Posted by: Dan | February 20, 2006

Joyful Suffering?

Boso: All these things plainly show that [the Son] ought to be mortal and to partake of our weaknesses. But all these things are our miseries. Will he then be miserable?
Anselm: No, indeed! For as no advantage which one has apart from his choice constitutes happiness, so there is no misery in choosing to bear a loss, when the choice is a wise one and made without compulsion.
~ St. Anselm, Cur Deus Homo

This is an intriguing little exchange in Anselm's book. Here the suggestion is that weakness, when freely chosen, is not a miserable experience. Indeed, the weakness that is spoken of here is Jesus' suffering and death. So we can suffer to the point of death but, if freely chosen, we do so joyfully. Certainly this seems to be how the characters of the New Testament Church understand their suffering. There is much joy in suffering.

It always makes me wonder about how I understand Christian suffering, and the suffering of love. By coming alongside of 'the least of these' I am often miserable. By entering into their sorrows, their pains, their losses, and their weaknesses, I do experience misery. I don't know much about joy in such things. Where shall I find joy in the rape, murder, and torture of my beloved ones?

I think there is much joy in suffering in the New Testament because there is also much freedom granted by the in-breaking Spirit of God. For as much as the suffering of Christ were present in abundance, so also the resurrection power of Christ was also present in abundance. Sure there were beatings, but demons were being cast out; sure there were imprisonments, but the sick were being healed; sure there were martyrs, but the good news was being proclaimed to the poor and a radical community was being formed. Too often I feel like Christians that are journeying with the marginalised have one without the other. They have the sufferings but not the power of the Spirit who gives new life. Why is this so? I'm not sure, but I suspect is has something to do with the fact that most of the contemporary Canadian church seems to have abandoned the marginalised, and only deepend their sufferings. Perhaps when the Church, as a whole body, returns to the margins, then we will know something of joyful suffering.

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