My first thought was that I really wanted to know what it was like for Jesus to suffer and die. Upon further contemplation my desire was to be there with Him as was Mary Magdalene and the Christ lovers were. Just to be able to experience in the flesh the feelings and sounds of His passion would give me a far deeper understanding of Him. I just want to know His suffering. My first prayer is that God would grant me my desire.
— Julian of Norwich
We spend most of our lives trying to avoid suffering but Julian was godly young woman who prays for great suffering to come upon her. That is quite fascinating, and tells us a lot about her devotion to Jesus as Savior. We all want a Savior, a liberator, a rescuer, but very few want to experience the pain involved with being such a person. Julian was different, she sought it, she welcomed it, because she knew that it was the only way anyone sees God fully.
We all want to achieve great things, learn new skills but the commitment of time and effort and the sacrifice to do so turns us away. The boy who wants to play pro football doesn’t want the concussions and bad knees that plague players for the rest of their lives. In order to experience the fullness of God, we must travel down the road of suffering. Jesus said: “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” To know God fully we must somehow embody His passion. People go to extremes to know the passion of Christ, some are even nailed to a cross, because it is so important to feel as He felt. In doing so, we see our true worth in His eyes.
Julian gives us a model, a very hard-hitting model, from which to fashion ourselves. She invites this suffering, indeed prays for it, because it will bring her closer to God. I am not saying that we should intentionally hurt ourselves, but I am saying that we should find a way for our hurts to be part of our spiritual journey and not the events that drive us away from God. Our hurts should teach us that we are created in God’s image and are experiencing the very same things He experience on His earthly journey. Suffering, passion and pain are windows to God. We are allowed to see Him fully as we feel that sense of helplessness that comes with such experiences. Like Julian, I feel it is very important to know and feel His pain. The passion is the only way we can know Him fully.
Lord grant that as I suffer, and I will suffer from time to time, that I can use the suffering as a way of drawing closer to you. I pray that I can get a glimpse of what you endure don the cross and carry it with me every day. Help me to take seriously your command to take up my cross and follow you. Help me to find the cross and walk as you walked.
It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that he withdrew and lived in the desert at Scetis with an old man of Thebes. His Abba, taking a piece of dry wood, planted it and said to him, ‘Water it every day with a bottle of water, until it bears fruit.’ Now the water was so far away that he had to leave in the evening and return the following morning. At the end of three years the wood came to life and bore fruit. Then the old man took some of the fruit and carried it to the church saying to the brethren, ‘Take and eat the fruit of obedience.’
—-Sayings of the Desert
On face value this saying seems a little farfetched. Most of us who live in the 21st century want things to be logical and reasonable. The very idea of watering a dead stick daily for three years and having to travel a huge distance every day to get the water is beyond belief. Here’s the point, -if the story is a fable, it points us to a miracle wrought by obedience. If it’s true it still reveals a miracle that is wrought by obedience. John’s mentor calls it the “fruit of obedience.”
We are all called to obedience to the tasks that we are given. Most of us fight the very idea of being obedient to anything. After all, we live in a very freedom loving world and none of us wants to give up any of that freedom -not even for God. We give up our freedom for the gift of marriage and other relationships in our lives, so why not make one of those relationships with God and His church. Just as Abba John found the great blessing that awaited at the end of his road of obedience, we will find our reward only if we are set to the task.
In what way is God calling YOU today?
Lord give me the insight to recognize the things that I am called to do. Lord give me the humility to put self aside to perform tasks that sometimes seem unimportant to me. In doing so you help me to find the greater blessing that comes in the form of the fruit of obedience. Amen
Sometimes it seems that our lives are a series of storms. We try to live with stormy marriages, stormy relationships with our children, stormy connections with extended family, stormy job situations, and stormy financial conditions. On and on, the storms rage in our lives. We find ourselves tossed about, overrun, confused and frightened. We desperately try to hold back the waves and still the vicious winds in our lives. Finally, with a sense of helplessness, we realize that we can’t control the storm.
One night, Jesus’ disciples found themselves at the mercy of the violent winds and churning waves of the Sea of Galilee. Just as they were about to abandon hope of controlling their small boat, they say Jesus walking on the sea toward them! Talk about confused and frightened! They thought they must be seeing a ghost! But Jesus spoke to the disciples over the roar of the storm and said, “Cheer up! I’m here, don’t be afraid.” He gave them hope, and then he stilled the storm for them!
Jesus walks on the stormy seas of our lives even today. Just as it seems we are about to be overcome by the hurt, the stress, the fear of our own personal storm, we can see Jesus as He calls out to us, “Cheer up! I’m here, don’t be afraid.” Just as He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee for Peter and the other disciples, He will still your storm as well. Jesus is the answer to your problems – whatever they are. He still speaks to His people, cheers them, and gives them hope. He will still walk on the troubled sea of your life and rescue you from the storm.
PRAYER: Father – Help me depend on you when I face one of life’s storms. Thank you for your great faithfulness to me.
- Advice For The Storm-tossed (deadcitizensrightssociety.wordpress.com)