The Bright Sadness of Suffering

In the past month our church has shared in the suffering of two of our families. For one it was the death of a grandson who suffered two strokes at birth and lived six short weeks. For another it was the death of a wife, mother and grandmother after a three-year journey with cancer. As the stories were shared (the first in a moving interview two Sunday's ago and the 2nd in an equally moving memorial service last Saturday) we found ourselves in 'sacred space' as we witnessed two of our own displaying remarkable grace in the face of their suffering.

A phrase came to mind that beautifully captures what we've seen in our friends - "a bright sadness". It's the capacity to honestly embrace the sadness of our struggles and suffering with a courage, hope and faith that burn so brightly our lives take on an attractive and magnetic character.

The New Testament describes this bright sadness as life being displayed through death.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake,so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (II Corinthians 12:7-12).

When 'the life' of Christ's presence is alive and at work within us our suffering speaks deeply to the hearts of people. When we embrace life as it's given to us with faith our example draws others into the bigger story of God's providence for them.

But I know myself all too well. Suffering (however it comes) goes right to the core the 'false self' patterns that play such a big role in my story. My desire for safety and securety cause me to lookat suffering as something to be avoided at all costs. And do I try...

Father thank you for the examples of friends whose lives display your presence in such powerful ways. I need such stories. They stir my soul and invite me to step outside the safe confines of my small world into the larger space of your purposes. Deepen within me a trust so authentic that when a day comes that I'm called upon to suffer my life would display the bright sadness of your presence within me. 

Fighting For Your Hearts,

Gary