Lent Devotion 2: Good Suffering
‘The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night.’ – St. Edith Stein
Jesus makes suffering holy. He alone ‘makes the burning sand a pool.’ (Is. 35:7) His 40 days in the desert prophesied the Cross, on which Jesus once and for all reclaimed suffering as the way to Life.
Suffering alone does not give us life or make us good. Jesus does. He simply uses suffering to reduce us to Himself. Serious trouble invites us into the desert to prepare for the resurrection He has in store for us.
Of all the kinds of suffering that exist, the best kind involves suffering for being a Christian. The Church at Smyrna knew that suffering well. (Rev.2: 8-11) Their serious trouble involved tremors of persecution (a large community of Jews who Jesus called ‘non-Jews’ due to their hatred of Christians v. 9) that Jesus prophesied would become an earthquake. Threatened by imprisonment and death, the Smyrnans also were impoverished. They had no-one or nothing to fall back on but Jesus.
That’s why Jesus called them ‘rich.’ (v.3) In the desert of slander, affliction and poverty, Jesus became everything for them. They had no laws or lawyers to defend them. The Smyrnans were reduced to the advocacy of Jesus and became powerful because of it.
Jesus hallowed their suffering. Out of the seven churches, only 2, included Smyrna, were not called to repent. The Smyrnans learned how to suffer well. In their pain they did not turn to sin but to Jesus.
I can assume the Smyrnans dreaded the threat persecution posed to peace and reputation and freedom. Self-preservation would have been tempted them to tone down the message, to build bridges with their enemies. Jesus urges them to ‘to not fear’ and ‘to be faithful’ unto death. (v.10)
In the last year, some Living Waters leaders have been threatened by legal action and death due to upholding the truth of marriage and of healing homosexuality. Such threats frighten and weary us but make us love Jesus more. In pondering these tremors at the onset of 2013, I wrote in my prayer journal: ‘I don’t want a life of ease, I want Jesus.’ So be it. May none of us dumb down the truth He has entrusted to us for the sake of saving ourselves. He alone saves.
He alone makes suffering good. May the hammering on all sides temper us and make us golden. Thank you, Jesus, for the courageous witness at Smyrna. Like them, may we shine brighter as the days grow darker.
‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you.’ (LK 6:26)
‘Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.’ – (Rev. 2:10)