Reflection on Suffering and Surviving

In suffering, we discover a grace that allows us to learn from the silence of God, to remain still in the center of a great personal storm, and to find communion with God. We come to see that we live for something much more significant and profound than doctrine and dogma. We don’t live and work for God, but we live in God in whatever we feel compelled to do.

A famous theologian once said that you can learn to be in the midst of anxiety without anxiety, having a sense of inner peace and calm where you are in the eye of the storm. Living in God’s presence can reconcile the contradictions within us during suffering so that, although it won’t relent, the pain ceases to be a blockage in our relationship with God.

Striving to live in certainty, demanding an explanation, and refusing to accept mystery often means prolonging one’s internal torment. The deep-rooted pride within us, even theological pride, demands a word or set of explanations. We are not good with mystery and think we require words to explain unexplainable things.

As great and awesome as reason and science are, these gifts from God still cannot provide certainty when horrible events, sufferings, and cancers beset us. Certainty is not an enemy of faith, but the demand for it is when there is no explanation. Sometimes pride and pain are more present in our desire for answers than humility and trust. In the beginning, middle, and end, we will see that the Creator is still greater than His creation.

But if we can learn to accept what has befallen us, taking what is either the hand of God or our cross to bear, we can experience peace. This peace we experience is not subjective nor founded within our reasoning but is rooted in Christ alone, Who suffered just as we are now. But our peace cannot be embedded in our momentary subjectivity. I’m getting over this problem or figuring out some simple explanation for the situation.

But we find peace knowing that God’s oversight and word are enough.

Language itself was biblically intended for us to commune with God in the reality that He created, which we experience together as God and humanity. We see at the tower of Babel the opposite, where humanity is not content with mystery and fills the space with his own words. We see it with the coming of the Holy Spirit, where we are given language to commune in a reality outside of our rational understanding with God. Sometimes, the language of the Spirit is silence.

Too often, the demand for words about our pain come between ourselves and God. Internal dialogue and vocabulary serve up tumultuous weather systems of thought that torment us. In the end, what is left is silence. Silence to preachers, missionaries, and theologians can sometimes feel unbearable.

Yet, all is not lost, for this silence is where the soul reconnects with God by faith. Faith replaces words and the longing for explanations as the mystery is embraced. Peace rises from within, for the Prince of Peace lives within us, and each wave of painful mystery is offered up as worship on the altar of humble servanthood.

This silence exposes false Americanized triumphal beliefs we once held about God and invites us to come deeper into a revelation of Christ’s suffering and the resurrection power we have in the here and now. Silence can offer us a greater sense of the real God Who suffered so horribly and clothe us in something that is not our creation – a peace that passes understanding.

This is what praying in the Spirit does for us: it allows us to enter a space beyond comprehension, where we commune with Him Who knows everything. It is, in a sense, God’s communicative intent for us and all of His creation.

Suffering forces one into a greater reality of God’s silence where there seems to be no rational explanation. Still, silence in that place becomes a high invitation to our attempt to explain God and His action, and each of our situations stands between God as He is and the God that we thought we knew.

Sometimes, we theologians, preachers, and scholars have many words but little silence, and sometimes even less communion. But Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-8 that Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be exploited or clung to or grasped, clearly signifying to us when it comes to the inexplicable things of this life. We should, like Christ, empty ourselves too.

In other words, as theologians, ministers, and scholars, we too heavily rely on our words to contain the experience of this life and even the next life. There are many, many things we boldly declare that are not true for everyone. We must place suffering into the hands of God.

Suffering keeps one’s mouth closed in utter brokenness, and the only alternative is dependence upon God. God, as logos, rises out of humanity’s sea of suffering and, like a lighthouse, helps us, orients us in the storm by being the word. You can’t hear a word in a fierce hurricane, but you can see the word, the logos, Jesus suspended between heaven and earth, revealing an empty tomb, signifying that all of our future tombs will be empty, for this life is not all there is.

All these sufferings can be not only survived, but they should be committed to the Lord. Lift it to the Lord, either a cross the bear or in the mystery of all mysteries, accepting it as the will of God. Either way, we rest; I hope to rest everything we have on nothing less than Jesus, the logos, and His righteousness.