Blog 112 Suffering (Con't.)
In the compassion and healing ministry of Jesus, we see something of the attitude of God toward suffering and those who suffer : "Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will refresh you. Take my burden upon your shoulders; it is light. Take my yoke; it is light."
Jesus also clarifies the meaning of suffering.
It can be the raw material out of which genuine love is made. "No greater love than this can anyone have, than to lay down one's life for a friend." (Jn 15: 13). And it can be the price to be paid for doing what is right. "He who will not take up his cross and come after me is not worthy of me." ( Mat 10: 38; 16: 24; Mark 8: 34; Luke 9: 23; 14: 27).
Much of the suffering in the world would be eliminated or avoided if God's will and commands were followed. For example battered wives and children, accidents while driving drunk. The suffering that comes from thoughtless and selfish behavior both to those who are thoughtless and selfish and to those affected by that behavior would not exist. Suffering can be a way to atone for our sin, an invitation to deeper patience humility and a deeper trust in God, an occasion for support sympathy generosity and encouragement to our neighbor and the context of an experience of unconditional love for God.
The three drawings I have placed with this blog help me illustrate the identity and meaning we can give to suffering. All reality and all suffering is incomplete apart from God. The drawing of the single sandal is incomplete without its mate. The first drawing of the robe is unfinished. The unfinished robe and the sandal represent a reaction on the purely human level that some people have with regard to suffering. It is the occasion of anger, depression, sadness. But even on the human level it can be more. This is represented by the completed robe and the pair of sandals. Here suffering is an occasion of patience humility and joyful healing.
But the pair of sandals and the completed robe are still incomplete on a possible higher level. They have their real and full natural meaning and value on the feet and on the body of the shepherd in the third drawing.
There they have the capacity to go with him, to share his story and be part of his pilgrimage on a natural level from here to there throughout his life on earth and on the supernatural level of faith , united with Jesus to the Holy City. the New Jerusalem.
It is this way with all reality and our relationship with God. In ourselves we are incomplete. We are made to share God's love, to 'go', every step of the way, with God living in us to the Holy City, our eternal home where there is no suffering or sorrow but only love. If suffering is not seen and accepted as part of this it is not what it could be and should be for us and for the truth about God and God's glory.
It is good to realize a proper Christian response to suffering may include a desire and prayer for healing as well as for patience to endure it. Normally we can better work out God's will for us in good health. Go to the dentist. Love God that way. Get a pair of glasses. Love God that way. Try a hearing aid. Love God that way.
Have the recommended surgery. Love God that way.
But when all these measures have been taken and suffering continues to be our gift, with the power of our faith we can consciously transform that 'Bottom Line Suffering' into ' Hospice Love' and the next step, the final one, will be the victory and joy of eternal life.
After Jesus had miraculously multiplied the loaves of bread He told the disciples "Gather up the crusts now so that nothing will go to waste." It is easy to apply this and hear Jesus say "Do not waste suffering. It is a precious gift."