Today’s Bible Reading
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”—Matthew 16:21-23
More thoughts for meditation
“Suffering naturally gives rise to doubt. How can one believe in God in the face of such horrendous suffering as slavery, segregation, and the lynching tree? Under these circumstances, doubt is not a denial but an integral part of faith. It keeps faith from being sure of itself. But doubt does not have the final word. The final word is faith giving rise to hope.”—James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree
One of the reasons that many have said that the oppressed are in closer proximity to God is because their suffering both challenges their faith and also necessitates it. This doesn’t mean that that oppression is holy or that the oppressed are ontologically holier, but rather, that their suffering encourages faith.
Some Christians prefer to avoid or deny suffering altogether, and so they miss an opportunity for faith development. If we could just avoid suffering, we might think we’re saving ourselves. But because we can’t, we need a savior. The horrors of the sufferings around us may cause us to question our faith, but Cone says that that may not be a denial. And in fact, like suffering, allowing us to feel our doubt, may strengthen our faith.
Suggestions for action
If we avoid suffering in order not to feel pain, we may never learn how to experience hardship, and when we do, we may succumb to despair. If we avoid doubt because we fear it will ruin our faith, when we invariably do doubt, we’ll either deny our doubt (and make us useless disciples), or we’ll allow our faith to fall away. And so, today, practice suffering, intentionally. We suffer through our fast and disciplines during Lent so that we learn how to suffer when the pain comes (and there is no shortage of pain in this dreaded year). Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask questions and doubt. Our faith and our God is stronger, and truer, than our doubt. But feel free to doubt your doubt, too. It is not the final word. “Faith giving us rise to hope” is.