Why do we turn away from suffering?
Is it because we don’t we want to hear about it, read about it, look upon it?
Perhaps you’re tempted to stop reading right now.
Have you had just about enough on the topic of suffering?
If we turn away, will suffering go away?
But it doesn’t.
So what’s to be done with all the suffering of others, of ourselves?
Let it be redeemed! Let it be transformed!
Let God take suffering by the stinging tail and turn it inside out, causing it to consume itself for holy purpose.
We may agree in our heads, but our hearts run wildly away.
C.S. Lewis tells us why in The Problem of Pain . . .
Plain and simple.
So who of us would not turn from pain if we could? Unless we believed in a holy purpose? Even Jesus prayed for the cup to pass by him. Three times he prayed that the cross coming could be by-passed. But he ended all three blood-mixed-with-tears supplications the same way . . .
“Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (see Matthew 26:36-44)
What about you and me?
Who carries on through pain from which we cannot escape unless we believe in a holy purpose—in a loving God who promises not to allow more than we can bear WITH HIM?
Will we believe that the only suffering God permits is the suffering that brings us closer to Him, our One True Love?
If we believe, our most painful suffering will always be the laying down of Self on the cross of crucifixion. God knows, we won’t lay ourselves down willingly. So suffering comes along . . .
In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer writes:
“Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us . . . It is the veil of our fleshly, fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated. It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged, of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we have never brought to the judgment of the cross . . . We have but to look into our own hearts and we shall see it there, sewn and patched and repaired it may be, but there nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress.”
Tozer compares the “opaque veil” of Self that hides us from God as something other than “a poetical, almost pleasant” metaphor. He continues:
“In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.”
Just as the Father did not leave Jesus on the cross or in the grave, our God will not abandon us to either. We have holy hope beyond our battles, if we insist on the soul-work being done in us.
Tozer ends his chapter, “Removing the Veil” with this glorious truth, in his glorious words:
“Insist that the work [of crucifying Self] be done in very truth and it will be done. The cross is rough and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actually spiritual experience the presence of the living God.”
Surely we would implode but for the mercy and grace of God on the cross. Only Jesus, the sinless one, knows our agonies of flesh and spirit. He knows exactly how we suffer because he suffered so.
But God never wastes suffering. We do. Unless we come to the cross where all holy work is finished.
Will we come all the way to the cross?
Come all the way to the cross! Let’s not stop short!
Through the cross, let Jesus take us back to Eden, where we will walk with our triune God again in the cool of the day—unafraid, unashamed, with no need to hide from Love ever again.