Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wisdom in the MIDST of Suffering

Last Term in my Bible study group we read parts of all fourteen narrative books in the bible. Moving from Genesis to Acts in eight weeks. Now I spent two weeks reflecting on just a few verses from James. From my talk, my thoughts on James 1: 5-8.


Laura told us two weeks ago to take off our academic hat and put on our life changing hat and here we are at session one being called to be wise.

I am a doctrine person. I love doctrine. I love to study it and through trying to figure out what and why the church teaches this or that, I grow closer to God. Through understanding human nature and the nature of God, I learn a little bit more about the love story of God and Man. Scripture is a bit harder for me. It is harder for me to wrap my brain around it. So when looking at these vs. I went to my doctrine to get me started.

I taught the gifts of the Holy Spirit and I knew wisdom was in there. So were knowledge. counsel and understanding. I remember the matching quizzes I had given my students with all the definitions, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember which was which. I had to look it up again. And I think defining wisdom in relationship to those other gifts that sound like the same thing will help us to see what James is asking us to really seek. To search for like a treasure, without doubt and with confidence that it will be given to us.

Knowledge: Understanding God's revelation especially as is expressed through scripture.

Counsel: Knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing what is right.

Understanding: Knowing how we need to live as followers of Jesus, because that isn't always clear right? Do we talk or shut up. Stand up or sit down?
Understanding helps us to see which we do in a particular circumstance.

And Wisdom. The ability to see God at work in our lives. For the wise person nature, history. The ups and downs in life take on deeper meaning.

Ah ha. Thank you doctrine, it makes more sense. We are to search for the deeper meaning, Gods will for our lives in THIS trial, through THIS suffering. And so this is what we are asking for, this is what we must search for as if it were a treasure: To see God's will for us through this trial. And Jeff Cavins calls for us to do this in the midst of our suffering, while we are enduring a trial. For like remembering the outcome, steadfastness, eternal salvation, if we can see God's will, we are more likely to Pick up our cross, to do it right.

I don't know about you, but since last term, I am a little leary of Wisdom. I never knew that Solomon ended up a tyrant with a gazillion wives and pagan temples and 666 bags of gold.

So, Wisdom is not enough. And our trials are going to feel like everyone else's’, they will look like everyone else's’. We can see God’s plan, have our objective in mind, but what more must we do?

To answer this, we must look to Christ. To the Cross. Christ's face was not the face of happiness was it. It was not the face of butterfly filled joy. He looks scared and sad and begged God to take this Cup. Right? But his IS the face of Trust and Joy and Love. And what did Christ DO? He accepted the will of the Father and act accordingly.

Let’s talk a minute about what he accepted:

My first time in Rome, when I stepped off the Tram and saw the Colosseum, I was in awe. I felt like Roger Rabbit, a cartoon placed into real life. It was so huge and so old. It held so much history. By the middle of my semester there, we used the Colosseum much as one would use McDonald's: a point of reference or a meeting place. Like the second time you see a truly suspenseful movie, the feelings you first felt are dulled and can not be recreated.

I thin that can happen with the cross of Christ. Our familiarity with the passion leads to a loss of intensity. Its horrors begin to feel much like the witches in our child hood memories. No longer real and certainly not horrifying.

As a teacher, I used the stations of the cross to teach different aspects of Christ’s sufferings to help my students see how anything they may face was also felt by Jesus. I use it here, to try and recreate some of the intensity we may have felt when it was first encountered.

In The Agony in the garden, Christ felt such enormous stress, such incredible mental anxiety from the weight of the sins of the world that the very capillaries in his skin burst and he sweated blood. Not a poetic analogy, a true physical torment from a psychologically grueling experience.

He felt sorrow to the depths of his soul in the loss of Judas, the betrayal of Peter, the cowardice of his friends.

When He meets his mother, we are called to reflect on the suffering of Mary, as we should, but Mary’s baby is now a man whose very heart must have wanted to break from the sight of his precious mother’s pain at having to see him tortured and killed.

I used the crowning of the thorns to speak of the humiliation that must have been felt by the King of Kings being mocked in his tattered purple robe and ridiculous reed. When I ran the lesson by my father who was in the midst of painful Chemo. treatments, he scoffed, “Humiliation, hu? Can you imagine having thorns this big smashed into YOUR skull.

So true. Me must never forget the excruciating physical torture Christ endured: The scourge, the crown, the walk the nails. Such physical horrors on top of mental anguish and gut wrenching sorrow and fear.

Jeff Cavins quotes Peter Kreeft as saying the problem with illness is that our pain becomes a tyrant. Look at me, look at me, look at me. Remembering just what the passion entailed, How we become Christ like in our sufferings is that we refuse to become self focused. We refuse to focus on our sadness, our fear our frustration, our pain. In the midst of our human suffering, we turn away from our self and fix our gaze upon the face of God.

With our face fixed on God we can ACT like Christ who in the midst of his suffering did not shout, "Can you just shut up and let me die in peace!" No, he gave hope to the criminal, comfort to the heartbroken, forgiveness to his friends and enemies.

John Paul II in 'on the meaning of suffering' tells us that it was not just man that was redeemed by the cross. Human suffering was redeemed as well. And so we have a choice and a promise in our suffering. Do we redeem the moment by fixing our face on God instead of on our selves so that we may act like Christ? Or do we waste it? And if we embrace our cross, we are promised steadfastness, perfection, the crown of life.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, how I love the Word of our God. It is my daily bread to be sure. I love how you have studied this passage of scripture and now it is tucked forever into your heart.

    I tend to see the mark of a more mature Christ-Follower in the way they handle adversity. I've seen many handle it with grace and a joy that is not described as happy but as one that is more of a deep peace. I wonder when we handle it otherwise, if we are almost not trusting God.

    My faith grows when I face trials - indeed it does. It is when I feel Jesus holding me closest. Fickle humans that we are, most of us would not even seek out God if we never faced trials. It's often at a person's lowest point that they finally surrender to the creator of the universe.