Sure, we’re Easter people and there’s a lot to rejoice about. Yet the Christian life is no easy street. In fact, sometimes it feels like following Christ brings me right into torture chambers.
If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.
When he was insulted, he returned no insult;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,
so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.
For you had gone astray like sheep,
but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. –1 Pt 2:20b-25
It’s nice that scripture says it’s a grace if we suffer for doing what is good. But I can’t say that the words always comfort and strengthen me. Sometimes the hurt just seems too extreme.
No worries, I am not in serious pain or trouble. No one is sending me hate mail or throwing me in prison. But I can’t say that being committed to Christ and advocating for justice has made me an especially popular person throughout my life. I have been teased, I have had things thrown at me and I have been called names. Torture comes in many forms and it’s always ugly, painful and dark.
The inner torment is tough, too. At times my bitterness bubbles like lava, burning the innocent surrounding me. Needles of sadness and confusion pluck at my spiraling soul. Other times, doubts stop my acts of love completely cold. I easily wonder if I am really following God’s will and doing what is right. I keep flopping on my face as I try to be faithful.
Still, I get up. I don’t believe God ever wants us to suffer. No parent ever wants her child to be in pain, especially our Great Parent who is Love Himself. But God is always interested in our growth and uses all situations to love us dearly. The paradox is that suffering is redemptive. While we suffer, we grow and change and all sorts of great miracles are silently present to us. It’s beautiful, really.
All over the bible verses remind me that receiving persecution is a consequence for doing what is good. Plus, today’s ordinary saints and prophets affirm it. I’ve been told by a wise monk that the things that seem like crosses to me are crosses precisely because I am walking with Christ. This is a gift; I can have joy!
Oh yeah, joy, the joy of Easter! Jesus has shown us that His power is greatest and love wins all wars. Wow! I really am protected and taken care of by the man who has suffered more than I ever will. It’s such a sweet, good deal!
Even if the consequences of Christian discipleship have brought me into a type of torture chamber, I can still have great faith and joy. And I do. This is what St. Francis refers to as perfect joy. I love the Bible stories of faithfulness: stories of Daniel’s persevering in the lions den and Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego persevering in the furnace. Such ancient wisdom challenges and encourages me along in my own, less dramatic, situations. I am trusting that with God’s continued graces I shall also persevere.
As I contemplate the truth, I remember Love. I’m remembering that I can play and laugh and dream as Christ heals my wounds. Jesus is the shepherd and guardian of my soul everywhere I am, no matter how ugly. Plus, all of us are in this together. Nothing is too bad for us, we are all God’s children. Alleluia!
I choose to rejoice in the struggle. I choose to be grateful, not grumpy. Singing the song called “Lions” by the Christian band, Lost and Found helps me remember and remain rooted in love. I hope you’ll join in the singing as you watch this video and live your life.