On Good Friday I attended my first Stations of the Cross procession. Station 5 was moving, in it Simon is called to help Jesus carry His cross. “In suffering,” the reader said, “there is always an invitation.”
Jesus could have carried the weight of His own cross. He didn’t. He allowed Simon to help. The story reminds us that we continue to share in His suffering and He shares in ours. It made me wonder if perhaps there is only one Suffering, if we are all connected and it is all our suffering.
Right now we are reading C.S. Lewis’, The Problem of Pain, in our Liturgy of Life Reading group. In the second chapter Lewis takes on the topic of Divine Omnipotence. He begins to respond to the common question, “If God is good then why is there suffering?”
Lewis points out that God can do all things but He can’t create nonsense. It is impossible to grant both free-will to a creation and also refuse it. God created us as individuals sharing a common space. Being free and living together creates conflict, we all have different desires for how the world should be used, war and violence are the natural outcome of freedom.
And while I follow Lewis (which for me is a lot, sometimes the level of concentration he requires is a bit much for me) I realize that this question isn’t what is keeping me up at night.
My tossing and turning comes from knowing that in the midst of suffering God seems so far away.
I’ve had moments when God felt close, they were divine and beautiful but fleeting, I grasped for them as the cold world rushed back. I could stand the thought of children being raped and women being beaten and men being executed if I knew that they felt the peace of God comforting them. I know sometimes He does this, but there are other times times when we feel utterly abandoned and alone.
I know with time all will be revealed. Even in the short course of our own lives we gain perspective and can look back with gratitude on our sufferings. Eternity will certainly allow us to do this even more but still the cruelty of suffering without the peace of Christ seems unnecessarily brutal.
I know too that even at our worst Christ is with us, whether we believe in Him or not, if He wasn’t we wouldn’t survive it, He is our breath and our life. Still I wish loss felt less devastating.
My only hope is that the angst we feel as we encounter the suffering of others serves as God’s mighty call to rouse us into action, that the uneasiness stirring in our souls is His spirit moving through us, reminding us that the Divine has indwelt us. When we suffer He suffers, when we reach out to save, He reaches out too.
This year in the Liturgy of Life reading group we are meditating on ideas of suffering and faith. Please join us in our current book, The Problem of Pain in another week. For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for occasional updates and emails (usually about one per week), like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group.