NO MORE VULNERABLE OF LIFE do we experience as when all comes apart, twisted and mangled askew, the collateral damage of insensitive circumstance, of life going the way it will go. We float as ghosts belonging to the past – a time when life made better sense and all stood undisturbed – who cannot find rest in the present day dislodged and changed by loss experienced. And that loss can be just about anything. Loss is not exclusive to dramatic tragedy, but rather, any happening which redefines normality – loss of a job, a friendship, a home, a marriage, and so on, as well as a relocation, loss of time, possession, etc. The list can grow on and on to an innumerable length of experiences, events and occurrences in which we lose our sense of what is normality in relation to our rhythm of life and expectation. Whatever loss incurred, we suffer through seasons of difficulty. Some seasons stall lasting longer than expected, as a hurricane slowing its pace at landfall as though hungry for all destruction and upheaval that can be had.
Such are the worst kind of sufferings in life encountered: when you least expect them and their wake, they leave the worst lasting damage.
You are different for it – the loss – and because of those sufferings that have made themselves native to your life and story. Into the category of “abomination” and “damned” do most fit life’s sufferings. We shriek and swat at suffering as though it has no place in a happy life filled with minimal unanswered questions, easy explanations for the whys of life and good expectation for the day ahead.
The movie, Good Will Hunting, easily remains one of my favorites. There’s a scene where the two main characters visit the shores of suffering experienced. Will, the troubled main character, asks Sean, the counselor who’s sustained the loss of his wife and working his way through suffering, if he regrets ever meeting his wife. Of course, the inference laid within the questions consists of avoiding loss and suffering. Sean’s response rings profound: “It’s all right. It’s an important question. ‘Cuz you’ll have bad times, but they’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”
Right there. The realization of purpose in suffering blooms a joy invincible. Dare I even say, vocation of suffering?
A calling to suffer, to openheartedly endure hardships, to even willing join in a fellowship of suffering, stands as a common call to all who will choose to follow the narrow and often precarious path made by Christ. I am convinced of this here: receiving suffering into your life is the only way to truly live well and outlive all that can be seen with our natural eyes.
Two encounters in Scripture help us arrive at the point where following Christ means suffering and difficulty is to not only be expected but accepted as normal, endurable and most important, purposeful (i.e., Luke 18:18-30; Matthew 8:18-22). In both, Christ’s response upends life to reveal a call to die to the idea of life as we see it and want it and trust Him with your security. A vocation of suffering is one of dying in choices of desire to discover an otherworldly abundance of joy and peace that cannot be diminished in darkened nights we must live through in circumstances we cannot control.
We must die, nothing less and nothing more. Anything less than dying to ourselves, our ideas, our desires, reveal a distorted theology steeped in suffering avoidance, and any thing more shows our heart’s ambition to be set at attempts of earning acceptance rather than simply dying and following Christ. There is purpose in your suffering and it is this: a call to join Christ in unhinging all which clings to this life as primary and to thrive no matter the circumstance or condition, all for the glory of God and acknowledgement of His forever good.
(image: Path through slate scree, by terryemilluerk, licensed by CC 2.0)