Not to be a major buzzkill, but I’ve been thinking a lot about grief and suffering lately, and you can probably guess why. There is no escape from the suffering of this life. Not for Christians, not for anyone. If there is anything I have learned from my first ten years as a pastor, it’s that each one of you carries a unique and beautiful story, and each story is laced with both joy and suffering. And so many of your stories begin like this: “I never imagined this would happen to me…” Suffering is never part of our plan.
So we often try to escape the suffering -- convincing ourselves that if we just cut and run, we can surely find a place where the grass is greener, the deal is sweeter, and life is easier. Other times we try to numb it, so we keep pouring the wine, keep scrolling, keep buying, keep eating, and thereby we bypass a chance at growth. For the caterpillar to become a butterfly, she must first let herself disintegrate into absolute mush inside the safety of the cocoon. She must die to her old life before rising to the sky.
Most importantly, the cross teaches us there is only One suffering. Whenever we suffer, we participate in the One suffering of Christ -- the God who was, and is, and will always be close at hand when we are in pain. And this pain, as we learn through the holy scriptures, is always transformed. God promises a rainbow after the flood. God promises resurrection after death. Our suffering will not be erased, but it will be transformed, either in this life or the next. Ultimately, all things will integrate into Love: this is the dynamic of salvation.