Seeing graceful suffering reminds us that the fabric of our world, the lifeblood of redemption, comes through the willful suffering of God in Jesus Christ. The victory and vindication of God is not in glorious, overcoming power, but through redemptive, love-incarnated suffering.
Thanks, Matt and Bruce, for your helpful posts. I guess, Matt, the above two sentences are my answers to your question. Seeing suffering in itself has little value. In the case of Pope John Paul II, I’m moved by his choice to suffer in front of us, his choice to come against the world’s values of health, vibrancy and action as our worth, to remind us that suffering is the true heart of the good news of Jesus Christ.
My mom, a couple of years ago, bought me “Furthermore from the Studio; from the Stage” by Jars of Clay. Etched in my memory is the first time I listened to the live version of “Worlds Apart”, a song from their debut album. It was about 1:30 am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, after I’d been wrestling with a sermon. I must have listened to it three or four times in a row. There is, in the song, a profound sense of true worship, and I heard the words of the song like they were brand new to me.
Can I be the one to sacrifice?
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow?
Take my world apart…I am on my knees
Take my world apart…broken on my knees
The song grasps the internal battle we all face to accept suffering, to accept another’s claim of lordship over our lives, to accept that to follow Jesus Christ means to have our own pride and control of our lives broken. And, like what we’ve been discussing with the Pope, the song connects our submission and willingness to suffer with Jesus’ sacrifice in death, reminding us how often in Protestant circles we look beyond suffering, how often we forget the cost:
I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
I guess, Matt, I would say that it is important for us to have more models of suffering in our world. Not because suffering is the goal; submission and obedience are the goal. But submission and obedience require suffering and the gift and presence of Jesus Christ.
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash my feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take my beauty, take my tears
this sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise
speak the words I can’t deny
watch the world I used to love
fall to dust and blow away
These lyrics have been on my office door for over a year, a reminder of my need to continually invite God to take everything in my life. May God create a people who willingly suffer in our submission to Christ’s lordship and power.
Worlds Apart (Live) from the album “Furthermore: From The Stage (Disc 2)” by Jars Of Clay is playing in iTunes.