Category: Theodicy

G is for God Meant It For Good

Beloved,

Lent has been brutal. I cried every single day. It’s a liquid Lent. Sharon was so concerned but she laughed every time I said it was just dross removal; I have so much dross to be removed. The tears seem to be abating; the sun shines sometimes.

The soldiers, the man who raped me, the ministers, the cruel children in that house, even the minister’s wife, all those who did horrible things to me, though some of them would say they were helping me, they all meant to hurt me. Some of them weren’t even singling me out. I just happened to be easy prey.

But I was right when I told that therapist that people hurt me, You didn’t. But You didn’t protect me from people and that hurt so much; I’ve been so angry. But the liquid Lent showed me a different perspective.

I’ve begged You to pull a Deus ex machina, to undo my suffering and loss, to exempt me from the consequences of the sins committed against me. You don’t. To do so would have been to give me my fantasy world. That would be truly cruel. My fantasies aren’t real even if they’re prettier than reality. Reality has real people and real consequences. The bullets that killed Grandpère and the rest of my family did have to be real. If not, life would not be real.

God meant it for goodBut the liquid Lent has been showing me that Grandpère’s body slamming against the wall, his blood smeared on the white paint and pouring out over his immaculate, pale blue shirt need not be the end. While You won’t exempt me from what it means to live in a world we broke but don’t know how to fix, You will let me be like Joseph telling his brothers, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”

You will use our suffering for good, if we choose. You do that with for me.

You know how much I can talk, mostly to fill the space. But when I visit Andrew, I become silent. I wait. I watch intently and let him communicate in his own time. It takes all my energy and more. But I believe we can communicate and we do.

I know that’s You. People terrify me. But somehow, Andrew, and AIDS patients, the sick and hurting, and little children call from me the ability to listen and love. I no longer stand on the sidelines waiting to be invited. Their pain calls to me and I find myself just loving them. From my suffering, You’ve created the ability for me to do for others what wasn’t done for me. I never asked for it. I thought I was content just to hang out with You; You’ve got other plans.

Today, I’m like Joseph. Today, I can say, ‘God meant it for good.” Today, I know that You intend to use evil others have committed against me to do very good things in and for me. But on some tomorrow, I will forget. I’m not as smart as I think. Something will hurt or frighten me and I will forget. Please remind me. Please help me continue to see the truth: God meant it for good. Yes! You did.

Facing Down Leviathan

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. (1)

In studying Scripture, I keep coming upon Nachash (Nahash). “Serpent” is one translation. Leviathan is another.

My image of the serpent in Genesis came straight from the pictures in the big, family Bible I first read when I was five. They were supplemented by others from Sunday school books and various paintings. All of them pretty much depicted a big snake with or without appendages. I had only a hazy image of Leviathan. The priest who confirmed me said, in response to my queries, “It’s a primordial hippopotamus.” I was unconvinced. Leviathan was a sea creature and hippos aren’t known for their ocean-going tendencies. Over the past few years, I’ve learned Leviathan, in size, is a more like Jörmungandr, the giant Midgard Serpent. He’s also utterly terrifying. God tells Job:

Orange-Leviathan_smallLay hands on him;
think of the battle;
you will not do it again!
Behold,
the hope of a man is disappointed;
he is laid low even at the sight of him.
No one is so fierce
that he dares to stir him up. (2)

The serpent in the Garden (Nachash in the original Hebrew) is Leviathan (also Nachash in the original Hebrew) in Job and Ezekiel and in many other places throughout the Bible.

But wait! This all actually has a point that is central to Loved As If in which I dive into theodicy and hope I don’t drown.

In a recently published article, my friend, Dr. Randall Smith, following St. Augustine, writes, “the really crucial moment in the story—the actual fall—occurs when Adam ‘deliberately decides—despite not being deceived—to disfigure by sin the spousal fellowship he and Eve had already been given by God.'”

How often have I passed over “Adam was not deceived” (3) because I was bristling about Paul saying woman would be saved through child birth. As I read Dr. Smith’s article, those four words finally resounded through me stirring up immense horror: “Adam was not deceived.” He knew better.

When God places Adam in the garden, He instructs him to “till it and keep it.” What isn’t readily apparent is that God gives Adam the same priestly charge He will later give the Levites who are to tend the Ark of the Covenant:

[B]ut appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it; they are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall tend it, and shall encamp around the tabernacle. (4)

I’ve seen many depictions of the Israelites in battle with the Ark of the Covenant. Usually the Ark is surrounded by a few Levites vested as per God’s instructions to Moses. But in reality, the Ark would have been surrounded by all the sons of Kohath (5), more than 8,00 men, ready to cut down anyone who came near. And the Kohathites set out in the midst of the hosts of Israel; the Ark is surrounded by warriors. It was just that precious. And so was the garden before it.

But Adam threatens not even the most minimal battle to protect it. So the serpent, Nachash, Leviathan, gets into the garden — as if Adam isn’t there. Nachash questions Eve — as if Adam isn’t there. Nachash beguiles Eve — as if Adam isn’t there. But he is there all the time.

Modern English doesn’t use a plural form of the pronoun “you” so we aren’t aware that in Hebrew, Nachash is speaking to both Adam and Eve when he asks: “Did God say, `[You both] shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And Adam is there when Nachash says: “[You both] will not die. For God knows that when [you both] eat of it your eyes will be opened, and [you both] will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (6) The English translation is painfully haunting when one realizes Adam might have pulled Eve away and whispered to her, ‘God will be along at the breezy time of the day. Let’s ask Him then.’ Instead, Adam remains silent and eats the fruit even though he knows Nachash is lying.

The fall involved neither sex nor eating an apple. The fall actually occurred because Adam decides he’s not facing down Leviathan. Adam balks at suffering and sacrifice. (So does Eve but I’m not telling that story here.) He knowingly chooses himself over God, his bride, and his priestly charge.

For long, I thought suffering came as a result of the fall. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love God. And I knew (because I had tried) that I couldn’t just will myself to stop loving Him. But I was appalled that God would allow suffering in my life. Suffering came as a result of sin. Why should I suffer for the sins of others? In my mind, suffering was a linear equation: my sin equals my suffering, the only variables were the sins I might commit. I truly felt that I and other innocent people ought to be exempt or at least ought to be given a pass after a certain amount of suffering. I was woefully ignorant.

Suffering was built in from the beginning. It was never something from which I or anyone else could be exempt. The original, deluxe, Imago Dei operating system that was the very life God breathed into Adam could not be fully actualized unless Adam laid down his life for the sake God, Eve, and the garden.

And that’s why Christ is the new Adam. He doesn’t flee suffering. He faces down Leviathan though He doesn’t want to die. He goes to the cross and reboots humanity. His reboot isn’t an undoing of suffering and sacrifice. Instead, Christ restores us to our original factory settings so that we might operate from the Imago Dei, so that we might truly sacrifice and suffer instead of simply hurting in confusion, so that we too might face Leviathan and lay down our lives for our friends. Christians can now suffer as God had always intended, as Christ did, as Adam did not.

We won’t always see that our suffering accomplishes anything. When suffering includes a linear equation, that’s only a hint of its fullness. It makes sense that a father would sacrifice himself to save his child. But when we’re in pain or foregoing something we want or need for the sake of another, we don’t always know how God is working our suffering and sacrifice into the entire program. Then again, it’s difficult to understand how Adam’s actions can affect all of creation. But for many, it’s just as difficult to understand how a few lines of code can wreck a computer. Yet most of us know what a computer virus can do.

In the end, for all our babble about self-worth and self-esteem, we can’t really imagine our immense value. When Paul writes, “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God,” (7) it’s hard to see how “the glorious liberty of the children of God” will restore creation. Just as it’s hard to accept that “creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope.” (8) Our brains are groggy from living in a world that only recognizes fairly simple mathematics. The immense creativity that allows creation to wait “with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (9) demands well-developed imaginations and hearts.

Christians can catch a peek now and then. Some more, some less. We can trust that creation is waiting for the Adam Christ restored in all those who follow Him to do what the original Adam did not do in the garden. We’re not to chase suffering. Masochism is of Nachash and has no place in the Imago Dei operating system. For the same reason, we are not to sacrifice out of pride. But a lot hinges on us. The restoration of all of creation longs for our “glorious liberty.”

We obtain that liberty by following Christ, the new Adam. We obtain it by accepting the suffering and sacrifice God allows into our lives. We unleash it’s immense power when, through the grace of God, we say, ‘This time, I’m facing down Leviathan.’ I can’t yet say, with some of the saints, that I rejoice in suffering. But I know, when we suffer with Christ, the uncorrupted Imago Dei operating system becomes fully activated and finally, we begin to grow into what God created us to become from the beginning.

(1) Genesis 2:15 (RSV)

(2) Job 41:8-10 (RSV). Image source.

(3) 1 Timothy 2:14 (RSV)

(4) Numbers 1:50 (RSV)

(5) Numbers 3:29 (RSV)

(6) Michael Barber, Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying Its Lessons Today, Emmaus Road Publishing (January 1, 2006). Genesis 3:4-5 (RSV)

(7) Romans 8:21 (RSV)

(8) Romans 8:20 (RSV)

(9) Romans 8:19 (RSV)

Five Minute Friday: Open

Usually, the Five Minute Friday prompt segues into something I’ve been thinking or writing about. This week, I’m recovering from a sinus infection, my head feels soggy, and nothing comes to mind. when I feel this way I’d usually skip FMF. Not this week. Let’s see where this goes…

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Often, I’ve been admonished that I must have an “open mind.” Usually, I’m being told that my faith and morals are close-minded, old-fashioned. I’ll usually ask, ‘Open to what? Everything? Anything? Even those things that will destroy me and make me less the person I’m working to be?’ The answers I receive range from head shaking to ‘You’re weird.’

God has blessed me with an impish mind and I wonder, what if I asked, Are we open to suffering? Are we open to sacrifice? Are we open to asking God to take the things we really don’t want and use them for His glory even if it hurts?

19 stitchesWhen my god-daughter’s little sister stepped into broken glass, she would allow no one to pour peroxide over the bleeding mess. Her mother was unwilling to suffer the howls and tears. Fully dressed, I climbed into the tub held the child’s foot, said, “This will hurt,” and poured on the peroxide. It was apparent, hers wasn’t a shallow cut. We rushed her to the emergency room for stitches.

She wasn’t my child and that probably made it much easier. But I had to be open to suffering (and ruining my skirt) for the child’s good including her anger because I did hurt her. I know so many who are angry with God because he allows suffering. Often, I think we are closed to Him and closed to understanding that He will allow us to suffer because sometimes (perhaps often) suffering is the only way to determine if we’ve just got a shallow cut or need stitches.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung’s, at  Heading Home, provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Excerpts: More On Happy Endings

I want a happy ending like in the fairy tales I so love: And they lived happily ever after to the end of their days. But I still wonder what that means. Does nothing bad ever happen again? Do the characters never again face evil? Does all the suffering end when the prince sweeps up the virtuous, ill-used, impoverished girl? Fairy tales are supposed to end with happiness for those who’ve been abused, those who’ve struggled, but happily ever after still leaves me asking, What happened next? My experience is more like Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid — the actual story he wrote, not the Disney version:

Daughters of the airThe little mermaid drew back the crimson curtain of the tent, and beheld the fair bride with her head resting on the prince’s breast. She bent down and kissed his fair brow, then looked at the sky on which the rosy dawn grew brighter and brighter; then she glanced at the sharp knife, and again fixed her eyes on the prince, who whispered the name of his bride in his dreams. She was in his thoughts, and the knife trembled in the hand of the little mermaid: then she flung it far away from her into the waves; the water turned red where it fell, and the drops that spurted up looked like blood. She cast one more lingering, half-fainting glance at the prince, and then threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body was dissolving into foam.

The sun rose above the waves, and his warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid, who did not feel as if she were dying. She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continued to rise higher and higher out of the foam.

“Where am I?” asked she, and her voice sounded ethereal, as the voices of those who were with her; no earthly music could imitate it.

Among the daughters of the air,” answered one of them. “A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, can, by their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We fly to warm countries, and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind with the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread health and restoration. After we have striven for three hundred years to do all the good in our power, we receive an immortal soul and take part in the happiness of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds; and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul.”

The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes towards the sun, and felt them, for the first time, filling with tears. On the ship, in which she had left the prince, there were life and noise; she saw him and his beautiful bride searching for her; sorrowfully they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether. (1)

The little mermaid receives not what she wants, the love of her dear prince. She’s given what she needs: the gift of tears, the community of the daughters of the air who recognize her striving and welcome her to work along beside them, and the hope of gaining a soul so that she can mount up to heaven. She is adopted into a world she never imagined when she sacrificed everything to be with the prince. Life continues after the happy ending. Toil continues but hope flourishes. She learns that “if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another harder and better one.” (2)

(1) Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid, http://hca.gilead.org.il/li_merma.html

(2) C.S. Lewis, The Horse And His Boy

Suffering: The Questions I Fail To Ask

0 eager schoolgirl with hand raisedAs a child, when my teachers asked a question, my hand always shot up first and waved furiously in the air. Since I loved studying and was usually several weeks ahead with my homework, I really did know the answers. At times, teachers refused to call on me so that other students might have a chance. I even argued with the substitute who replaced our regular algebra teacher in the middle of the term. And I was right. She had an odd habit of giving us the problems that were already answered in the back of the book so I was able to prove my contentions. I was a truly annoying student.

Many people have asked me, ‘If God is so good and loving, why does He allow such awful things to happen to good people?’ How my hand itches to fly up into the air. How I want to cry out, “Ooh! Ooh! I know the answer!” An acquaintance once insisted that since I have suffered so much, if I couldn’t convince him that God is loving, no one could. Once upon a time, I loosed terrible tantrums at God because of the evil He allowed in my life. But those times seem to be past. I seem to have got it. So I ought to be able to write a clear, neat paragraph that explains why God allows suffering. I ought to be able to condense all I’ve learned into a few words.

But, after writing many pages and discarding them all, I realized I was stuck. I just couldn’t find the right words. Perhaps I’m finally learning that I don’t know everything. And too, some questions ought not receive neat, off-the-cuff responses. So I’ve sat on my hands these past few months (with an occasional, ‘Don’t You see I’m not writing, Lord?’ tossed out when I’m feeling particularly impatient) and waited. And longed to be that well-prepared, annoying student again. And waited some more. And finally realized I was bored waiting.

Since writing wasn’t working, I decided to work on improving my French conversation so that I might score higher on a proficiency exam. I’d like to become a certified translator. And I’d love to be as comfortable using French as English. After all, I spoke French before I encountered English and still read it. Since there are many free, online opportunities, I may as well avail myself of them.

And, for good measure, I decided to review Algebra II and Calculus to prepare to take a couple of Statistics courses. For me, university was like a world cruise. It whet my appetite and left me hungry for much, much more. There are so many subjects I want to study in greater depth. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other free online offerings make the internet a giant garden bursting with boundless opportunities to learn.

baby crawling & reaching 3Then, this morning, after praying the Angelus in English* my mouth suddenly curled into a happy smile as the image of a baby flooded my mind. He scooted himself forward, stopped, supported his upper body on one arm and hand and lifted his other hand to a toy that was just out of reach.

That’s how he learns to walk, I silently told my Friend.

His voice spoke within me: Why do you not ask, ‘How can parents be so cruel as to force a baby to learn to walk’? You can see how much work it requires.

I nodded. Another image filled my mind: A girl sat at a table learning to spell a list of words. A fresh, warm breeze through the open window stirred the curtains and beckoned her to come and play.

Again, He spoke: Why do you not ask, ‘How can her parents force her to learn’? Spelling is difficult for her, she’d rather be out in the sunshine.

Again, I nodded. A third image filled my mind: I was quickly donning my purple mohair coat as I instructed my assistant on the work they ought to begin after everyone ate dinner. The voice of another co-worker ordering food came to my ears; my stomach growled. I caught up my dance bag and hurried off to class.

I was 28, I mused to my Friend. And up each morning at six so I could get to my 7 a.m. dance class. Then skipped dinner every evening to go to another class and afterwards worked ’til 9 or 10.

His voice spoke again: Why did you not ask, ‘Why torture myself for three hours, six days a week’? Why did your co-workers think it an admirable thing to go to two classes?

I loved dancing. It was worth it, I replied definitively.

Then, I was aware of many souls reaching for heaven. It was hard work. They were each willing to suffer in order to make their goal. Life sent all sorts of suffering and hardship their way; they didn’t choose what they would suffer. But they did choose whether they would participate and reach heaven or rebel and miss out on the real purpose for their lives. And, like a baby forgets the discomfort of learning to walk, they each forgot their suffering once they were with God.

So now, I must remember not to answer but to ask questions I so often neglect: Why would reaching heaven be any different than learning to walk or spell or dance? Why should I expect that being transformed from animated earth into the fullness of Christ would be easy? Without pain? Without suffering? Why would the patterns of my life, or any life, suddenly reorganize themselves so that I can avoid the discomfort that will allow me to become what God created me to be? When He did not exempt Himself but rather, did it the hard way, why would God exempt me? If He did exempt me and I never became like Him, would that not be truly cruel? If God takes all the pieces of my life, all the brokenness, all my errors and failings, all the sins committed against me, all the sins I, myself, commit, and uses all of it — the good and the bad — to make me like Him, if He gives me the eyes to see it, why would I waste my energy fuming at Him because it’s not according to my script?

* At 6 p.m., I pray l’Angélus en Français.

Five Minute Friday: Whisper

small-voice1Usually, it’s not as loud as a whisper. Yes, there have been occasions when His voice is clear and sharp, as when He told me, “You were happy once. You will be happy again.” But that’s rare. Usually, there’s a wisp of feeling, a slight tingle, a tug, a passing thought.

Often it’s like the day I felt pulled to take a different route as I walked to the supermarket. “I like this way better,” I told God and continued on my original path. Then the squirrel darted in front of me. We both stopped. I waited for it to dart back into the garden from whence it had come. It quickly turned it’s head in all directions and darted into the street where it was hit by a car and killed.

“If only I had listened,” I mournfully told God. “I wouldn’t have seen it die, wouldn’t have startled the squirrel. Maybe it would still be alive.

It’s easy to ask God for what I want. More work is required when He speaks to me. I must take Him seriously. I must accept that even when it doesn’t seem to matter, if He’s pulling me one way, it matters. I must be humble enough to give way to the small whispers and tugs and tingles. I must be trusting enough to remember that, at times, God will shield me from witnessing the death of a squirrel because He’s not out to expose me to horrors and He cares for all of His creation.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Our new home is at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides a prompt on Thursday evening and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

The Luckiest Girl In The World

For weeks, I’ve struggled with writing chapter ten, the last chapter of the book. It’s important because it will help me hone the previous chapters. It’s important because, that’s where I’m heading. It’s also difficult. What do I write? How would I write it? Do I use vignettes and memories and letters to God. Do I write an essay? How do I sum up how God kept His promise: “You were happy once. You will be happy again.”?

In the midst of the madness my life has been, the answer finally came. Here’s a preview:

Beloved,

How did we get to this? How did we stop knowing what Polly knows? What Phronsie recalls without much help? That we’re Yours in a way that Z’s mice can never be his. Though Z breeds mice, they are part and parcel of the same creation as him. If Z decides to breed vicious mice, he doesn’t make the mice ex nihilo. He uses mice that You have already created and attempts to breed them so that they will be more vicious. The mice have no input either before or after Z breeds them. They have no ability to choose whether they will be vicious. And Z has only limited ability over them. Recessive genes would cause some percentage of the mice to be less vicious. But they would quickly be killed by the more vicious rodents or Z would remove them as failed experiments.

But for several years, I held the keys to the food cupboards as had Claire before me. It was a perfect opportunity to withhold food from boys who molested and beat me from five to thirteen. But I remembered being hungry, so hungry, I ate dry dog food and suffered horrible headaches. I cooked extra treats so that we’d all have snacks after school. I spent my own money to buy raisins and nuts and extra butter and flour. I cooked apples and pears from the garden and learned to make all sorts of dishes so that that two pounds of ground beef and some fresh vegetables became a delicious, filling meal. I spent my own money to feed them when we were out. It never occurred to me to starve them. There was still a hungry child inside me who remembered stealing groceries for them. No matter how much I detested them, I couldn’t let them be hungry. I could choose not to be vicious. Z’s mice can’t.

He’s angry with You. You’re not as he thinks You ought to be. You allow suffering. You also don’t respond as he thinks You ought: he was so upset that you didn’t give him even one blinding light experience. Communicating with You is difficult. It requires long, hard work.

“[I]f god [sic] is omnipotent, he is capable of making himself understood if he so chooses.” Z continued, “[T]he notion that we don’t hear due to some defect on our part is absurd. [W]e are his creation. [I]f he wants us to understand his voice, he will be understood.”

Z fails to imagine himself as one of his mice. Of course, he’d tell me, “I take good care of my mice. They’re fine.” But does he understand what the mice experience? He is focused on curing cancer. That’s fitting. Just as it’s fitting to use mice to reach his goal. But do the mice want to be stabbed? Do they want to be subjects of his experiments? Z would point out that curing cancer is more important and mice aren’t human. But he’d also agree, mice suffer. And, if he is honest, he knows when his mice are suffering. He knows by their behaviour; he’s spent years watching them. They communicate to some extent. So if Z is willing to spend the time and energy learning to communicate with rodents, why won’t he learn to communicate with You?

Suffering With Christ

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

In Dappled Things, Tonita M. Helton writes about the intersection of the Cross and her mother’s horrific death from cancer.

We are all given a cross that we are bound to carry, whether willing or unwilling. Most of us are left to offer smaller sacrifices, like headaches, stubbed toes, the occasional cut, or the frustration of traffic or a difficult job or co-worker. And many, perhaps most, of us reject even those smaller opportunities. But, for the rare and truly blessed soul, God sometimes sends acute suffering, in whatever form, along with an invitation to crawl up on the Cross with him and, in so doing, help him to save the world. For those who know – really know – what to do with this opportunity, the growth and purification they merit for their own souls and the graces that are showered upon the world as a result of their offerings are enormous.

Perhaps the difficulty we have with this teaching is that the connection is hidden from us this side of the grave. It was sometimes hard for me to see why God, if he really loved my mother, couldn’t just give her a break every now and then, and protect her from the chemical burn, or the mutant bacteria, or the wretched nausea, or the month-long bout of constipation, or the edema, or the pancreatic malfunction, or the gallbladder pain and surgery, or the cancer itself, or at least the nightmares she had of demons attacking her. You see, there is often no clear line drawn for us between this particular suffering and that particular soul. Even so, there remains a bright line drawn across the ages and it reminds us boldly that Christ did not suffer in vain and it is his revolutionary mandate that neither must we. It remains our destiny to suffer because mankind fell into sin, but even that suffering can and should be redeemed by uniting it with his

Participation in Christ’s suffering is immense honour and joy. It’s hard to see, hard to accept. But once seen, we discover the immense grace He has bestowed upon us.

Don’t get me wrong. We ought not pursue suffering. Neither ought we wallow in it. But when it comes, and it will, just as the Cross was powerful, our suffering can be as well if we will suffer with Christ.

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