"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.' Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.'" - Matthew 16:21-25
Please hear this from a place of love and hurt, not anger. Perhaps I’ll regret this post on a day when hope is bigger, but this is how I feel today, so I’m writing it. I reserve the right to a retraction later. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s a leap to compare our suffering with this snapshot of Jesus and Peter. It probably is, but hear me out for just a few moments.
My feelings on this are similar to my beef with those who tell single people, “someone is out there waiting for you”, that I described many posts ago. You can’t possibly know that, so stop saying it. It’s not an encouragement. You don’t know if God has called that person to be unmarried. And you don’t know if I’m going to get better. You don’t know if we will find a house. You don’t know if our circumstances will ever improve in this lifetime… so please stop saying it. There’s a huge difference between, “I know you will be healed” and “I hope you will be healed.” Maybe I have to “suffer many things” in order to bring about the greater good, a good I could never imagine. Peter couldn’t imagine how a suffering and dying Christ could ever be good. But it was the greatest good. It was hard enough for Jesus to stand strong through suffering without Satan jabbing him in the ear with the thought that it shouldn’t have to be this way. And sufferers everywhere have a hard enough time remembering that God’s plan is good. We don’t need any ear-jabbing, reinforcing our own questions of how a good God can allow suffering to happen. Get behind us, Satan.
As a society, maybe even especially as Christians, we are SO uncomfortable with suffering. I get it. I’m uncomfortable too. We don’t want to imagine that bad things could happen to us that we won’t be able to fix. So we try to convince ourselves and the suffering person that he/she isn’t doing enough because, if so, there would be complete healing by now. We have to believe sufferers will get better because we don’t want to sit in the pain with them for the rest of this life, if at all. We have no idea how to reconcile within our hearts a good God with deep and long-lasting suffering. But until we can come to terms with this, we will never be able to truly accept the cross, the deepest and greatest suffering there ever was.
We are stumbling blocks to each other, with our minds on this world rather than the glory of God. There’s no doubt we mean well. I’m sure Peter did too. But instead of being a rock of support that sufferers can rest on, we are a stumbling block to them, tripping them up over whether or not they have enough faith to change their circumstances. Isn’t saying, “I must get better” throwing down my cross instead of taking it up? Please correct me if I’m wrong.
Hear me on this. I don’t believe God actually wants us to suffer. Suffering entered at the fall of humankind. But I do believe God has been working good through suffering ever since. I have hope that I will get better in this life, waning hope, but hope nonetheless. But I am not God. I refuse to believe that I WILL get better. I will hope and pray for miracles but I will look forward to what I KNOW will come – my heavenly home.
My life is not my own. I will lose everything for the sake of Christ if that is what will bring Him the most glory. But I have to stop trying to save myself. And you have to stop trying to save me by rationalizing and empty words. Hope with me, yes. But don’t speak for God. It’s not my intention to seem harsh. Trust me, I am just as guilty of trying to explain away suffering because I HATE seeing it in those I love. But, it doesn’t help. It just hurts. And I humbly apologize for my role in hurting any sufferers in this way. I pray God continues to remove from me this spirit of judgement and fear when it comes to the suffering of others. I’m encouraged that the same Peter Jesus scolded for being a stumbling block was the rock on which He built His church. We can be good rocks once we lay down our tendency to be tripping rocks.
Striving has only caused me to lose my life even more. I do my best every day, every hour, to lay down my life at the feet of Jesus. I ask you to lay it down too. Be my support block, not my stumbling block. I stumble over myself enough as it is. If you can’t support, silence is golden. I have lost much in my life. I’m hoping that if I can stay faithful in that loss without rebuking God for not healing me, I will find my life in abundance one day in heaven. My Savior said it. Therefore, it is true. Amen. Let it be so.