Suffering is an experience most of us do not seek out and, in fact, avoid like the plague. In our current feel-good, lotus-eating culture, dealing honestly with pain, loss, and grief has become all but defunct.
We avoid conflict because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but gossip instead. Funeral liturgies have been renamed “celebrations of life,” and immediate cremation has all but supplanted open caskets and the opportunity to pay one’s respects the old-fashioned way. When it comes to job loss, divorce, depression, addiction, and other forms of human misery, no one in the mainstream wants to hear it. Impossible victories and Pollyannaish happy endings in the media have convinced us that the failure to be happy even in difficult times somehow is our fault.
As Christian stewards, we acknowledge that all good things in life ultimately are from God, who is the source of every blessing. But what about misfortune? How do we faithfully steward suffering?
In the gospel reading this week, Jesus tells his disciples that, in order to be considered “great,” they would have to drink from the same “cup” as he, or accept the trials and tribulations of working to accomplish God’s purposes. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah similarly promises that the servant who willingly endures suffering for the sins of others will be rewarded by the Lord.
It comes rather easy to thank God for blessings and even to share them generously with others, but quite another task to praise God in the storm. When life throws a curveball, the proper response of a good steward is that of the prophet Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God” (Hab. 3:17-18).
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
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