a priest's musings on the journey

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Perspective: Ramblings on suffering

I'll just be frank. The hardest part of faith for me is dealing with the problem of suffering. I've had my share of pain in life- enough for a lifetime in the last four years. Yes, I have to admit that God has been present with me and yes God has redeemed the pain and brought good out of it. But why does it have to be this way? I'm not even talking about myself. I'm talking about the oppressive suffering of so many I see around me. Good people, honest people, holy people, who keep getting knocked down everytime they get up. C.S. Lewis once wrote, "God whispers to us in health and prosperity, but, being hard of hearing, we fail to hear God's voice in both. Whereupon God turns up the amplifier by means of suffering. Then his voice booms." I just don't know. That might be true for some people; but I see too many in pain who are closer to God than I will ever be.

This has all come to mind because someone who I love dearly is suffering at the hands of others injustly. This is not new. He has suffered this way for half of his life. He loves God, in fact he is one of the most Christ-like people I know. He doesn't even see that- which convinces me even more of his holiness. He has had the courage to walk away from lies and dishonesty and to walk into truth and integrity. He has a tender compassion for the poor, the marginalized, and the mistreated. Even in the deepest mire of his own pit of despair, he thinks of others- he hears God's call to work for the liberation of the oppressed... and he says, "Yes, Lord. Here I am, send me!" And it's not just words. Even now he is putting his words into action, visiting the poor on the streets, working for human rights for women and gays, and volunteering at an inner-city parish. He has a dream for even greater work for the Kingdom, and he has the compassion and intellect to bring that dream to reality, with the help of the Holy Spirit. He is self-less and giving; he gives of himself completely to others- he loves and cares and heals, even though he is overwhelmed senseless by his own scars and wounds. He makes me proud to be a Christian- I am blessed to know him and to have him in my heart.

So, why him? As compassionate and loving and kind as he is, as willing as he is to do the work of the kingdom, as open as he is to allowing the Christ-light to shine through him, why must he continue to suffer? What is the purpose? What is the reason? Yes, I believe God can redeem the pain and use it to strenghten his ministry to others... but How Long, O Lord, until you bring deliverance to the oppressed? How long before you prosper and heal those who trust in you? How long before you defend us and vanquish the oppressor?

When I was younger, in a Pentecostal tradition, I was taught that some suffering comes from the Evil One as a means of fighting the good work we are doing or as a means of tempting us to abandon God or lose our Faith in love and goodness. I don't know, but as I struggle for answers, I almost want to believe that- I want to blame it on the Devil. I want to believe that the holy are getting so close to conquering the darkenss in the world, that evil is attacking with full force to stop them. I'm a man with a simple faith. And even after all of my theological training, I am perplexed and dis-satisfied with the reasons for the suffering of the just.

All I know is that Christ is with us. I know that, I've experienced that. I know that God suffers when we suffer. I know that God cries when we do. I know that ultimately love will prevail- we remind ourselves of this hope everytime we celebrate the Eucharist, and recall God's triumph over the attempt to kill God. We gave God pain, suffering, alienation and death, and God transformed it into healing, love, inclusion, and life. I don't know why the suffering is here. I don't know how long it will last- perhpas a lifetime. All I have is the hope that God will redeem, and save, and heal. At least, I still have the hope. And I still have love- and I still believe love conquers all.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:31 AM


Greeting to you Fr. Rob,

My name is Leonardo Ricardo, but you can call me Len. I live in Central America under a volcano and I'm very happy to meet you and greet you at 2006 year end as I connected to your blog!

Imagine, without projecting, the wonders ahead in 2007! The world around you should really astound you Padre...and we Episcopalians are truly blessed!

Thanks be to God and Presiding Bishop Katharine...only God really knows what's coming down (but God installed ++Katharine who seems to have a firm 'grip' on *things* as they reveal themselves to be..don't you agree?)!

Again, I wish you well in all that you do..so, *do* plenty Padre in 2007!

The world, and beyond, are watching!

Blogger Leonardo Ricardo, at 1:35 PM  

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