Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Suffering and Love

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:2-4 ESV

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.
1Co 4:9 ESV

“I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”

These are the words of a poor Jewish dairyman named Tevye in the 1971 movie Fiddler on the Roof after being told there is to be a pogrom (a mass persecution) of the Jewish people in his village. Is it not enough that he is poor? Is it not enough that his village is run by people who despise his faith? Is it not enough?

You don’t have to be Jewish to identify with these words. Is it not enough that God is invisible and untouchable? Is it not enough that the world is drowning in suffering? Is it not enough that the only thing we have is faith and those who have it in greatest abundance receive only greater misery this side of eternity? (Hebrews 11:36-40)

C. S. Lewis wrote that “pain is [God’s] megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Unfortunately, as we approach God, we find ourselves closer to the business end of that loudspeaker. Dear God, why in Heaven’s name must everyone You love end up on a cross?

Perhaps it is because God is love and the cost of love is always suffering for the beloved. Becoming one with Him, like Him in love, our inheritance includes the suffering as well as the joy of love. Without the one, there is no comprehension of the other.

I wish I had some profound answer, something beyond the trite clich├ęs of pop Christianity, some cosmic band-aid that could make the pain go away. Sadly, there isn’t one. There is only the kiss of a Heavenly Father received in faith that can occasionally drown out the pain with the sweetness and peace of love as he whispers tenderly in our ear, “my child, it simply must be.”

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