A Message from Ellen
April 15, 2020
April 15, 2020
Our faith teaches this very odd thing, that suffering can be redemptive. We say that it was, in some way that we cannot fully understand, the suffering of Christ that allowed God to enter into our own suffering and to redeem or use our sin and suffering to save us – to make us holy. And anyone who has tried to follow Christ for more than a week, knows that this process of “being saved” or made holy is not a quick trip. It takes a lifetime of suffering and redemption to move us, even a bit, towards the holy God.
Roman Catholic priest, Richard Rohr, has defined suffering as anytime we are out of control. This seems to be a very useful definition to me. And if we define suffering in this way, then we can definitely say that we are engaged in suffering on a world wide scale at the moment. Sometimes suffering is sweet, as when we fall deeply in love. We know, in that love, that we are not in control and we embrace that suffering and give ourselves over to it. Often suffering leads us to some desired outcome, as in the birth of a baby or the physical training for a race or competition. But most often, our natural human inclination is to seek relief from suffering – the faster the better. Exaggerated, this desire to see relief from pain becomes addiction to whatever it is that allows us to escape suffering.
It is not that suffering is good. But, perhaps suffering is necessary for us to become who God intends us to be – Christ-like! I have come to believe that there are some things that I cannot learn, and somethings that cannot change, until I am willing to “suffer” them.
On Easter Sunday, thanks to the hard work (and suffering) of Stewart Grinton, we were able to livestream our ten o’clock worship. And I like very much that we celebrate communion on Easter – even if it was remotely this year. Celebrating communion on that day requires us to remember that resurrection is ALWAYS preceded by suffering and death. And while Christ’s resurrection is unique, it does in fact point us in the way we must travel if we also wish to claim resurrection – in Christ. Simply put, there is no new life in Christ that does not take us through suffering.
So, instead of focusing all of our attention on how we can relieve this period of suffering – being out of control – what if instead we asked God to give us the strength and patience to suffer now in ways that will help us be changed more and more into those who look like Christ? Notice what you use to try to relieve the pain of suffering. I’ll admit, I do that with Trader Joe’s coffee ice cream and more work. What do you use? What if, instead, we decided to settle into this time of loss of control and ask God to rearrange us for God’s purposes?
No one can do the hard work of growth in faith and holiness for us. Either we settle into this time of uncertainty and lack of control and seek God, or we will waste a great opportunity. What is it that God is teaching you in this time? When we look at it in that way, even this horrible time can be turned into a holy time.
May God bless and use our suffering to make us more like Christ.
Holy Easter to you all!
Ellen Fowler Skidmore