What is the Christian response to suffering? We can take the question from any number of angles, and in time I’m hoping to hit most of them. It’s a thorny — meaning, “Ouch!” — topic, and as Joe Paprocki observed, it always comes up. Sooner or later everyone passes by way of the Cross.
Today’s topic: What do you do when it’s your turn to hang?
I’m going with the straight-up What Did Jesus Actually Do? answer on this one:
1. Sweat blood.
Jesus lived a sinless, perfect life. It turns out the sinless, perfect response to the prospect of unspeakable suffering isn’t some kind of happy-clappy, “It’ll be fine! I love this!” song and dance. By the grace of God, maybe it will be fine. Maybe you will love it. But maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll sweat blood. Par for the course. Not a sign that you’re lacking in faith.
2. Try to get out of it.
Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me. Complete abandonment to the will of God does not prelude prayer for deliverance. So long as not my will but yours be done is tacked on the end, we’re good. And see “sweating blood” above: We can give ourselves over to complete trust in God, and still not think of it all as one big party. If it’s one big party, it’s not suffering.
3. Fall down. Repeatedly.
Will God give you more than you can handle? Sure. He just won’t give you more than He can handle. Sometimes you’ll be laid out so flat the only way you’ll get up is if some Roman comes along and commandeers helpers for you.
The Author of Life is not stuck in the here-and-now. Life on earth as we know it is not our ultimate end.
Is death good? No. Does it happen to every one of us? Yes. Being Christian, having faith, doing everything right . . . none of that is a free pass out of mortality.
God can and does frequently intervene to heal, revive, and restore us in our earthly lives. The life of our Lord was one long series of deliverances after another . . . until, one day, it wasn’t anymore. At the end of all things, we pass into eternal life by way of death.
You don’t die because you lack faith. You rise to eternal life because you’ve got it.