Thursday, August 23, 2018

Jesus is God Drawn Close To Our Wounded Humanity

We live in a world of immense suffering.

We all know how hard it is to deal with acute, immediately perceptible instances of suffering—instances of physical, mental, and/or emotional pain. It's hard enough to hear the stories of other people. And usually we want at least to be distracted, as much as possible, from our own pains. What we feel intensely is the need for relief, and we are grateful for anyone and anything that can give us some real help.

But the whole reality of suffering is deeper than the external struggles that engage so many of us.

People don't suffer "equally" (certainly not on every level or at any given time). But everyone suffers in this world, and everyone's suffering is uniquely their own.

At some point, everyone has distinct and profound experiences that can be at least partially articulated, that indicate the brokenness and incompleteness of their life: something that has disappointed or hurt them; someone who has betrayed them or manipulated them; something that does not measure up to a once-cherished hope; some kind of health issues; some catastrophic events or tragic losses; some family or friends who have let them down, abandoned them, misunderstood them; some limitation that inhibits their freedom; some burden that tires them; some hunger that is never satisfied....

People usually accommodate themselves to reduced expectations about life, especially as they get older. How else could one get through the day? Sometimes, however, one can still catch an echo of a cry of pain, that deep and mysterious pain at the heart of every human life. Life is, in some measure, always something that has to be endured.

Why is this? Most broadly, it's because we live in a radically broken universe. We suffer because of sin: original sin, our own personal sins, and the sins of the world. But why has God permitted so much sin and so much suffering?

God doesn't give a theoretical, intellectually satisfying answer to the depths of this agonizing question. He does something much greater. He comes to dwell with us in this broken world, and bears all our sufferings and sins out of love, thereby transforming the meaning of suffering.

Because of this, we do not suffer alone. We suffer in Jesus Christ, who is God’s love made personal and particular for each one of us.

Jesus is God drawn close to our wounded humanity, so close that He takes it upon Himself—not only in some “general” way, but in a way that encompasses each one of us. Jesus is the intimate companion of each and every human person, even those who do not know Him. He knows each one of us; He unites Himself (He—God the Eternal Son of the Father) to my humanity and to your humanity; He dwells with us and suffers with us in order to raise us up to a share in His life with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

He knows “who I am” and who He wills me to be. He knows the secret of why I was created. He knows my sins. He knows how to heal me of them, how to draw me to Himself, how to make me the “adopted son” that I am meant to be in Him for all eternity.

And so my joys and sufferings too (which He permits) are taken up into His infinitely wise, uniquely crafted, and tender love through which He shapes my life and leads me to my destiny.

How little I really understand about my “destiny.” How little I understand about the “eternal life” which means belonging to Him forever. We must remember every day that God is with us and that He draws us toward our true identity, which is to reflect His eternal glory in that unique way that corresponds to each of us as a person created in His image and likeness—a reflection that we do not yet understand but that He sees and knows.

We ought to dwell upon this and call it frequently to mind. Those little prayers throughout the day are worth so much: "Jesus, I love you." "Jesus, I trust in you." "Come, Holy Spirit." God, help me!" No matter the storms and the fury; the depths of our lives are not solitude. We are never alone.

At the heart of life, of every moment of life, the merciful God who is infinite, unconquerable love accompanies us, gives Himself to us, and asks us to open our hearts to receive Him.