Don’t know why I’m thinking about suffering so much these days, i’m actually in a good mood, but i keep circling around and into the topic. Here are a few notes I’ve been taking as a delve around a theology of suffering.
Our little crosses are brought to His Big One, repeatedly. This is the practice (our praxis of pain) of suffering. Pain is universal, but our practices or orientations towards suffering, differ, and bear different fruits.
Unlike Buddhism (bless my many buddhist friends), Christianity is not trying to escape suffering, nor does it see suffering as an illusion (samsara), but rather to enter suffering “in Him”. We gravitate towards pain to be pulled closer to The Man of Sorrows, who is acquainted with all our grief. What I would call the mystery of pain, which leads to The Cross, and leads to true love of others in their pain. We are not trying to alleviate our pain, but rather to elevate it into His.
We are to take our little crosses-our particular sufferings–to His Big cross, so that each of our sufferings become a bridge or lens into His Larger suffering. When we do, whatever our particular sufferings are, become a window into His Suffering and labor for all those with that area of suffering.
So when we feel lonely, we come to His Loneliness, and enter His Heart for all the lonely people this hour, who need that comfort of friendship or to be tuned into in conversation. There are so many who just need to be heard, who sit alone staring at the wall. When I worked with the elderly i remember this often.
Then the times we ourselves are feeling displaced, we can pray with and in Him for all the refugees or displaced ones (which is like a third of the planet now!). We then have true authority to be useful to them. When we feel physically uncomforted, we can pray for all those who desperately need a hug today, or to be held as they cry. This is how our sufferings become a bridge into His.
We often waste our sufferings by trying to salve them ourselves—we come up with a soul solution and call it overcoming.
There is false and true overcoming! False overcoming is when we come up with our own way of overcoming our own or other’s suffering (really this is the soul elevating itself above His Spirit, which is idolatry; sort of a tree of knowledge rather than tree of Life way of going about helping others). True overcoming, is to enter His pain and victory in that area, and act from His Heart. This requires union and allows us to get to know Him more in the process, which is the goal-to know and love God with all your heart… and actually be more effective in helping and loving your neighbor (Christ’s two commandments).
Knowing how to suffer well is one of the keys to living well. Don’t waste your trials, let them become trails into Him. Anyways, I promise my next post will be about something more chipper! Somehow, there is joy meditating on suffering well however. The practice of learning how to suffer well, brings contentment, steadiness and Peace, in the constant midst of tumult, both our own and other’s.