The Legacy of Suffering

Last night an Apprentice class I am teaching  focused on the concept of the huge personal transformation that is possible when we realize to the bottom of our souls that Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection  mean that we are new creations capable of living a good and beautiful lives.

Because of Jesus, God no longer see me as a sinner; God looks at me and sees Jesus.  Spend sometime with that amazing fact some time and it will revolutionize your life.  In addition to that, if God no longer sees me as a sinner, I can no longer say “I am just a sinner, saved by grace.” I am a saint who sometimes still sins. As James Bryan Smith says, ‘Your brokenness no longer defines you.”

Smith also points out that along with that truth comes ” a deeper paradox” that wounded people and perfectionists need to hear.  “It is in our weakness that God’s power is revealed.  The broken feel they have nothing to offer; legalists feel their perfection is what makes them valuable.  Both are wrong.   We minister out of our brokenness” (The Good and Beautiful God, p. 162-63).

As if all this weren’t enough to take in, today comes a quote from Fr. Richard Rohr about suffering and brokenness:

“Only the great self, the True Self, the God Self, can carry our anxieties. The little self cannot do it. People who don’t pray basically cannot live The Gospel, because the self is not strong enough to contain and reveal our delusions and our fear.  I am most quoted for this line: “If you do not transform your pain, you will always transmit it.”

Always someone else has to suffer because I don’t know how to suffer;  that is what it comes down to.  Jesus, you could say, came to show us  how to suffer, how to carry the “legitimate pain of being human” as C.G. Jung called it.  Beware of running from yourself and your own  legitimate suffering, which is the price of being a human being in a limited world.”

The truth of the Gospel is that suffering is inevitable, but Jesus redeems it.  If we adopt that thought as an operating principle, we transform our suffering into a blessing to others not a curse.  Our suffering can be a legacy of pain or a gift of life.  As Henri Nouwen famously said, we become “wounded healers.”  I would add that without transforming our brokenness, it is next to impossible to serve as a healer.  How do we redeem our brokenness? By choosing to let the Holy Spirit deal with our pain and suffering instead of “stuffing” it or managing it or grieving endlessly about it, or allowing it to control our emotions and relationships.   The bottom line is if we don’t allow the Spirit to transform it, we will transmit it.

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