The fourth in a series of reflections on one of the chiefest themes of the Lenten season and of life
Concerning suffering’s capacity to yield wisdom, I believe that our griefs or miseries can sharpen our sensitivity to the pain of others. Yes, suffering can make us bitter and callous. Yet it is our human capacity to mine our memory’s store that allows us not to forget (that compels us to remember) our suffering. And, from my own experience and that of others known to me, I have found that when I, when we reflect on our own suffering, not morbidly, but rather honestly, our compassion (com, with + passion, suffering) can deepen for others. And compassion can open doors through which we can cross over the thresholds our common human identification into the lives of our sisters and brothers of our human family, so to side and stand with them in their travails.
Here, I am reminded of a passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The writer speaks of a living, not dead God; thus, the God into whose hands all must fall. The God who, in judgment, will condemn those who forsake (“abandon”…”shrink back” from) the faith. By way of encouragement (and, conversely, to discourage the desertion of the faith in the face of hardship), the writer recalls a time when the people steadfastly sided in solidarity with those who were suffering.
Still, I wonder. If or as, in the mind and heart of the writer, God could be expected to exact vengeance on those who strayed, why then could not God have been counted on to spare those who, holding unwavering their faith, stood fast under fire?
This question, I think, presents itself as another step along the way of contemplation of the meaning of suffering; leading us again to look at God. In a word, under the banner of belief, perhaps difficult to digest and, for some (and, at times, for me), challenging to accept, something may be amiss in a view of an ever-ready interventionist God who is expected to save, to relief and to release the faithful from suffering. For, in the history of the world unto this day there has been and is more than enough suffering to go around (irrespective of the faith of the sufferers!) from which there was and is no blessed surcease.
Perchance, then, could it be that God, the Creator of life, indeed, as Life itself – meaning the totality of all that we know, all that we can know as real, all that is real, including suffering – joins us, shares with us, is at-one-with-us in all of our living, including our suffering?
More to come…
© 2021 PRA
 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back. But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved (10.31-39).