Path #1: Embrace Suffering
There are surely many paths to the heart of a missionary—prayer, confession, mission itself, friends, perseverance, to name a few. We will explore many of these in the weeks to come in this Monday series called “Twelve Paths to the Heart of a Missionary.” This is the first installment: Embrace Suffering.
In my own case, embracing suffering, not fighting it, was a critical first step in my spiritual journey. Too often, when we suffer, we blame God for it, as if He was somehow punishing us in an angry way, which of course our loving Father would never do.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, would give him a scorpion?” Lk 11:11
The reality is that suffering is an inevitable part of the human condition, as part of what makes us human as our minds and bodies, and our dreams and successes, our good deeds and our sins. It is who we are. But in the spiritual life, I am convinced that suffering plays a special role. It is a time when we are most vulnerable, least able to fight our way out of it alone. A time when we most need help. And who better to turn to than our loving Father? We turn to Him for a hoped for cure, for sure. But truly “Embracing Suffering” implies more than this. We turn to God for succor, support, love. For His fatherly embrace. When we embrace our suffering in this way, we embrace God Himself. We fall into what I call, “The Zone.” And here’s the key: once in the zone through suffering, with some effort, we can actually stay there, even after the suffering passes.
More on the paths to staying in the zone to come, but for now, if today you are suffering in a small way (eg waiting in line at the supermarket!) or big way (eg just diagnosed with a brain tumor), don’t fight it. Turn to Jesus for succor and support. Get in The Zone. And then try to stay there. If you can, you’ve taken an important first step to a deeper spiritual journey.