blessing in suffering.

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

–Matt Redman

We have an aversion to pain in this country.

A fear, really, of it. So deeply rooted in our myths about how money and power and wins can save and protect us, that we refuse to even consider the possibility of vulnerability–to the point of denying our own mortality.

Meanwhile, R.E.M. was actually right–everybody hurts. And not just sometimes. Many times. Right now most of the time.

What we’re really afraid of is, at the absolute least, feeling anything difficult; at the absolute most, truly suffering.

And so we numb. With whatever drug we have available: substances, sure, but processes, too–internet surfing (some of it mentionable, some of it not), over-working, sarcasm, shopping, identity politics, blame casting, attacking those we don’t agree with. Whatever gives us the (however false) impression that we’re “okay,” that “we aren’t the problem, they are,” that whatever is broken inside of us doesn’t really need attention or mending.

If there were ever a time when we needed to admit our pain, give voice to our decidedly not okay-ness, this, right now, would be the time. The collective trauma of 2020 could, if we were healthy as a society, be a rallying point for change and healing. Instead we’ve all retreated further into our corners, pronounced those in the opposite corner as enemy, and rallied our tribes like a Scottish clan war gone horribly awry.

I’m not even sure we know what we’re fighting against anymore, so much havoc social media and true fake news have wrought. We just scream. Blindly and forcefully and without ceasing. Or we seek control–of everything and everyone, as if somehow that will make it all easier to manage.

Maybe it is easier, I suppose, than admitting that deep within each of us are gaping wounds longing for the healing wells of real belonging, real joy, real fulfillment.

I read a great deal of World War I and II historical fiction–it’s kind of my jam, especially if it involves “based on real people” stories of the women who served as couriers or spies or undercover pilots for the Allies. Badasses. Every one of them.

Two things always stand out to me about these books–selfless heroism, often in such quiet ways, and sacrifice. Real, life-changing sacrifice.

Both of these things–the heroism and the sacrifice–require facing pain, really reckoning with how awful things are, digging deep into the muck and then making a decision to act or behave or live in such a way that seeks to heal the pain and awfulness and muck.

And it is stunning to me that we voice our great thanks to the men and women who rose to such heroism, who lived such sacrifice, on our behalf, and yet we refuse to rise to such heroism and sacrifice ourselves. We refuse to face full-on the pain of this world–in our own lives and in the lives of those around us–and then adjust our own feeling or thinking or behavior accordingly.

We refuse the grief. Avoid the pain. Wall off anything that might remind us that this beautiful life we’ve been given can hurt so very much.

I would not, for one moment, wish real, fall to your knees, life-altering, heart-wrenching, wonder how you’ll make it through the night suffering on anyone. Not even those that I just have let God love because I sure as hell can’t.

I also know that deep hurt and real fear and overwhelming grief have been my greatest teachers. And I know that I am a far better version of myself than I would otherwise be, or than I once was, for having learned from them.

This is what I mean when I say that I don’t believe God causes our pain; but I also don’t believe God wastes it. Why I believe that somehow, somewhere, in our darkest moments, God is at work. Even if we are entirely unaware.

If we could find a way, together, past the fear of hurting, and then walk straight through all that is tearing us apart, hands locked fast and hearts pointed in the same direction, I cannot help but feel certain that we’d learn something. And in the learning grow. Change. Become something more like what God intended upon breathing life into us.

There’s gratitude and hope to found in these days we are living. In the absolute trash heap of it all. But we don’t find those things by any other way than risking naming how terrible it all feels.

There’s blessing in this dumpster fire of a year. Not the dumpster fire itself…but somewhere in it. But if we’re going to find that blessing, claim it as ours, we cannot look away from the flames.

Because it’s entirely possible that in them is our salvation.

One thought on “blessing in suffering.

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