“So that I may become like Him, I press on because Jesus made me His own.”
Life throws us curves, and then some. Or, as it has been said, “When it rains, it pours.” That is life. Even Jesus acknowledged that in the world we would face afflictions, unfairness, stabs-in-the-back, and all sorts of pains in the body as in the soul. Jesus not only knew about it, but He experienced the same afflictions as we do. And perhaps even worse, because some of the afflictions and pain that we may experience are of our own making.
To say that Covid-19 is one of the most unexpected pour downs is an understatement. Yet, to be fair to those who are experiencing long-standing health impairing issues, the reality of an open-ended season of pain and distress will be nothing new. Perhaps this may be a good time to ask those who have endured their conditions fearlessly and with grace to teach us the secret to their inner strengths. For the time being, however, just bear with me.
Let me suggest that a good way to tackle our pandemic season is to stop asking “Why?” “Why me?” or stop searching for someone to blame for our misfortunes. But, rather, a good question to ask ourselves is, perhaps, “What for?”
Asking “What for” is a question leading to a productive and positive response or, in other words, to find purpose and thus helping us to focus on the future rather than in lamenting the past.
St Paul’s life as a Christian did not start in the splendor of a beautiful sanctuary echoing angelic choirs or the vibrant energy of a tent revival. No; It started with a bump! I wonder how often Paul wondered about that fateful start.
At any rate, St Paul understood the principle that the best way to deal with suffering is to place it under the light of Christ, and under His divine light, find purpose and a new aim – to develop determination, character and hope.
In his sufferings, Jesus teaches us this principle. In the letter to the Hebrews we read that, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered and … He became the source of eternal salvation,” (5:8-9).
And even though St Paul could claim privileges he chose to accept the transformative power of suffering, instead of throwing the towel. In fact, St Paul’s tribulations emboldened him in the pursuit of his highest calling. He understood the Christian life’s sufferings as a teaching season – “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope,” (Romans 5:3).
St Paul tells us in today’s reading that rather than quitting, he endured suffering as part of the process of being transformed “from glory to glory.” And he writes, “So that I may become like Him, I press on because Jesus made me His own.”
This is a difficult season. I know that the feelings we experience because our own pains and misfortunes are difficult to handle and at time may be overwhelming. And to top it off, we are impacted by knowing and feeling how others are going through the direst of circumstances.
Yet, whenever we are thrown into a darkest corner, we are not asked to sing praises like Silas and Paul did. Instead, we are invited to recall that Jesus has made us his very own, that nothing that happens is a surprise to Him and that nothing cannot separate us from His steadfast love.
Looking into the past will freeze us into pillars of salt, while looking into the future with a strengthened spirit and renewed hope will makes us pillars of the welcoming fire of God’s love.
We are Jesus’ very own. We are special in His sight, not because we merit it, but rather because He sees in us a reflection – even dulled as it may be – of the goodness and glory that God poured on us in creation.
Let us use this season profitably. That does not mean that we should ignore the facts or stop praying. But, rather, remembering that we are Christ’s own, let us commit ourselves to seek God’s blessing in finding purpose, and His guiding light for a new season of hope, grace, mercy and, yes, renewed and abundant joy. How that may be possible? “Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us!” Amen.