Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday's reflections on suffering

The SOAP readings for Thursday-Saturday combine as Isaiah 53:10-12:
1 Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm?
2 My servant grew up in the LORD's presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground.There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.
3 He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows* that weighed him down.And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own.Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.
7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word.He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
8 Unjustly condemned, he was led away.*No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream.*But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.
9 He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man's grave.
10 But it was the LORD's good plan to crush him and cause him grief.Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants.He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD's good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death.He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

Jesus suffered both because of me and for me.

I've always been afraid of suffering, nervous around those going through pain. I don't know what to say or do or how to control/fix those with suffering. Then Erin and I started going through our own suffering this past summer and I've learned a lot about living in the midst of pain; continuing to live even when things aren't as they should be. As I was reading this passage yesterday, I realized another reason (besides my own suffering) I can patiently stand with those who are suffering - because Jesus suffered. If Jesus could enter into suffering, then I can refuse to be repulsed by suffering and stand with those in pain, even help hold them up in the midst of it.

Jesus entered into and redeemed suffering.

Something else I noticed is that just as Erin and I learned how to handle the dumb cliches people throw at you during suffering, Jesus also had to deal with misconceptions of his suffering. Verse 4 reads, Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! Not only does Jesus know what it means to suffer, he also knows how it feels to hear the shallow, ignorant (though usually well-meaning) lines people give to you, "everything happens for a reason." Yet another example of how Jesus shared in our humanity.

Here's the prayer I finished my SOAP time with yesterday:
Jesus, help me to have the courage to enter into suffering with others. Help me to be patient and sympathetic. Help me to remember those that are suffering during this time. I should probably fast tomorrow. I have caused Jesus suffering, I'm sorry for how my selfishness made you suffer.

I am fasting today. It's a way of practicing solidarity with those suffering around the world.

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