holy week- suffering

What is suffering? Before my small group did the stations of the cross (‘holy week- monday’ post) I asked them when they had last suffered… or seen suffering. A few could name times they had suffered, several thought they had never suffered, and all of them could remember a time that they had seen suffering.It was interesting to me that this group of girls had grown up living so far and so protected from suffering that many didn’t even believe they had experienced it themselves. What unnatural lives we live here in America, trying to keep ourselves safe from suffering.

Then I reflected on my own life. When had I truly suffered? I could name a few times, but to be honest I haven’t suffered much. I’ve gone through some really hard times, but how bad does a situation have to be before you can call it suffering?

Maybe this week is hard for American christians because we are so used to protecting ourselves from suffering. Maybe it is difficult to come face-to-face with the suffering Christ because we don’t come face-to-face with suffering in our own lives that often. Or maybe we do… Maybe our suffering runs deep beneath the surface. Maybe we live in a peaceful nation where we have enough to eat and have opportunities to make our lives better, but maybe we suffer from stress, loneliness, and despair… Maybe our suffering runs so deep and that makes it even harder to carry. We can feed the hungry and we can care for the sick, but how do you cure loneliness and purposelessness?

If we step outside of suffering we can see that it is a profoundly beautiful thing. In suffering we all become equal. And we all suffer- it’s part of the human condition. Suffering is the great meeting ground upon which all of humanity has something in common… we all know suffering. And in suffering all of our differences disappear and we are reduced to our simple, bare humanity. In suffering, we can all relate to one another- one suffering human can touch another in a way that cannot be done through joy and celebration. Suffering is a great equalizer, because in suffering we have to fully embrace our humanity.

And I think that is what is so profound about Christ’s suffering… we can meet him there. In suffering Christ is fully human…. In his miracles, in his words, his parables, his acts we can get so caught up in his divinity. But in his suffering we see his true humanity. We can reach out and touch him in that humanity because we, too, understand suffering.

So this week I hope we can embrace our suffering and our full humanity. I hope we can embrace our brokenness, our pain, and our weakness. I hope we can embrace our humility and our powerlessness. We can strive for the divine, but when we let ourselves be fully human we can meet the suffering Christ there.

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