The vision offered by Jesus is in sharp contrast to the world’s vision. Jesus shows, both in his teachings and his life, the true joy is often hidden in the midst of sorrow, and that the dance of life finds its beginnings in grief. He says: “unless the grain of wheat dies it cannot bear fruit – unless we lose our lives, we cannot find them; Unless the son of man dies, he cannot send the spirit.”
The cross has become the most powerful symbol of this new vision. The cross is a symbol of death and of life, of suffering end of joy, of defeat and the victory. It’s the cross that shows us the way.
~~~ Henri Nouwen
There is an ancient Indian proverb that says, “He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.” Our society sees sufferings as defeat, and we never want to be defeated. The best way to handle suffering is to deny it exists. There are some people who see suffering as the way that God punishes us. I know that, as a child, I was taught that concept. Jesus, who is the Messiah come down from heaven, teaches us something vastly different.
Have you ever heard of a change agent? A change agent is a person from inside or outside an organization who helps an organization, or part of an organization, to transform how it operates. Jesus was the greatest change agent that ever existed, and he tells us that suffering is a tool of transformation. When we suffer, we learn more about ourselves and get new insights on the world. These insightful truths can lead us into new vistas of work and life.
We know that suffering was the change agent that led to our redemption through the death of Jesus. The Romans and the Jewish establishment saw the cross as the greatest of all defeats, but Jesus knew that it was the road to victory. The actions of Jesus, and his acceptance of the cross, generate a new meaning to suffering. It means that now suffering is a way of cleansing and renewal. In past days and in the view of the world today suffering can have no benefit.
Suffering brings redemption that gives us a way of life that is hard to see or imagine. When we experience the redemption of suffering our lives are turned around and made new. C. S. Lewis in his A Grief Observed put it this way, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it.” These sufferings can be used to drag us down or bring us to a new path that leads to a higher plain. It is up to us to decide how we handle suffering because , that is the way we redeem ourselves in this life.
Our suffering gives us the permission to move on. We go through emotions that change us and allow us to forge a new and necessary path. In suffering we are searching. As we suffer, we are drawn inward and cleanse ourselves of the things that weigh us down. Proverbs tells us, “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens his friend’s countenance”. Suffering is the iron that sharpens us for our journey. The pilgrimage of suffering is the journey to the next level. As we go to that level, we receive the ability to move on to the things that God has for us. The saddest thing in life is to be frozen in time. One who has the inability to use the ups and downs of life as the pathway to the future can really be miserable.
My hope for you is that you understand and acknowledge the inevitability of suffering as a part of your life’s journey. This acknowledgement will help you to cope and grow in your valley times of life.
A woman, when she gives birth, has sorrow because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she doesn’t remember the anguish anymore, for the joy that a human being is born into the world.
Lord, Guide me by your spirit to be able to use the setbacks and defeats of my life as a way to move forward. Allow me to offer my sufferings to you so that they may become steppingstones to a stronger, greater faith. Please give me awareness of your presence and the comfort that comes with it when I suffer. I ask that you allow me to see suffering through the eyes that you did when you went to the cross.