Joy in Suffering
Barbara Howard of Independence, MO, USA
(Reprinted from Journey of Joy, Herald House, 1990, p. 37)
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 5:13-20
Ancient Babylonian cosmology required suffering on earth to enjoy bliss in heaven. The more one suffered in this life, the greater the reward in the next. Christians do not require suffering for salvation. Christians simply understand that loving requires vulnerability. Such a risk makes possible pain. Suffering is not a prerequisite for righteousness. But because we live in a broken world, human beings suffer. And sometimes circumstances, not of their own making, wound them.
Several years ago, I received a letter from Sonia, a friend I met at a retreat. Her letter was a chronicle of inflicted pain in her childhood. She endured sexual abuse. Her mother died of cancer when she was seven, and the abuse escalated for several years. Finally, when she was twelve, she left home to live with a relative. She concluded her letter,
I could never imagine that out of all that horror I could find anything redemptive. But when I look at my life, I’ve discovered some incredible insights. I don’t think I had to suffer to find out how valuable love is in the life of a child, but I know that is true. I don’t think I had to be abused to realize that, despite all statistics, I did not have to choose to abuse my own children. And I have not. Nothing that happened to me had to happen, but the point is that it did. My response to it is what is important. I want to be able to use those years as tools in my growth. I have not yet reached a place where I can love my father. I’m working on the forgiveness I need to be able to do that someday. I believe that time will come. I did not choose to suffer, but I can choose to love.
In God we all belong.
Sustaining Our Connections
Many find themselves isolated around the world to protect each other and the most vulnerable during this global pandemic. Spend time prayerfully imagining those people that you might normally come into contact with on a regular basis, known and unknown. Remember all the connections that sustain our lives each day. Even in this time of intentional separation, how are you experiencing deep, intrinsic belonging in God?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.