Monday, February 25, 2019

Can my pain, suffering, anxiety and affliction be beneficial to my spiritual life? You better believe it!

One of the thorniest issues in the spectrum of theodicy deal with the fact that if God is good, how then can there be evil in existence?  The offshoots of evil are many, and among them are pains, suffering, anxieties and various forms of afflictions.  I’ve met many an atheist whose chief reason for not being a believer in God and God's existence is based on the fact that there is evil in the world, and I would agree that some of the evil that exists is almost beyond heinous. Their common argument is that because evil is so real and prevalent in the world, it necessarily means that there is no God, because a God, especially one whom the Christians claim to be a loving God, must not and cannot permit sin to co-exist with good, and sometimes, it even appears that sin and evil has the upper hand.  

While today’s blog reflection isn’t one that probes the theodicy issue with some degree of depth, it does attempt to provide the Christian with a reason to live with the pains and struggles that every one of us must face in life, without exception. When a pain is one that is bodily and physical, the common way to deal with it is to look for medication, and the pharmaceutical industry thrives on the demand of the millions who seek treatment for their pain.  While seeking a medical solution isn’t bad in itself, the Christian who understands the value of the Cross would do well to not waste the opportunities present in the pain to turn it into something that has a high value.  How can pain be valuable?  What kind of value does it have, and what does it look like?

The Christian’s view of life is significantly different from one who isn’t a Christian. As St Paul puts it, the Christian is one who is ‘clothed in Christ’.  He takes on an identity apart from that of a human being.  If we understand that Jesus’ only aim and target in life was to glory his Father and to love him wholeheartedly, then our being clothed in Christ needs to see us having that same target and purpose in life.  Jesus’ love for his Father was so pure, so unsullied, and that enabled him to give of himself so excessively on Calvary.  Even though we are clothed in Christ, our love always remains sullied, partial, not fully committed, and impure.  A heart with a pure love for God is seen when the sufferings and failures in life do not negatively impact or affect this love. A heart with an impure love will see it waning and weakening when times are challenging, and strong and vibrant when times are good.  A love that is pure doesn’t fluctuate like the way the stock market tends to.

Understanding this will allow us to see the wisdom of spiritual gurus who have taught that every situation in life, good or bad, ought to be seen as opportunities for us to purify our love for God.  As intriguing as it sounds, it isn’t all that difficult to understand.  When we are in good times, and we find ourselves basking, as it were, in God’s grace and blessings, bearing this teaching in mind will remind us to continue to love God with the same intensity even if these blessings and consolations were absent from our lives.  And when we are in situations where we find ourselves tested, loaded with cares and worries, afflicted with weakness and illness, or when friends betray us and leave us in our Gardens of Gethsamanes, bearing this same teaching in mind gives us good reason to see goodness right there, because if our love for God in those times are just as strong, just as steadfast and just as robust and intense, then it is revealing that our love for God is passing the test of love, not unlike the way gold is purified through the application of intense heat.  And if despite the darkness that we are in, we can still say with honesty that God is indeed good all the time, it would show that not only have we passed the test of love, but that we have done so with flying colours.

Of course, living this way and thinking this way isn’t for the faint-hearted.  It is for those who are laser focused on heaven as their target, and sainthood as their aim.  But then, neither is Christianity for the faint-hearted. 

You, dear reader, are called to that same target, that same aim of holiness as I am. May you be renewed and strengthened in your quest for holiness, and when trials come our way in life, let us truly thank God for the golden opportunity to have our love for God purified.

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