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Hope in the midst of suffering

13 March 2018 Rev Keith Garner's Blog

We are moving through Lent and toward Easter and as I journey through this month, I invariably turn to the difficult subject of pain and suffering.

Studdert Kennedy used to say that a person who was undisturbed by the problem of pain was suffering from one of two things; either from a hardening of the heart, or a failure of the mind. Kennedy was right. Everyone who believes in our God of love is faced with the same challenge. It has to be admitted, even by the most earnest Christians, that we cannot find simple solutions to the deepest of problems. However, our message in Lent and certainly at Easter is that God is with us in and through our difficult experiences. Jesus Christ is adequate in the most challenging circumstances. I have found throughout my life that some of the most faithful responses come when we are faced with the most disturbing events.

When we are in the presence of suffering, it is not a time for profound statements about the ultimate problems of the universe. One great writer reflected, “It is a time for the upward look and trustful silence. Some people are so strong in faith, and so sure of God, that they can praise him in pain, and pass through the valley with songs on their lips.” Such people could be said to be rare souls. For most of us, it is a time of quiet obedience.

The task of those of us who seek to care for others is far from easy. In our work at Wesley Mission, we are brought face-to-face with difficulties and there are times when the spirit rebels. I am content to declare “He is able!” As we begin to contemplate the fact that Easter is just around the corner, our proper Lenten response is one of fresh faith and constant hope that emerges in and through the Person of Jesus Christ.

During the earthly ministry of Jesus, his disciples were wholly dependent upon him. Without the constancy of this relationship, they found themselves faithless, fearful and foolish. It is not surprising, therefore, that Jesus had to say to them, “O you of little faith!” Sometimes those closest to him failed miserably. Our Holy Week truth is that when it came to the supreme test, in the events leading up to the crucifixion, one betrayed Jesus, another denied him, and all deserted him when the going got too tough. This was not very promising material for the start of that which was to turn the world upside down, but thank God he takes the ordinary broken lives of people like me and you and uses them to offer hope to the world.