Tuesday, August 6, 2013

embracing suffering

Therefore we do not lose heart. 
Though outwardly we are wasting away, 
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  
For our light and momentary troubles 
are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, 
but on what is unseen, 
since what is seen is temporary,
 but what is unseen is eternal.  

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)

If you've ever been "hard-pressed on every side" like Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4:7, you'll understand the struggle not to lose heart.  But Paul says, again and again in so many of his letters, that we should not lose heart.  He consistently talks about finding joy in suffering, comparing today's momentary troubles with eternal glory and abundant life.

But when you're hard-pressed on every side, sometimes it's impossible to see beyond the moment.  When my 38-year-old roommate is literally groaning in pain for hours on end and there's no relief in sight and no hope for future healing, I must admit that I struggle to see anything else.  The abstract thought of life with Christ is so intangible in that moment compared to the solid wall of pain and suffering that's with me in that space and that time.

Paul talks about fixing his eyes on what is unseen, and while I cry out to God to give me that vision--to see what is unseen--it is not a vision that I have within myself.  It's not a vision I can create out of my own mind or even my heart.  I can't produce or imagine what a world free of suffering would even look like, let alone a world  filled up by the presence of God.

But this is what a life of faith looks like, isn't it?  It's a life that embraces humanity and struggle and suffering and invites Jesus into the darkest of places.  It's life that is renewed from the inside out, day by day, no matter what the struggle is on the outside.  It's a life where I know that no matter what the pain and suffering, Jesus is walking with me through it, and the Holy Spirit is interceding on my behalf.

Left on my own, the mere idea of an eternity that I can't see or feel right now would never sustain me through the circumstances surrounding my life.  But what I am finding in this place of suffering is the very real presence of God--not magically fixing all the broken places of life--but transforming me from the inside out and giving me a faith that is solid enough to give me abundant life in the midst of a world where death is mercy.

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