Redemptive Suffering

Genesis 1:29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.

Our first smorgasbord had only plants.  We were happy vegetarians. In God’s paradise there is no suffering or violence.  Sustenance for one life never required the sacrificing of another. No carnivores appear in the Garden of Eden before the moral fabric of the universe is torn.

God did not intend suffering and violence and directed us away from it, but our first parents ignored his warning just as we do daily out of fear or lust.  Once violence entered our world, suffering and death became the context for our hard-scrabble lives.  Grace had a new task–to take the jagged edges of life that daily cut us and use it to carve away the darkness from our souls, to make our inevitable suffering an instrument of good to us instead of destruction.

We do violence to ourselves as much as to others through our impatience, arrogance, harshness, deceit, and every form of moral failing that crushes our hearts.  We most commonly do it as a response to violence against us, to protect ourselves in an unsafe world.  Grace is the only remedy, though not easy and pleasant.  It is often the hardest choice to make—both in receiving it and in offering it.  Grace seems so risky in a dangerous world, but welcoming it into our hearts and relationships is the only real way to break away from our repetitive rounds of violence.

This path back to peace and reconciliation leads through a minefield of loss and heartache.  Our Father holds our hands through the pain, walks with us, feels our pain as sharply as we do ourselves because that is the nature of love.  He does not withdraw and cannot distance himself from us because his love has eternally tangled his heart up with ours.  What hurts us, hurts him.  And in spite of our willfulness, he keeps leading us towards a better way.

The good news is that grace does its own work, we only welcome it (as hard as that sometimes is) and let it work.  We can no more self-impose grace than force ourselves to fly.  It comes with its own power to do what we ourselves cannot do.  May the daily miracles of God’s grace continually enrich our lives, redeeming our suffering into the way of peace.

Father I often struggle to trust your grace, fearful that it all depends on me and that I will not have the courage or strength or endurance or wisdom to “pull it off.”  Teach me to trust your infinite love to continually bring me onwards into your good ways.  Let me trust as a little child.

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