Steadfast in Society: On Suffering
There is nothing quite like the sweet stench of being reminded just how human you are! It is one thing to proclaim that we bare the cross loudly and proudly when there is no suffering anywhere to be found and another when you are knocked to your knees with the reminder that you, yes even you, will suffer. Often times when one thinks of suffering we think of the humble tax collector in Luke 18 who wouldn’t raise his eyes to heaven and repented feebly for God to, “Have mercy on him, a sinner,” but normally what it looks like is an adult in the fetal position on the couch afraid to place one toe on the carpet lest life have one more hay maker for your soul. There is no other way to put it… it simply hurts and it hurts a lot!
Many times in the midst of suffering and pain it becomes easy to ask, “Where are you God?” Or “Why am I forsaken when I need you most?” And comments such as “God never promised us happiness,” just don’t seem to cut it. And when it comes down to seeking help from others the most that can be given is a pat on the back or worst amateur psych-babel dung that aren’t worth the air it takes to offer the words of “comfort.” Many times we just end up sojourning in the midst of heart wrenching pain looking for only a drop of water from Lazarus’ finger to find but a bit of solace while remaining in agony. So what can we do? Where do we flee for refuge?
The answer to these questions the same way Peter did, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” Even in the midst (even more so in the midst) of temporal pain and suffering we must flee for refuge to the word. We must get off our butts, sit in the pew, and have life preached into us from the undershepherd. We are to cry out, “have mercy on me, a sinner!” Should we ever be so arrogant as to assume Jesus doesn’t or couldn’t possibly understand our pain?
C.S. Lewis wrote, ““God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain!” Christ knows our pain. Christ was made flesh so that He would become pain. He became pain even to the point of becoming sin so that we would be stainless. Jesus certainly wasn’t happy when He cried out to our Lord, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” nor did He do it so that we can be happy! He did it so we would be blameless before God. He did it for the forgiveness of sins! We have been bought at a price and it was paid in blood, not in tickle fights and butterfly kisses. We have been bought and born out of Christ’s suffering and we have been put to death in the waters of Holy Baptism in which we joined to a death like His and were resurrected in a life like His! There is nothing better than that on earth and it was brought to you by suffering, so that one day we would truly have peace… everlasting and eternal peace.
So go suffer. Be in pain. But do so in the midst of the church of Christ. Be among the body of believers who love you and care for you. Be among the faithful who have been forgiven. Make the sign of the cross in remembrance of the tree of life that was planted on your forehead with water. Sing the Te Deum. Hum the liturgy. Burn a little incense. Do what you must to keep your hearts and minds on Jesus. Just remember that there is suffering yet there comes peace in the Word and Sacraments of Christ. So go, hear the proclamation of the Gospel! Take eat and take drink of the merits of Christ’s suffering and death for you in the Lord’s Supper. Just remember that you are Christ’s child through Baptism and though this world might rip you apart, though it might murder every bit of emotion you might maintain, though it will eventually take your life, the one thing that it can’t take is your salvation which was won by Christ! Upon this we hang all hope. The Lord has had mercy on you, Thanks be to God!
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