You wake up and see a new day, but you didn’t want to wake up. So it’s a call to endure and go deep with God.
They want the pain to end. The struggle of the journey has become too much.
That’s the underlying theme of many of the emails I receive from people every week. They have taken the vulnerable step of reaching out to a stranger who wrote about someone like themselves.
They will use various phrases to describe their situation and their prayers.
Some of them relate to wishing to die in their sleep. That they would not wake up. They don’t want to take their own life. Instead, they wish for their departure to seem quite natural.
Have you ever been in this dark and sad place?
It’s the prayer of suffering.
It’s heart knowing only pain.
You sleep, but you wake to light. The new day shines through the window. Light flows around the misery one is in, and you ask why?
This is where we find our friend and fellow human struggler, Job—the one who knows endurance.
Why are light and life given to those in misery?
Job, in his prayer of pain, speaks out his heart.
‘Why is light given to one in misery,
and life to the bitter in soul, Job 3:20
“Why does God bother giving light to the miserable,
why bother keeping bitter people alive. Job 3:20 Message
And God doesn’t provide an answer to satisfy.
We want easy-to-find answers. Simple solutions to the mysteries we struggle with. When we have the answer, we can pull it out every time as a kind of salve to relieve the pain.
We no longer need a relationship with God that demands us to endure and trust when the road is uphill and hard.
We will soon find in the story of Job that he has so-called friends and advisors full of answers to his misery. None of them are correct. None of them say, ‘I am going to endure this with you.’
We are fortunate to skip ahead in the story to see Job come out of this dark place and find newness in everything. So we look for the principles, the methods, and the keys that helped Job transition out of the dark hole and into a place of light.
We want the suffering to be brief.
Endurance is not a popular word.
What’s it like to endure?
I know someone who recently went through cancer treatment. They endured a battle for their life. Their body had a cancerous growth growing in them, and war commenced. First, chemicals were put into the body that attacked the cells and stripped the body of immunity. So they were vulnerable to any infection that happened to float past them. Then radio waves were targeted at the growth.
More treatment and more treatment upon that.
As a fellow human traveler, I could do nothing for them. They were on their own as such. Sure they had lots of medical help and support, but I couldn’t be in their body and carry any of their struggles. I couldn’t even visit for the risk of me passing on a common illness.
I could be there with them in the struggle. I didn’t want them to be alone. I wanted them to know they were held in community. But it was their battle of endurance.
For many, it is a daily struggle with darkness and the new mornings coming through the window. A Job wrestle with the ‘why’?
I want to know God more than relief.
We can complain, moan, groan, demand, and plead. And God is big enough to handle it all.
He who carries all, understands all.
He who has suffered all, has a universal compassion.
He who has been afflicted and lived is the bearer of hope.
The wounded one is always the gift giver. Richard Rohr -Job and the Mystery of Suffering
God knows the darkness of a day when a cross is waiting for a son.
God knows the parental ache of longing for a lost and wayward child to return home.
Job throws up the questions in rawness, and God still wants his heart.
God is not going to be offended by our words of reality. God wants us in our rawness to be real.
Only then may little windows of wisdom open. Perhaps moments of knowing some assurance.
Things we can do differently. New perspectives. A new awareness of God’s presence.
To endure brings us to an awareness in the darkest of valleys that we are not alone in our pain. We have a good shepherd walking with us through the thunderstorms.
Endurance builds deep trust. That is what those who write to me in pain want. They want to know that someone will endure this with them.
Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us Hebrews 12:1
Quotes to consider
- Every hard thing we endure can put us in touch with our desire for God, and every trial can strengthen that desire until it becomes the consuming passion of our life. Larry Crabb Soultalk
- I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable. All these and other factors combined, if the circumstances are right, can teach and can lead to rebirth. Anne Morrow Lindbergh
- Jesus on the cross and Mary standing near him are powerful witnesses to transformative spirituality. They return no hostility, hatred, accusations, or malice directed at them. They hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection! That’s the core mystery of Christianity. It often takes our whole lives to begin to comprehend this.
Unfortunately, our natural instinct is trying to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, attempting to understand it. The ego insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It’s the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold contraries until we are moved by grace to a much deeper level and a much larger frame. Our private pain does not take center stage but is a mystery shared with every act of bloodshed, and every tear wept since the beginning of time. Our pain is not just our own. The normal mind can’t deal with that. That’s why mature religion always teaches some form of contemplation—to break our addiction to this egoic, disconnected thinking. Richard Rohr
- If no meaning can be given to human suffering, if our wounds are not capable of becoming sacred wounds, the human project is surely doomed to a blaming war of all against all. The future would then be full of scapegoats and victims. Richard Rohr -Job and the Mystery of Suffering
- We are saved by those whom we go to save, and both of us are then saved in spite of ourselves. There is a mysterious “third” who is doing the saving. Suffering for and with the other seems to be the only way we know that our lives are not about us. Richard Rohr -Job and the Mystery of Suffering
Questions to answer
- What have you learned from times of endurance?
- Walking with someone who is enduring pain is a sacred call. What are the qualities of a friend who does this?
- Who needs to know your quiet presence at this moment in their endurance battle?