Suffering is inevitable. It's part of being human to experience pain, grief, loss. And as Christians we are definitely not immune to it. We all suffer in different ways throughout our lives. Battles we often face in silence.
My journey in that sense is no different to anyone else’s. There have been times where I have experienced great joy at how well life seems to be going! And then there's been the pain when it hasn't. I am currently in one of those difficult times.
Sickness. Cancer. Malignant. Chemotherapy. Terminal. Life? Death?
These are words which have tormented my family for over a year now. We have felt thrown around by confusion, various test results, heightened emotion and many unknowns.
As a theology student I've spent much time contemplating the place of suffering in living a life for Christ. In all this craziness I've felt guilt over the fact that I don't feel like I'm living how God would want me to be. I don't feel like I'm living out his mission. Often I feel so disconnected from the normality of life and don't know how to function properly. Is this a good enough excuse to not be leading people to God?
Yet I constantly have people, who I know and don't know, tell me that they're being influenced by how I'm dealing with what I'm going through.
I haven't really been trying to live missionally, or influence others or anything. I've just been trying to make it through each day!
But maybe the world isn't looking for people who can show they are strong and immune against adversities, people who are perfectly acting out “God's mission” at all times. I think the world is looking for people who can be real, and vulnerable, and transparent but still have hope.
Maybe those who came to me were responding to how I was acting, not because I was trying to hold everything all together, but because I was real about the fact that I seriously don't have everything all together. Yet I still have hope in a God who does.
And “hope” is an interesting thing. I have hope. But that doesn't mean that I always feel happy and joyous. I don't always have a positive outlook on life and sometimes things do get a bit too much.
Hope for me is the ability to look to Christ in the midst of my struggles and know that whatever happens he will be with me.
He is with us and has compassion in our grief, in our depression, in our anxiety. When life seems to be throwing us more than we can handle.
And perhaps this is what mission is all about? That a God of hope sent his Son to a suffering world to show us there's more to life than pain and hardship.
There isn't one more qualified to know what suffering is like than Christ. Mission in a way is inviting people to have companionship with Christ who also knows what it's like to suffer. And if we are to be like him that means we are also called to be companions to those who are suffering. To acknowledge pain, to listen, to just show up and be real. To plant hope in the midst of hopelessness.
When we are real with our lives, admitting our struggles, yet giving these to Christ with hope, we are showing people a way of living that addresses the broken needs of our humanity.
We show them that in such a damaged, helpless world that can't give us answers, there is hope. And his name is Christ.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).
Alicia has opened up and made herself vulnerable, sharing what's really going on in her heart. What stood out for you?
Is there a frustration, struggle, doubt or worry that has been nagging you? Find a trusted friend, share together and pray together.
#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God's missional people in today's world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on 'all notifications' to stay in the loop!)