The fruit of suffering

Grace and Peace to you …

Within the books of the Old Testament prophets, one encounters the theme of suffering time and time again, including both human and divine suffering, or theopassionism. Why would God devise a system in which God chooses to suffer? It seems that the Divine should be exempt from suffering because God is the epitome of agape love. Yet having chosen to be in covenantal relationship with creation, God vows to never separate or withdraw love, grace, and forgiveness. So just like the Hebrews during the Exodus story, who were stubborn, full of gripes and complaints, and unsuccessful in learning the first time, God’s people, within modern context, find themselves in similar positions. For Christians, the emblem synonymous with suffering is the cross: the symbol of the good news.

True gospel authority however, the authority to heal and renew things and people, is not finally found in a hierarchical office, a theological argument, a perfect law, or a rational explanation. The Crucified revealed to the world that the real power that changes people and the world is an inner authority that comes from people who have lost, let go, and are re-found on a new level. Twelve-step programs have come to the same conclusion in modern time. Such an ability to really change and heal people is often the fruit of suffering, and various forms of poverty, since the false self does not surrender without a fight to its death. If suffering is “whenever we are not in control,” then you see why some form of suffering is absolutely necessary to teach us how to live beyond the illusion of control and to give that control back to God (Romans 8:28).

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

As Nadia Bolz-Weber writes, “God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.” I pray that you receive this love, over and over.


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