The entire point of a life following Jesus is that if you get to times where you have to sacrifice, at least the sacrifice is worth it.
I know a lot of Christians who seem to reject the misery of Christ. For the past year or so, I’ve been so bothered by how so many people can take it easy and get comfortable while there is a world churning and burning for a God that many don’t want to know. Instead of making space for people who still have yet to receive Jesus, we cloister ourselves in the suburbs and every high place and expect that on Judgment Day, telling our stories will be equally easy. What if there is more work to do?
But I don’t believe in a life without sacrifice. As Christians trying to conform to the life of Jesus, how can we forget about the cross? Christ promised that we’d have hardship in this life. It’s not whether you encounter hard times, it’s whether the suffering was worth something.
For the past year or so, I’ve also received a lot of peace. For the longest time, I avoided suffering. I’d do hard things, and take calculated risks, but if I’m being honest with myself, I was still trying to receive healing for my past. I wouldn’t have been caught dead humbling myself to constantly remember how I felt as a child. As a teacher who is constantly around kids, my current reality is consistently informed by memories I wish I could forget entirely. I wish I could forget so much of other people’s indifference and lack of understanding. I wish I could forget so many people who made my life hell. I wish I could forget the way I reciprocated. But when I try to stand as a pillar of strength for the children I work with, God somehow uses that history of pain and abuse to do something. I know who to spend extra time with. I can sense a lot of what is behind this or that word. If I hadn’t felt so unwanted as a kid, how could I love the ones I work with now so much? At 22 years old, I know my inconvenient past was worth something. I find the value of my own suffering in being able to encourage the kids I work with. I become a healthier child with time.
Sometimes, I wish I could forget the people who I still care about. Who have intentionally or unintentionally wandered out of my life. I know that it’s a gift to love people indefinitely, even after they’ve left. I know it’s ultimately good, because it helps me remember to pray for them. There are a collection of people I think about ALL THE TIME that I can’t forget or stop loving. If they came back into my life fifty years from now, I’d probably still care for them. But caring for people who are no longer around also sucks. It sucks to inevitably love and remember people who are so far from you, some of which have no desire to care. It’s ultimately better to be the one still loving. But it hurts.
I believe that God holds on like that. I don’t think that it’s much of a choice for him either. It must be so hard to be God and watch all of us endlessly make bad choices. It’s not convenient for him to love us, but he holds on.
Christianity breeds hypocrisy when it’s convenient. All of these bittersweet moments that no one has the stones to talk about should be more commonly discussed in church. So much of following Jesus is heartbreak and putting up with suffering, even with endurance. I love God and he brings me joy, but his people have wandered the earth for thousands and thousands of years now. We’ve been enslaved, tortured, beaten, raped, captured, in famine, war, etc. Pictures of suffering paint the bible. Whether it’s the child raped by her half brother or Jeremiah cast into a well to die or the Samaritan women who has never really been known for who she is or the crucified body of Jesus. If we have the power of Christ, why do so few Christians acknowledge that this life is filled with horrible suffering? The world around us is full of hurting people, and somehow, we believe so little of Heaven that we just try to pretend it doesn’t hurt.
The suffering isn’t worth it if you just die. Even death wont be “resting in peace” if you don’t believe in God’s goodness. You just die after a miserable, meaningless life that had no intelligible design. If you don’t allow yourself to believe there could be better, everything is relative.
You can have an eternity that really does make up for the suffering, or you can have an eternity of punishment for not being willing to listen. God really does understand the suffering. It’s not like he doesn’t know. It’s not like he hasn’t done something about it. Are we going to act too stupid to know, or do we accept Jesus? The only thing that actually helps you bear the suffering of life is the surpassing suffering and glory of God. Without his misery, he couldn’t relate to us. Without his resurrection, there would be no escape. In faith, it’s possible to have peace as well as heavenly resurrection. Or are we too wise to know?