reflections on suffering, 5 of 5

In thinking of God as one,[1] thus one with all creation and human experience, which includes suffering, I discern afresh the power of the cross of the Christian story. The cross, for me, makes meaning of suffering.

Crucifixion, Aaron Douglas, 1927

It is not, I think, that Jesus, in his crucifixion, suffered more than others. Sorrowfully, all too numerous are the historic and present day examples of dying meted out by the cruel hands of human animus that meet and match the measure of the physical and mental, psychological and spiritual anguish of the cross.

Nor do I believe that Jesus suffered for us in the sense that we, in life, no longer need take up and bear the cross of suffering. As life in this world remains a terminal enterprise, we will continue to suffer.

Rather Jesus’ crucifixion and suffering was, is, and (given all that we know of the world and ourselves) will be so damnably repeatable. The cross, therefore, squares with our experience; shining an illuminating, harshly truthful light on the way the world is and the way we humans are.

Even more, the cross of the Christian story followed by resurrection proclaims that suffering can be made meaningful as a gateway to new life.

Still more, the cross is a symbol of relationship, of being joined in the suffering of this life; God with us and us with God. Thus, the cross bespeaks solidarity. Not a solidarity that suffers with another, only for a moment stepping into the pain of that experience, and then stepping out again. Rather a solidarity that, in embracing, entering, climbing up and dying on the cross of the reality of suffering, rises to live and to breathe, to work and to bleed with the world to change the reality.

Suffering. We all suffer. Yet its meaning does not lie in its mere repeatability, but rather in a compassion that yields a solidarity that compels us who suffer to stand with all who suffer so to change the often nightmare of what is into the dream of what may be, indeed what God intended at the dawn of creation.

Illustration: Crucifixion, Aaron Douglas, 1927

Footnote:

[1] In this notion of the holiness and holism (the oneness) of God, my heart and soul cleave to the teaching of the Deuteronomist, especially in the recitation of the Shema (Hear!): “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” or “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6.4). These English translations, to make the Hebrew readable and understandable, employ the verb “is.” The Hebrew, literally rendered, reads, more emphatically: “The Lord, our God, the Lord, one” (my emphasis, for “one” is the key word).

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2 thoughts on “reflections on suffering, 5 of 5

  1. Wow, the dream of what may be as opposed to the nightmare of what is!! That’s powerful Paul!! I’ve always been a dreamer but sometimes felt it was a waste of time… But I’ve changed my mind. I still believe in the dream of love, forgiveness and justice and hope I live to see it.

    I’ve never thought of solidarity with God in terms of the cross!! Climbing up, dying, then rising and living! I can definitely buy into and support the solidarity in that! God with us and us with God, I see that as a Win/Win situation!

    Thanks for the series Paul, it was far from morbid (which I believe is how many people view the topic of suffering). Rather, it was very hopeful and thought-provoking and actually reminded me of my love for and connection with God!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One word, Loretta. Gratitude. I am grateful for your reading my posts, your commenting on my posts, and, in that, finding my reflections hopeful and meaningful. And, yes, let us continue to dream and to act on the dream of what might be as God intends!

    Liked by 1 person

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