This book that I'm reading about pain and suffering and the Christian response has a theme running through it that what God most wants for our pain is that we bring it to Him and "offer it to Him to use as He sees fit," "uniting" ourselves with Christ as He hangs on the Cross in a brotherhood of pain and suffering. To the glory of God, of course.
There are a couple of notions in this idea that are touchpoints for me, things that I have to think about more than the author probably wants me to think about them.
The first is the way that the author suggests that my choosing to embrace my own suffering in this place and uniting it with Christ might just be the thing God uses to heal a paraplegic orphan halfway around the world.
Now, I'm not saying that God couldn't do this. God is God; He can do anything He wants to do in any way that He wants to do it. But...it would be very unlike Him.
I don't see any stories in all of Scripture that tell us that this is how God works. That God takes the faithfulness of a person on the other side of the globe who has never heard of you, never thought of you, never knows you, and uses their daily acts of faithfulness (whatever that looks like) to your benefit.
I mean, just...what a weird thread this is. The notion that you should be faithful because if you aren't, you might condemn someone in Timbuktu to a crippled life without ever meaning to...is that really how we think God works?
God sent His Son to suffer for all of us, but I don't think my suffering is the salvation that someone else is waiting for. At least, not someone that I don't know.
God has always been a God who uses us in relationship to one another. In real relationship with one another. He uses us to touch and to bless the persons around us, those He has placed in our path or in our neighborhoods or in our day-to-day living. God's M-O (modus operandi) has always been physical presence and human touch. It's been getting to know each other and being able to look one another in the eye.
That's why Jesus was so important. That's why Jesus was so radical. God is so focused on actual relationship that He put on flesh and came here to have a real relationship with us so that we could see, with our own eyes, what Love looks like. What grace looks like. What mercy looks like. And yes, what suffering looks like.
There's absolutely nothing in the Scriptures that tells us that God works without relationship. Everyone God ever healed was healed because they came, because they were in actual contact with a person of faith. Naaman came to Israel to be healed. The prophet Elijah went to a woman's house. Jesus walked the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem. Even when we see miracles from a distance, such as in the case of the sick child in the Gospels, it's because the father is standing right there with Jesus. Relationship.
Moreover, this notion of giving our pain to Christ so that He can use it as He sees fit halfway around the world for someone we don't know...it's weird. It's suggesting that God just keeps a bank full of human pain and suffering to dole out faithfulness and grace and mercy from it. It's bizarre. I don't see anything about God that suggests that He's the kind of God who would do that.
So that's one thing I'm thinking about as I read this author's ideas about how we should be faithful in our pain and suffering.
Something else I'm thinking about I've touched on just briefly in this post, but I'll expound on it more tomorrow.