By Rev. Beverly Kahle
St. Paul UCC, Nashville
The question of the month is, “Must we, as Christians, suffer?”
I believe that this is a question that has grown out of a misdirected concept that being a Christian is equivalent to having a worry-free, problem-free life. I believe that it also grows out of the mistaken belief that to be “blessed” means that a person has plenty of wealth, plenty of good health, plenty of friends, and plenty of whatever you want. Instead, being blessed is the grateful knowledge and acceptance that all that we have comes from God. Too often we fall into the trap thinking that if something bad has happened to us or if we are suffering in some way that we are being punished or that we have done something wrong.
If we look seriously at scripture and seriously at the teachings of Jesus we see this is not true. In fact, Jesus expected Christians to suffer, have problems, and struggle with day to day relationships and issues as these things are part of living. As Christians we are not exempt from life, but we live it fully, embracing all facets of life – the good and the bad.
So what is the difference? We know that we do not face suffering- life- alone. We have the strength and presence of God with us. God promises in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from that love and presence. We also have the promise that whatever we face- no matter how bad – that God will work it for good (Romans 8:28). That doesn’t mean that what we are suffering or enduring is good, but that if we trust in God, God will allow that horrible thing in our lives to be used in some way to bring good – help, strength, encouragement, hope – something positive to our lives and to the lives of others. This brings hope – hope that this world is not the end, hope that what we are enduring has an end, hope that things will be better, and hope that what we endure and do makes a difference.
My prayer is for all of us is that in the times of good and the times of suffering and the times of just being- we may find the powerful presence and love of God that gives us the strength and wisdom to not only endure, but to celebrate this gift of life in its entirety.
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