Amy: So I’m going to cut out alcohol for a while and see about eating cleaner and see if that helps me feel less anxious and depressed.
Therapist: OR we could get down to the root issues of your negative self-talk because you never feel like you’re enough and are constantly trying to meet the imagined expectations you believe people have of you.
Amy: I can’t just quit alcohol and do Whole 30?
How far will I go to avoid suffering? And, in the avoidance of that suffering, am I really ok? Amy’s story is all too common. “We humans tend to be quite good at the pain and pleasure calculus, avoiding pain and rushing headlong towards pleasure.” (Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray) And, while Amy’s proposed restrictions don’t exactly equal pleasure, it represents her math, prompting her to arrive at the less painful solution which will not alleviate her problem. How many times have I done this kind of math and circumvented a holy solution? And in doing so, Dr. Murray says, “we often forfeit fellowship [with Him] by seeking to avoid the cross that He sends to us.”
I can think about this personally, and ask the Lord to help me embrace the theology of the cross whereby I, with his help, agree to welcome suffering and fellowship with Jesus at the cross. I have sat at the cross for years in a particular area of my life praying for Christ’s healing. And, healing has been given in measures but not fully. But, I should also think about this corporately. What responsibility do I have to people like Amy? And what if her therapist only prompts her to think about the things she can change by her own will and doesn’t offer to her the freedom of identity found in Christ? How can the church stand around her, invite her to suffer in the loving arms of a Savior who bore everything on the cross, sit with her while she does, share in her pain, and walk with her to the empty tomb and Christ victorious?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor. 1:3-4). When I reflect on this passage from Corinthians again, the Holy Spirit brings new meaning. Our suffering doesn’t just provide us with the answer or some correct language to sympathize with another person. Instead, my ability to sit at the cross becomes a place to which I can welcome others. And, in doing so, Christ puts our broken selves back together. I love the image of pottery mended with gold. Kintsugi, meaning golden repair, is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery which celebrates the fractures and breaks of a piece instead of hiding or disguising them (https://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/). So, I ask myself again, as I embrace the cross, how can I celebrate the fractures of my life, rejoicing in the precious and powerful healing work Christ has done, and prayerfully lead others to the cross? And, by doing so, be the vessel through which the light of Christ touches the world around me.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 The Message (MSG): 7-12 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!