by John J Kirkwood (from 04 April, 2016)
Just a random rambling over my first cup of coffee, listening to Bobby Bland. (forgive the typos, have to go to church).
Suffering? Where is God? There is no God?
Have you considered what suffering has given you, what suffering has given us? From the Declaration of Independence to Bobby Blue Bland, from Beethoven to Miles Davis, from Van Gogh to Bobby Fischer, from Florence NIghtengale to Dr. Scholls. Suffering gave us Anne Sullivan, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Joe Scheidler, and Jesus Christ.
Suffering has led to the highest poetry, the greatest intimacy, the most remarkable acts of humanity, and the greatest opportunity to reflect the love and compassion of almighty God to those in need.
So the alcoholic becomes the greatest counselor and thousands of lives are touched, the heroin addict goes from abuser to nurse, the homeless man rises up and starts a chain of rescue missions still touching lives today. The man whose girlfriend aborted his baby doesn’t stop spreading truth and healing and his joy is exuberant.
The battered wife becomes the shoulder and the strength to lead women through or to lead them away, the song written by the outcast is played over and over to allow a generation to overcome. The poem, the movie, the stand-up act may do the same. Jazz, country, the blues – Americans excel at suffering and the natural consequence of the godly under the whip. They take their inspiration from the history of the Jew and from the “negro spirituals.”
There must be something about “That book” that unites them all. Ultimately, it’s suffering that gave us “That book,” suffering that is infused and then defused down a blood stained path – the Via Dolorosa, ending with a man of sorrows who hung on a cross of suffering and an empty tomb that announces its defeat.
That’s right, suffering for the Christian isn’t karma from a previous life or inshallah – the will of God; suffering is an enemy, and it’s a beacon, it’s man-made, and it’s only undone by the pierced hand of a risen savior.
You suffer? Hallelujah, you’re still alive! You’ve suffered greatly! Great! Bring it to the altar, offer it up to God. Thank Him for the opportunity that it has given you to show His strength, to spread His comfort. Then show your scars to your kids and share the wisdom that your pain has purchased.
Take your suffering and put it into verse, or song, and most importantly, into your life’s work. Use your suffering to offer the hand to the next guy, pull him up from pain, confusion, and despair.
If you must suffer, and we must, suffer righteously. Suffer like Ken Hutcherson, who thanked God for his cancer and the opportunity that it gave him to display the love of Christ in his broken body. Know that brother Ken didn’t thank God for giving him cancer, that would be blasphemy because Adam gave him the cancer. No, brother Ken thanked God for the opportunities that cancer opened for him, as Paul thanked God for his chains and the furtherance of the gospel that a Roman imprisonment opened for him.
Would I want to live a life devoid of pain and sorrow? No, I’m not willing to give up suffering for the sake of your idea of a sane universe, because I’m not willing to give up what suffering has given us. What suffering has given me.
Suffering gave me a compassion for the incarcerated, the addicted, the lost. Thank you Lord, for allowing me to suffer.
I’ll take Bobby Bland on a cold April morning in Chicago and a big heaping side of worship with the people of the Book.