Friday, October 03, 2008

Suffering with Christ

The values of the Prayer of Suffering are legion. To begin with, it saves us from a superficial triumphalism. Perhaps you have had the experience of hearing someone talk about faith and confidence and victory. In one sense all the words are right, and the stories certainly sound good, but somehow something does not ring quite true. The problem is that you are listening to someone who is living on the fluff side of faith, someone who has not been baptized into the sacrament of suffering. (Richard Foster, Prayer - Finding the Heart's True Home)
In his article, Rummaging for God (America, May 14, 1994) Dennis Hamm proposes a way of practicing St. Ignatius' Examen of Conscience which puts emphasis on feelings rather than our actions. This perspective leads the way to the Prayer of Suffering.

Hamm suggests that we pay attention to feelings that surface as we review the day in the Examen of Conscience. Then pray from one of those feelings - positive or negative. When we pray from our feelings, we will begin to better understand the suffering of Christ. 

Consider Christ's plea in the Garden the night before his crucifixion. As we look at the joy of God's provision we can begin to understand Christ's plea in the Garden to let the cup pass. Was that "cup" physical suffering or was it being separated from the presence of God? Either way, Jesus knew the pleasantness of the Father's love and he desired to obey regardless of the suffering for the glory of the Father.

In joy filled times or in the painful times, Jesus knew that the Father's plan was not just for him. Jesus knew that the Creator was in full control of his creation and therefore could be trusted with every detail. Faith? Confidence? Victory? Absolutely, but Jesus also knew that victory comes after a battle.

Our battles are not just about us and certainly not about us being comfortable. That would be as sensible as my kids getting hurt in the midst of fighting over a comfortable chair. The victory in our suffering is far greater than personal comfort.

Cry out to God from your feelings and you will discover an intimacy with God that will take you beyond the fluff of Christianity our western culture has so mistakenly presented to the world.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. Philippians 3:10

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the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

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