Jaclyn and I had a great chat yesterday about how our culture avoids suffering. One of the reasons that we have so much difficulty understanding the Gospel in our culture is that our comfort-driven society teaches us that suffering is something to be cured, not endured.
Examples abound: have a headache? Take a Tylenol (or Advil, or Aspirin). Have marital issues? Get a divorce (or have an affair). Don’t like the way you look? Plastic surgery, or a whole host of cosmetic and clothing products will make a “new you.” Hungry? Countless options for instant gratification await you. Are you lonely? Well, there’s an internet full of pseudo-community to take the edge off. Advertising and marketing bombards us daily with shallow problems and quick fixes.
These might not even be the best examples, but the basic assumption in all of this is that in our world, we can solve our own problems through a combination of ingenuity, hard work and technology. We find salvation in numbness and deliverance in a bottle.
If we accept that Jesus is Lord, then it is He who saves us. If we are to follow Jesus, we must see that he truly—more truly than any other who has ever lived—had the ability to sidestep the suffering that he encountered. Rather, the Creator came and dwelt amongst his Creation and suffered on a cross to liberate it from evil. Suffering is therefore central to He who is all in all.
This is why I have trouble with theology that teaches that God is our path to a happy-joy life. This is why I don’t understand hyper-spiritual teachings about worship and/or prayer; as if these activities somehow exempt us from a world built on suffering.
And this is why I have trouble with my own heart, because the allure of shunning suffering is all too attractive. Why should I embrace suffering when the world around me presents a whole host of attractive options for avoiding it? There’s probably many things that could be said at this point, but this is surely one:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Rom 8:18-21, TNIV)