By Fred Pruitt
Jesus is called the “man of sorrows” by Isaiah for many reasons. One of them is that the life of the Cross precludes a life where we are free from the responsibility to save others. The responsibility to save others (in whatever form) necessarily involves “sacrifice” on our part, of one kind or another. For Rees Howells it was to let his children at one point be raised by others. For Norman Grubb it was to see his first child die of malnutrition in the Congo jungle, as well as an estrangement from his other children because of his chosen life to be always on the road, almost never at home (for them). For others of us it can be a thousand other things. But there is always sadness, sorrow, involved. To live the life of the Cross, in order to give to some, it seems others are neglected or not given to. Sometimes those we are closest to get the least of us.
Another reason Jesus is called the man of sorrows is because once the power of Love overtakes you, the sorrows of the world are magnified to an infinite degree. There is just SO MUCH of it.
Disasters, natural calamities, wars, as well as injustice, hunger, cruelty, unkindness, and intentional violence are so pervasive in the world, wherever we are, that is almost overwhelming and far too much to bear. People, through no fault of their own, are born into despair. Born into hunger, violence, repression, poverty — and I don’t mean just the physical when I speak of hunger, violence, poverty, etc. There is also the far more serious spiritual hunger, violence, repression, and poverty of the soul or spirit.
There is also sorrow and sadness because there seems to be no answer. God seems silent. For those suffering physical privation, it seems a callous answer to tell them to see all as well, good and whole, when they are screaming in agony from pain and flailing about in anger over why this could happen to them.
God seems far away or non-existent in the face of the unbelievable enormity of human suffering on this planet. Doesn’t He care?
People might say, good Christians, that man brought all this on himself by disobeying God, and the suffering in this life is the just punishment for our sins.
But Paul said that the creation was made subject to vanity, not by its own volition, but by the will of God.
In order to lay a foundation for hope.
And I think we have to bear that in mind.
Many years ago, Janis & I went horseback riding. I was used to bicycles, but not horses so much. So when I got close to a ditch with the horse, I got a little scared and attempted to coax the horse away from the ditch. What I didn’t realize, however, is that the horse, being a somewhat intelligent living creature and not an inanimate device like a bicycle, wanted to avoid the ditch as much as I wanted him to. I’ve gotten a wealth of understanding from that horse-ride.
We as parents agonize over our children, especially when they have a hard time. As much when they’re “adults” as when they were small — perhaps more so. We want so much for them to make it, to make lives for themselves, to be happy, fulfilled, etc. We pray for them; we try to teach them the right way as much as we know how; we give advice, sought and unsought, but in the end, if we’re smart, we realize three things: one, it’s up to them entirely; and two, just like the horse, they don’t want to fall in the ditch any more than we want them to; and three, God is “individual” with them even as He is with us.
When we ask the question about how to include the sufferings which have come with this war and economic crisis into the “universal,” the answer may not be to put it into some universal theory of “all things work together for good,” which is nice to hear in times that we need it, but sometimes it does not help. The answer may be to put it right smack-dab into the individual.
If a man has his legs blown off, insanity to consider, will God come to him in His suffering? Will grace be available that is greater than the suffering of losing his legs? If little children are orphaned and driven to a squalid camp of refugees, is God there, and does He meet them one by one? In conditions which are too horrible for our minds to comprehend, can the love of God somehow be seen in the midst?
Jesus said that the Father knows when sparrows fall, and how many hairs we have on our heads. In other words, He knows us each individually, every single one of us on the face of the earth, personally. Therefore we MUST also believe, that if we’ve found in some measure His love for ourselves, (“God loves ME?”), then we can also believe in His individual love and care for every other human being on the planet, regardless or country, race, religion, politics, culture, or social standing.
This is where my “horse analogy” comes in. I thought I had to “control” the horse, to make sure he didn’t stumble into the ditch. But the horse had a mind of his own, and had no intention of stumbling into the ditch, even if I had tried to make him do so. The suffering of the world can’t be “controlled” by you or me; it will come, and it will come to all in some measure. And each individual can respond the grace that comes with it.
The “sufferings,” shared in common by all humanity — when you suffer I suffer and visa versa — ARE the sufferings of Christ, the sorrows of the Man of sorrows. But as we are all common in our shared sufferings, so also is the Man of Sorrows the Light that lights every man that comes into the world. Nothing is unnoticed, and Grace manifests in every individual who seeks it. And the “sufferings” cause us to seek it.
And whether in darkness or light, sorrow or joy, the One God is manifest in all.
What I’m saying, is two things: one, I trust God in the individual, as much as in the universal. God seeks all, and the sufferings and sorrows are often the means by which He makes Himself manifest. I see Christ manifest in His sufferings for the world in starving children, repressed humanity, in failing banks and plant closings, and in wounded and dying men in battle. Second, it is ALL the Cross, Calvary through the blood of Christ, blood which dripped into the molecules of the earth below the Cross on Calvary Hill. That blood has since gone over the face of the earth into the very air we breathe and food we eat; the blood of Christ is physically still with us! It is His blood of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of Jesus’ final intercession: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Like in Dali’s painting, the Cross stands over the WHOLE WORLD, bringing Life out of death wherever it is sought, so that it is manifest and revealed.
It is a very hard time on the earth right now. But we are about resurrection unto new life, and this we declare. Like Paul, we know only one thing: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Let us be about the business of knowing this one thing only, to the exclusion of all else.
Car Trouble, May 2009
Well, Jesus said the rain falls on the just and unjust. So it does! In the past when things like breakdowns have occurred, I have often thought myself responsible in some way– something I did or didn’t do caused it. But yesterday, in 100 degree heat, when the car we were traveling in overheated out in the middle of a cotton field miles from any sort of civilization, we could all only thank the Lord for His always manifest grace and goodness toward us. We thanked Him when the AAA wrecker came and brought an extra vehicle to transport the four of us. We thanked Him when the bill came back HUGE but we knew the money had already been provided for the repair. We thanked Him when we were next door to a Days Inn where we could lay our heads for the night. We thanked Him when a lady agreed to drive us to a restaurant down the road so we wouldn’t have to walk there in the heat. Everything is a cause for thanks. Where is the blame? No blame! Like Paul, who said he has learned in every state to be content and to give thanks for all, how wonderful to thank and praise instead of listening to the accusing voice of condemnation and self-recrimination. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you!” It is almost more than we can take, to know that even though “10,000 may fall by thy side, it shall not come nigh thee!” is truth that we can live by. That even though “calamity” may come, the angels have gone before and prepared the way, and we see only His hand. Was it the enemy? No matter if it was, for He who lives in us is greater than he who lives in the world. Therefore anything that comes our way we can endure and in it prevail, simply because in all things it is no longer we who live, but He who lives in us, Who is continually, every moment of every day, “more than conqueror” IN US!