Can you stand a little more to learn coming from me?
Hey, I’ve been in a reflective mood of late with much to talk about.
My sense of humor will return next week. I promise!
We can joke about death then, or something fun like that.
This side of the tracks is such an interesting place, though, I want to shout across them to you while I still can.
As I have quoted C.S. Lewis before, “Think of me as a fellow-patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice.”
Anchor your heart on that which can never be taken from you.
The pursuit of wealth, pleasure and personal freedom as the primary purpose of life leave us vulnerable to despair when suffering knocks at our door.
I was just 10 years-old when a nurse handed me an insulin syringe and needle, telling me I was going to have to jab it into me for the rest of my life if I wanted to stay alive.
Even at that young age, suffering was teaching me that joy would have to be found in something beyond hardship.
Notice I didn’t say joy was found by avoiding hardship (that’s called “shallow living”, if you are successful at it).
Instead, joy comes from anchoring your heart in something that hardship can never take away from you.
The question that helped to anchor me was, “If I was crippled and had to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, what would enable me to do so with joy?”
Suffering trains us to listen to the true music of the universe that we cannot yet hear.
When suffering does comes upon us, it’s easy to believe that we have been robbed of everything meaningful in our lives.
What if suffering instead, isn’t designed to diminish us, but to deepen us?
What if suffering actually gives us ears to hear and eyes to see that which is otherwise invisible in this world?
Thomas Merton spoke grimly of “our determined grasp of our empty selves.”
What if suffering comes to deliver us from that death grip?
By it, we are forced to let go of everything – especially our “determined grasp of our empty selves.”
In our resulting nakedness we are shocked to then find ourselves beautifully clothed.
In the wonderful book, Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, he tells the story of Mercy laughing in her sleep:
“The next morning she wakes up and Christiana says, “I heard you laughing last night. Why did you laugh?” She said, “I was standing and my clothes were in rags and I was laughed at by my friends and then I looked down and I was clothed with gold and silver and I was ushered into the throne room of Almighty God and I heard a voice and the voice said, “Welcome daughter, welcome.” And I did laugh and laugh and laugh.”
How interesting that being laughed at can cause us to see a deeper reality that leads us to laugh (and live) in a whole new way.
People often tell me they are praying that I will experience relief from my suffering.
Please don’t pray for this.
Pray, instead, that suffering would train me to hear the “true music of the universe.”
This is where my hope lies.
Here’s some of that music for you:
“After you have suffered for a little, the God of all grace,
who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 5:10)
If you’re going to pray for me, pray that I will hear this music in my heart and that it will sustain me.
Our afflictions are designed to expose us to love.
I’m an increasingly hard guy to be around.
Hang out with me and I will confront you with a reality you won’t want to face.
Affliction and suffering in this world are normal, I proclaim.
No one is immune.
We are all broken, sinful, sick and desperately in need of love and care.
I’m like a flare going off in this busy, detached, individualized world.
Most people avoid needy people like me. They’re afraid it might be catching.
In history, there is one person in particular, though, who went out of His way to find hurting people to love them and bring them back to health.
Speaking of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, John Stott writes:
“They would gather up their robes and recoil in self-righteous horror from the prostitute;
Jesus allowed a prostitute to wash his feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair.
The Pharisees had no dealings with publicans,
regarding them as morally and politically despicable;
Jesus entered tax-collector’s homes and ate with them.
The Pharisees threw stones at lepers to make them keep their distance;
Jesus stretched out his hand to touch them and bring them back to health.”
Why did Jesus treat such broken and needy people with such great love?
Because there was music playing in the universe that He wanted us to hear.
Because there was love at the core of all that exists that He wanted us to see.
Because there was a kingdom coming where suffering and sorrow would be no more.
Because He wanted us to get a glimpse of it.
“In the kingdom of heaven, the poor are clothed with gold and silver,
the disabled jump to their feet and dance.
The deaf hear again.
The blind watch movies.
The dead aren’t dead anymore. They knock on your door for dinner.”
Jesus said, “Behold, I am making all things new!”
© Ed Hague. All rights reserved.