The Value of Suffering

This week is Holy Week.  It is the week when we walk with Jesus during the worst week of his life; the week that ultimately led to his death.

Many people today may ask: “Why recognize something like that?  It’s depressing.  It sounds like you are celebrating suffering.  Better to just sit tight until Easter Sunday.”

We do indeed live in a death denying, pain avoidant culture so, yes, Holy Week doesn’t really compute.  But that’s just the point.  Suffering is real.  So is death.  To not look at these unavoidable and undeniable aspects of the human condition builds our fear of them and leaves us without a way to find meaning within them.

Holy Week gives us that opportunity.  The story is there: Jesus has his Last Supper, is abandoned, arrested and ultimately killed in a tortuous death on the cross and buried in a tomb.

It is what we DO with the story, however, that is ultimately important.

Our task is to link ourselves to Christ’s sufferings by means of our own sufferings.  Why?  Because when we do, we find a divine companion in our hardships.  We find that none other than God has already walked the darkest of valleys.

Here’s one of the biggest convictions that ancient Christians lived by but we no longer do: Suffering has value.  (I know—that REALLY doesn’t compute!).  But think about it:

Suffering prompts us to call out to God in prayer.  It may be from a place of distress, but reaching for God is never a bad thing!  Praying to God when we hurt can be the beginning of a whole new relationship with the divine.

Suffering also prompts us to remember that we are finite.  That is, we aren’t God.  Now, you might say “Well of course we’re not God” but many people live in a way that says otherwise.  They credit themselves with every achievement and go about their days as though they are invincible.  Suffering can snap us back to reality.  It tells us that our time here is temporary.

Consequently, suffering can help us clarify our values so as to take fuller advantage of our short lives.

Lastly, suffering can give us compassion for others who suffer.  Pain should link us to others who are in pain just as surely as joy.  And from a faith perspective, if we believe that Christ dwells in all people, then Christ suffers as others do.  We, then, are more likely to activate ourselves to alleviate suffering.  To do so is an act of faith.

Yes, Holy Week can feel depressing.  But that’s only if you fail to spend some time with it.  When you do, you will find divine healing, companionship and purpose in your life in a way you never thought possible.

See you in church,

–Rev. Dominic