Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shared Suffering

"Could you not watch with me one hour?" -Matthew 26:40

That fateful Thursday night, the night before his execution, Jesus took his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with him. Jesus walked a few feet further and fell to his knees, "deeply troubled in his spirit". Jesus prayed and wept in agony, knowing full well what was about to happen to him. After a time, he got up and walked over to his disciples and found them fast asleep. With a sad sigh, he asked them why they could not stay awake with him just one hour.

When God entered the human experience in the person of Jesus Christ, He entered into our suffering. In fact, Isaiah said that he would be "familiar with suffering". It is part of our human experience that we will go through suffering. At those times, we wrestle with our thoughts. We may even pray. But most of all we desire to know that we are not alone. Even if we believe in God's presence, we desire human companionship. There may be no words of comfort, but the presence of another human being who cares for us is comfort enough.

We may be surprised at the concept of God's suffering. How can God suffer? How do we suffer? We may suffer due to injury or illness. But we really suffer when we love. C.S Lewis said that "Grief is the price of love." God suffers because he loves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed it this way:
This is a reversal of what the religious man expects from God. Man is summoned to share in God's sufferings at the hands of a godless world. He must therefore really live in the godless world, without attempting to gloss over or explain its ungodliness in some religious way or other. He must live a 'secular' life, and thereby share in God's sufferings. To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself (a sinner, a penitent, or a saint) on the basis of some method or other, but to be a man---not a type of man, but the man that Christ creates in us. It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.
So are we ready to participate? Are we ready to ameliorate the suffering of a broken world? Some suffering can be fixed and we can help change things for the better. In the suffering that cannot be fixed, all we can do is make sure that someone doesn't have to suffer alone.