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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Inspired by . . . through suffering

Every year as I contemplate Lent, I am struck anew at just how long 40 days can be. In every other season, time seems to move at warp speed, but when you are sitting at the edge of a desert that you know will take forty, 24-hour days to cross, the time seems very long indeed.

Most years, and for most people, Lent is carried out amidst the regular hum of normal day-to-day life. There may be something given up or added to and more focused attention to the Bread of Life. But otherwise, things are relatively normal.

This year has been different.

To paraphrase something Henri Nouwen said: Lent is about trusting that God's love for us is stronger than death and that death, therefore, does not have the last word.

Jesus could go to the cross because, as a man, He trusted that God's love was stronger than death and, as God, He knew He was the proof of that strength.

Nouwen says, "The core message of Jesus is that real joy and peace can never be reached while bypassing suffering and death, but only by going right through them."

Yet, going through suffering does not guarantee joy and peace. The difference, I think, is trust. We are afraid that there is something other than love in God. We equate suffering with punishment. But this just shows how very little we know the mind of God. I admit I know Him very little. But more, I hope, today, than yesterday.

It goes back to what Nouwen said above about trusting God's love. It isn't until we believe, even in our incomplete understanding of His love, that He truly does love us, completely and without limits or conditions, that we will receive joy and peace in the midst of our suffering.

That is what is different about this year. What I gave up, thinking to replace with more of Him, has been all but lost in the overwhelming noise of silence. As He teaches me to listen for His loving presence in the midst of suffering.

Some of you are much farther along in this journey than I.

In the coming weeks, we will all see again just how much He loves us.


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