Hmm, perhaps that title will discourage a few of you from reading much further! But even that observation- that something within us recoils from the very idea of suffering- reveals a bit of our mindset.
I am encouraged today by the flawed and faltering faith of the Jesus' closest disciples. In Mark 10, Jesus makes this bold and precise declaration of his impending crucifixion in Jerusalem. I can imagine many responses to such a revelation- fear, anxiety, concern for my friend Jesus- but the reaction of James and John is NOT what I would expect. They come up to Jesus, almost immediately, and have a request. "Jesus, give us the best seats in the house right next to you when you sit on your glorious throne." Maybe I missed something- Jesus just proclaimed he was going to be rejected, whipped, beaten, and killed. And then rise again. It seems to me that all James and John heard was the last sentence.
Much like James and John, we live under the illusion that glory can come without suffering. That the road to victory can detour around pain, self-denial, and sacrifice. This is why I like James, John, and the other knuckleheads that had a hard time really understanding what Jesus was all about. I am much the same. I would like to sit with Jesus in glory; I am uncertain about hanging with Him on a cross.
And yet this was exactly Paul's goal: "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead." Paul understood what James and John could not: that life follows death. Resurrection is only possible for the dead.
As we walk in a season of Lent, we are invited to experience "death" in tangible ways. We give up comforts, joys, and obsessions that have captured us in order that we might learn to suffer. Even those this kind of suffering is so small in comparison to a Cross, it opens us up to a truth that often lies beyond our comprehension. Joy is not found in the stuff of life, but in the Giver of Life, and for some reason suffering puts us in touch with Him.
I guess I don't have any profound conclusion to make today, other than to encourage us all to think about the place suffering has in our lives. For there are no detours on the road to true, joy-filled living. Death always precedes resurrection. Our job is to die. HIS job is to raise the dead.
Journey confidently into suffering with the One who raises the dead!