If you have followed my blog (or are just a part of my life), you are well aware I had a dear friend lose her precious son this past May. She has been armed with incredible courage to author a few recent posts on her blog ()putting into words her time of suffering, sorrow and pain.
As I was re-reading her latest post, I was overwhelmed by the emotions that came flooding to the surface of my heart, almost like a wave was crashing on my head. I felt compelled to write some thoughts as this topic of suffering and pain seems to keep coming up in my life, in my studies and in my time with God.
I have a myriad of thoughts swirling around my head, so it's difficult for me to convey exactly what I'm thinking, feeling and contemplating. Whenever I hear the word suffering or reflect on the trials and tribulations of this life, I'm consistently reminded of Paul's words to the church of Philipi:
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
What does this mean? What exactly is Paul saying? Well, Christ endured every ounce of human suffering possible. Not only did He live on this earth and experience human emotions, sickness and rejection, but He also experienced horrificly obscene torture, pain and a death that none can fathom. So when Paul says to live is Christ, it could mean when we experience life in this sinful world and all the suffering and pain that comes with it, we are sharing in His suffering.
C.S. Lewis writes, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” He also assures that "we were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn.'” I can absolutely guarantee this life will bring you heartache, pain and sorrow, but to live is Christ! I absolutely hate what my friend is going through and I absolutely would give anything for things to be different, for there to be a different outcome for things to have turned out the way everyone expected. It just doesn't seem right or fair or loving or just...
But what about the other end of the coin: "to do is gain." This is what brings me to perhaps the thesis of my post. Christ created us to be in communion with Him, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are made in His image and will ultimately be reunited with Him or we will choose to reject Him and live in isolation for eternity. The purpose of living is not to generate an income which will allow us to make ourselves more comfortable. The purpose of living is denying ourselves comfort in an effort to make others more comfortable.
This world is NOT all there is, but how on earth can we possibly live in a state of mind that protects us from grieving when we lose a loved one, worrying when we lose a job, fearing when we don't know what the future holds, suffering when we experience pain. The only way we can even have a shred of hope is to believe Paul's words, that "to die is gain." We will gain everything when we are in the presence of our Holy Father, our beloved, our sacrifcial lamb, our glorious and righteous Savior. All our tears will be washed away and there will be no suffering or pain.
If we truly believe that to die is gain, what on earth can we fear? If we are convinced "nothing can separate us from the love of Christ," how would we live our lives? What would we value? What would others say we value?
I will close this rather inarticulate and discombobulated post with yet another quote from C.S. Lewis:
“Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.”
I share this quote with my friend, Kori, and hope there might be some comfort in those words. She has ultimately given away her son, to the Lord, His purposes and His will. In that regard, Smith really is hers for eternity. She has firmly proclaimed that God is still good, despite what the circumstances may be. What Satan meant for destruction, God is turning to good by using Kori and her response to sadness and suffering. She is faithfully pointing others to the cross of Christ.