Suffering Is Not a Stepping-Stone
(ADDED NOTE: My image in this post is available on T-shirts, etc., HERE.) Several time over the past years I've had people say that they detect lots of pain in our congregation. With the best of intentions they say that they also sense that this pain will pass and the church will move into its destiny of a great and wonderful future. I used to cling to those kinds of promises because the pain we were experiencing as a congregation is so intense. Like them, I considered the suffering a stepping-stone to a greater and easier life and ministry. After years and years of this kind of delusional thinking, I've come to the conclusion that pain and suffering are a fact of life. They are not things to be avoided, but recognized and understood. We must make peace with this reality. In biblical language, we so desire to wear the crown without the cross. True life actually bears the imprint of the cross. The cross permeates all of life. And the crown is thorny. Even yesterday, I encouraged the community to begin to discern that meaningful life and true ministry is already happening in the midst of their suffering, that our community is being true and doing the work in the midst of the trials and tribulations. We must rid our minds of the universally pervasive illusion that once the problems and obstacles are past, then we'll move into our glory. Not so. Our glory is in the cross, not after it. Yes, their is pain and suffering. We don't deny it. And we don't deny it because we believe that it is through our obvious weakness that the truest life and work is being accomplished. To some, this is the aroma of death. To others, to those who can discern, it is the aroma of life. This painting is one I did years ago and is called "The Narrow Way".