For some, suffering makes their faith stronger, turns it into pure gold, for others it withers and destroys their faith. We’re not told which it will do for whom. We do know that all will suffer, and some will suffer greatly.
For many the temptation of our age is skepticism.
Dallas Willard had an interesting talk about “What Skepticism is good for” for the Veritas Forum. I started making an outline of it. I should pick it up again. He points out how skepticism can help us undermine illegitimate forms of authority and stimulate us to inquiry. That’s good. I don’t tend to find it much help with suffering though, the kinds of suffering I can’t cheaply weasel out of.
Pain forces us to commit, to get off the fence.
I think sometimes that skepticism is afforded by affluence and comfort. Pain pushes us to either embrace the hope we have in Christ or reject it.
I don’t understand the comfort of unbelief. I understand the purposefulness of Jesus’ pain (if seen through the eyes of his followers) and the promise of the resurrection.
If there is no resurrection the despair of Jesus’ friends at seeing him on the cross was well founded. If Jesus rose from the dead that despair was replaced by joy.
What choice for us sometimes gives is the option to be unfaithful, to cut and run. To try to eliminate the pain by abandoning our callings and to move the pain down the hierarchy of power, to make those with fewer options or power shoulder what I no longer wish to bear. This is the way of the world.
Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
This morning in my Sunday School class I will teach on James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy when you suffer all manner of suffering” the brother of Jesus says. You can only embrace this word and benefit from it if you have a very vivid sense how Jesus turns out suffering into his and we follow him from cross, to tomb, to resurrection.