This gospel life is all about love. Lately, as I’ve journeyed with suffering, I have been convinced that love is the most powerful force in the universe. I am not a scientist, but I am certain that it is a fact.
Evidently it’s my nature to be empathetic. It may sound nice, but I assure you that feeling the pain of others is not peaches and pies. It’s very hard. When I try to let myself be available and be a loving presence to those who are impacted by great suffering, I sometimes feel damaged too. I get overwhelmed and crushed, then I feel confused about what to do with myself. I suspect that this may be the experience of all of us who have felt totally messed up by the love of God.
As hard as this is, I continue to think it’s the whole point. We are made for relationship and companionship. We are made to pour out and be emptied by grace and then used by the great Love, who is God, to make changes and bring forth the kingdom here now.
Lately, my spirit has been stirred by a very profound experience of suffering. I was honored to accompany a neighbor and friend through an intense ER and hospital experience. I had to inform her family about what was going on and struggle through my own desire to serve as a great loving presence as much as possible. She is doing okay, praise God! Nonetheless, the experience of loving through it has profoundly changed me.
As I found myself stating to my students last week, the cross of Christ teaches us that suffering is redemptive. (I can’t help but to wonder if Mary thought that even through her labor pains.) It also seems, however, that grief can be damaging if we’re not careful.
There is so much in the world that can give us great grief and cause us to feel very overwhelmed. In addition to accompanying my friend through her suffering, yesterday I gained a new awareness about how the consumption of our culture destroys the poor in other places. Again, sorrow consumed me.
I happened to catch yesterday’s episode of Fresh Air from NPR. As I listened, my stomach was sour with sadness. I learned of how our addiction to technology is creating large amounts of toxic waste that then are dumped in developing countries and dangerously disposed of by poor women and children.
What is one to do? I often am not really sure, but I do know that I must keep feeding my faith. We can’t turn away from the suffering. Instead, Jesus teaches us to turn toward pain and sorrow, as He does. We must serve as loving presence and act for a new day. We must pray and journey together.
I believe in the promise of the new day and the power of the love of Jesus. As I ache and have hope in the promises of love, I am fed by the word of God. This advent I have been nourished by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, as he proclaims the promises of peace given by this great force of Love.
- Then his father Zechariah, filled with the holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:
- “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
- for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.
- He has raised up a horn for our salvation
- within the house of David his servant,
- even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:
- salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
- to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant
- and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father,
- and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies,
- without fear we might worship him
- in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
- And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
- for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
- to give his people knowledge of salvation
- through the forgiveness of their sins,
- because of the tender mercy of our God
- by which the daybreak from on high will visit us
- to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
- to guide our feet into the path of peace.” -Luke 1:61-79
- May our feet truly be guided on that path of peace and may we love like Jesus.
- As we move, we know that we are transformed by the fierce force of Love. For this, we say thank you God, for being the source, the salvation and the hope.
Landfill photo courtesy of the Photographic Information eXchange, http://www.nrel.gov/data/pix/