Transformation in the Suffering

boat facing storm

“A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Mark 4:37-38

I’m afraid I am approaching “overwhelmed” at this point. With the ongoing pandemic, wildfires, racial inequality and injustice, and the upcoming election my anxiety is hammering at my good humor. Any one of these troubling issues can knock me off balance, but all at one time seems like piling on, seriously. What is a person of deep faith (“I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24) to do? Where is God in all this? I’m reminded of the apostles tossed about at sea in a raging storm while Jesus took a nap in the boat. It feels like past time to wake Jesus up.

Thankfully, I have a wealth of wisdom teachers to consult as I try to wrap my head around all this. Fr. Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for 9/13 said:

“We must trust the pain and not get rid of it until we have learned what it has to teach us…When we can trust the transformation patterns, and that God is in the suffering, our wounds become sacred wounds. The actual and ordinary life journey becomes itself a godly journey. We trust God to be in all things, even in sin and suffering.”

Whoa, that’s a lot, but what could it look like now? I like the idea of God right in these trenches with us, not observing from elsewhere. God only and always loves, and our suffering is God’s suffering, too. Jesus’ death on the cross is the very image of God suffering with us. I appreciate that going through difficulties can transform us as we pay attention and are open to being transformed. This difficulty can open us up to the suffering of our brothers and sisters and the fact that we need to take care of each other. Jesus never told us just to look out for Number One, but to love each other. Jesus said it and then demonstrated it over and over again by loving, healing, and restoring those in the margins of society. One of his last lessons was washing the disciples’ feet and telling them to “go and do likewise” (John 13:14). So, if we’re looking for God’s guidance through this, we can look at Jesus’ action and listen to Jesus’ words…”love one another” (John 15:17).

One thing that helps me is realizing what, exactly, is mine to do and what isn’t. I can’t fix everything that troubles our country. But I can work on my own attitudes by studying, learning and growing. I learned so much from Immanuel’s last book study, “The Trouble I’ve Seen” by Drew Hart and look forward to the next book we’re exploring, “I’m Still Here,” by Austin Channing Brown. I need to open my mind and expand my heart and it helps to do it with members of my faith community. I can’t change anybody else but myself and I recognize the need for that during this monumental time. I desire to be open and pliable to the transformation this time can offer. I also recognize, with gratitude, that I have a wonderful family and school job. Each day I need to get out there and be my best for all in my little orbit. I may not have much impact on global concerns, but I can do my very best in my sphere to love my family, neighbors, students, strangers I encounter, and the earth under my feet. My part seems small, but a bunch of small parts make up the whole so each contribution is important.

Practically speaking, I find it healthy to take a break from news and social media when things seem overwhelming to me. I can too easily engage in battles I don’t need to fight online. Realizing just how much news I can stomach and how to care for myself by stepping back from it all is helpful. While I feel the need to be aware and informed, saturating myself with too much news is defeating. I wind down many evenings sitting prayerfully, with a candle and gentle music, soothing my soul by checking in, deep inside, where God resides. It feels like a fine line between doing what I can actually do to help these big situations and what I cannot do. I need to prayerfully discern that in still silence. Is God calling me to a particular ministry or task? How can I hear the quiet voice of God if news-noise is drowning God out?

Finally, it is important for me to remember that God is always working in the world even when things seem dismal. I believe God works fervently in the hearts of all who are open and willing. God may give us a nudge to step out and do something we may not have felt inclined or empowered to do before. God encourages us to look inside and see that our hearts are made to love…each other. We may feel the need to wake Jesus up in our boat, but we simply can be inspired by how Jesus lived and moved in the world. Things were fairly dicey in Jesus’ time and place in history. And, yet, we can see how Jesus transformed all he encountered with his love.

Prayer...

Gracious God, sometimes we feel so overwhelmed by the magnitude of all the issues today. Help us remember that you work through our hands and hearts to show your love to our hurting world. Draw us closer to you so your love will cast out our fear. Then we can share that with others. Amen.

Heidi Gainan

Heidi Gainan

Member of Immanuel Lutheran Church
Boise, ID

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