Much pain, grief, loneliness, disease, fear, death.
These are normal on our planet. No one escapes.
This suffering reveals the defeat of man, the defeat of life itself, and no number of advances in technology or medicine can overcome it.
Yet their very normalcy is abnormal. It is not how our world was created.
Disease and death is not the way we were intended to live, yet our sin has broken our world and our very selves, and here we are.
It is into this abnormal reality that Christ comes. He comes not to remove our suffering but to transform it into victory.
God through Jesus transforms even our ultimate defeat, death, into victory, into an entrance into his kingdom and into the only true healing.
The Church comes, then, not simply to help us in our pain but to make us a witness to Christ in our sufferings. She comes to make us martyrs.
A martyr, in the words of Alexander Schmemann, is “one for whom God is not another — and the last — chance to stop the awful pain; God is his very life, and thus everything in his life comes to God.”
If we only come to God to stop the suffering, if we only turn to him for comfort in our pain, we miss the chance to become who we were created to be. We miss the chance to become more truly human.
We miss the chance to be made more closely into the image of God.
Rather than merely receiving comfort, we could become a witness to others of Christ himself. We could become one who beholds “the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” We could become the victory for those around us.
We could gain the glory of Christ.
Through (the witness’) suffering, not only has all suffering acquired a meaning, but it has been given the power to become itself the sign, the sacrament, the proclamation, the ‘coming’ of that victory; the defeat of man, his very dying, has become a way of Life. ~ Schmemann
This is the way of God. Flipping the things of this world on their head. Pain becomes proclamation. Suffering becomes sacrament. Defeat becomes victory. Death becomes life.
Don’t settle for a dry crust when you could feast with the King.
Surrender to God, to whatever he wants to do through your suffering, and allow his Holy Spirit to transform that suffering into a sacrament of life.
It takes submission, and this is hard. So very hard. Yet God has promised. Your surrender to him allows him to turn your defeat into victory, and that victory leads you into the only true healing.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
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Art credits: Resurrection by Luca Giordano; all other photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2020