, beyond the Romans, and extended over the entire earth. It was better than Peter could have ever expected. We’re told that Peter eventually did give up his life for Jesus, being crucified on a cross upside-down. But this time he had his eyes on the right prize, and he was willing to walk down the path of suffering to get it.
As much as God wants to relieve you of much of the suffering you’ll face in life, He also wants you to know that some things are achieved only by going through it.
God wants you to trust Him. He wants you to trust that He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20a). Keep your eyes on the prize, and if you can’t see the prize, then keep your eyes on Jesus. In the end, it will all be worth it.
Father, thank You for Jesus’ example, that we can follow in His steps. Help us to trust that the suffering in our life is worth it, when we entrust our lives completely to You. Help us to take up our cross daily and be willing to die for you, so that we can find the life that You’ve wanted us to have all along. In Jesus’ name, Amen.