Reflection for May 3, 2020
Greetings Promise Church, One of the scriptures from the lectionary for this week is 1 Peter 2:19-25, which reads:
19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,[ a] so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds[ b] you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
As I read this passage, it strikes me that the author is attempting to reframe the meaning of suffering. For the author of 1st Peter, suffering is not just suffering, suffering is the validation and approval of God. That by the wounds of Christ we are healed. This is a way of making meaning out of suffering that would otherwise feel utterly meaningless, and therefore all the more excruciating.
It is crucial that we are able to find meaning in our lives, and therefore in our suffering, because as we all know, life has plenty of suffering. Viktor Frankl, in his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, describes how those who found the strength to survive the concentration camps of the Nazis were those who were able to find a meaning to live for, a purpose.
When we make meaning out of our suffering, it helps us, above all, to accept and allow our suffering. Time and again I hear spiritual masters, including Jesus, teaching that we must learn to accept, to let go, to surrender to God in each moment of our lives. Our resistance to our experience of life is so often what causes us the most pain.
Of course, this is not to say that we should not fight to end our pain, to seek relief, to seek help and healing, all of which is natural. Rather the teaching of acceptance helps us to recognize that, one way or another, difficult moments are a part of life, and very often the only thing we can do is open up our hearts and let things be as they are. Paradoxically, this softening of our hearts is often what can give us a great measure of relief.
A Prayer for our community:
God of Peace, we thank you for another day of being alive. All of us are carrying some measure of pain today. Please grant us quick relief where possible. May we learn to be with our pain in a gentle and accepting way whenever we must endure it. May you give us strength and wisdom as we bear it. Help us to grow from our experiences and to be open to the ways in which our suffering might transform us. In all your Holy Names we pray. Amen.