Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Meditation on Suffering

Hello Ladies,

Lately I have been asked to give a reflection to a bible study based on the book of Isaiah. After it was done several people asked me for my notes. They said they liked the reflection. Maybe they were being nice. But then I thought, hey, why not put it up on my blog?

So without further ado I humbly offer a fuller version of my notes on how to read the book of Isaiah.

What is the purpose of studying the Bible? One way to approach the Bible is to think of it as a history of God's self revelation of his love for us. It is, in essence, a love story, a how-to manual between the lover (God) and the beloved (you, me, all of humanity). This is a story that will never end. God does not change so we must allow God's love to change us. As we change, we become more like God, who is Love.

How do we enter into this relationship? Variations of this question have been asked throughout all of time. God call us, but how can God, who is All, call us without, well, squishing us like a bug? Nicholas of Cusa asked this question of God and God answered thusly: Be yours and I too will be yours. Yes, the answer is to be yourself and God will be yours. In order to be yourself you must know yourself. In order to know God you must enter into a unique relationship with God.

So who is our lover? How has God chosen to reveal himself to us? For this we will look at Isaiah 53:1-12 NRSV.

53 Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
    Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
    and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11     Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Let's carry this through to what Christians believe is the fulfillment of this passage. (Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV)

5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8     he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Our beloved suffers for love of us!

Since God suffers for us and we are to be like God, I am going to make four points concerning suffering. 

Point 1 - The world is full of reasons why you should suffer. I have been told I should suffer because I am a woman, because of my looks, my education, my accent, my income, and my place of birth. God did not put you on this earth to suffer. You may suffer to do the will of God. Look at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as an example. She did no more and no less of what was asked of her. She did not believe that anyone should suffer the loss of human dignity. Never once did she give up her dignity to restore dignity to others. Never.

Point 2 - The world will never understand that we suffer for love of others. The world likes to choose winners, not those who give day after day for no apparent reward. This includes mothers and fathers, caregivers, social rights workers, religious, volunteers, and anyone who goes the extra mile for others and asks for nothing in return. Do not ask for permission or validation from the world.

Point 3 - Why suffer? This is an interesting one. The world didn't understand why Jesus suffered and died. His followers didn't want him to die. It wasn't better for one innocent man to die for the good of the Jewish nation. Jesus died for the redemption of the world. God's way is always greater than we can imagine. Turn to God in your suffering. 

Point 4 -  To be more of yourself is to become more like God. Or - the more you love the more God - like you become.

Obviously there is much more that I could have said but my time was limited. Hopefully you will find this meditation useful in some small way. Okay, the notes for a meditation, a smaller offering.

May God continue to bless you!

(Special thanks to Bible Gateway which allowed me to cut and paste bible verses instead of typing it all out on my own.)