Suffering is the necessary deep feeling of the human situation. If we don’t feel pain, suffering, human failure, and weakness, we stand antiseptically apart from it, and remain numb and small. We can’t understand such things by thinking about them. The superficiality of much of our world is that it tries to buy its way out of the ordinary limits and pain of being human. Carl Jung called it “necessary suffering,” and I think he was right.
Jesus did not numb himself or withhold himself from human pain, as we see even in his refusal of the numbing wine on the cross (Matthew 27:34). Some forms of suffering are necessary so that we know the human dilemma, so that we can even name our shadow self and confront it.
Brothers and sisters, the irony is not that God should feel so fiercely; it’s that his creatures feel so feebly. If there is nothing in your life to cry about, if there is nothing in your life to yell about, you must be out of touch. We must all feel and know the immense pain of this global humanity. Then we are no longer isolated, but a true member of the universal Body of Christ. Then we know God not from the outside but from the inside!
Richard Rohr, adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations
I think Rohr has put his finger, here, on what I continually try to say here in this blog: that God has a terrible, redemptive purpose in allowing us to feel, especially others’, pain. (I would extend his “global humanity” though, to all that is made, really, and that shares in our brokenness since the Fall.) He does not intend so much to heal us by “making it all better”—he thinks more of us than that. As far as I can understand, what he is after is involving us in the great work of making all things new—as Paul writes to the Romans (8.18-27 NRSV):
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
For me, this comes about in and through the Jesus Prayer, since in and through the Prayer I find myself drawn deeper into God’s heart for the little, broken ones, without having to mess things up too much with my own thoughts and preconceptions. I wrote quite a long post about this during Lent 4 years ago. In some ways perhaps I have grown deeper into this odd way of life; in others, I find myself no farther forward, and still as puzzled…
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner…