Walking the Way of Pain

Scripture: Colossians 1.17-20
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Scripture: Luke 23:46
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Reflection: Walking the Way of Pain
By Jada Swanson

Poetry has a way of putting into language that which we are unable to speak on our own. It communicates poignant, intentional thoughts, feelings, and expressions of all that we hold dear, but, perhaps, have never uttered aloud.

On this Good Friday, we are sharing Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Way of Pain”, which shares a perspective of sacrifice and grief and pain.

Although our world tells us that we are to be in a constant state of motion and busyness and productivity, the season of Lent has been a time of preparation of remembering and waiting. Lent leads us and points us towards Holy Week, which culminates in the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection.

However, may we not be too anxious to move past the mourning and the grieving of what took place on Good Friday. For in this remembrance, we are able to grasp the magnitude of all that our Savior, Jesus Christ, willingly sacrificed on our behalf. As Wendell Berry so eloquently states, “Unless we grieve like Mary at His grave, giving him up as lost, no Easter morning comes.”

The Way of Pain
By Wendell Berry
1.
For parents, the only way
is hard. We who give life
give pain. There is no help.
Yet we who give pain
give love; by pain we learn
the extremity of love.
2.
I read of Abraham’s sacrifice
the Voice required of him,
so that he led to the altar
and the knife his only son.
The beloved life was spared
that time, but not the pain.
It was the pain that was required.
3.
I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grave, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.
4.
And then I slept, and dreamed
the life of my only son
was required of me, and I
must bring him to the edge
of pain, not knowing why.
I woke, and yet that pain
was true. It brought his life
to the full in me. I bore him
suffering, with love like the sun,
too bright, unsparing, whole.
––Wendell Berry, 1980

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 17 (Listen – 2:58)
Philippians 4 (Listen – 3:20)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 18 (Listen – 2:23) Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)
Proverbs 19 (Listen – 3:09) Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)

Dirty Feet

Scripture: Philippians 3.10-11
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Scripture: John 13:14-15 (CEB)
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.

Reflection: Dirty Feet
By Jada Swanson

If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do? What would you say?

Imagine walking into a tiny upper room, crowding around a table, passing plates of food to eat, but knowing tomorrow was the day. This is the situation Jesus faced on the Thursday before he was crucified.

On this day, Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. However, on this occasion, he did something quite different. At the very beginning of the traditional meal, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet. Something he had never done before.

In the Old Testament foot washing occurs frequently (Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Judges 19:21; 1 Samuel 25:41; 2 Samuel 11:8; Song of Solomon 5:3; Psalms 58:10). In ancient times, foot washing was considered a tremendous act of hospitality, and was done before entering someone’s home or tent. One’s status (rich or poor) determined whether the guest washed their own feet with water provided by the host, or if a slave performed this act, which was considered the lowliest of services.

However, as often is the case with Jesus, he turned everything upside down. Surely, shouldn’t the servants be washing their master’s feet? According to customs of this time, this should have been the case. But, instead, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet, even Judas’ (John 13:2).

Jesus gathered the disciples around him, took a towel, poured water into a basin, and washed their feet. He served them with love and humility. As his followers, we are called to do the same.

Although we do not know the hour or the day of our final moments on earth, we do have an example of how to live our life. Jesus is our example, and his life demonstrates love and service to others. On the final evening with his disciples, he included an act of service. As his modern-day disciples, may we all continue to carry on his example by serving others each and every day of our lives.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name. — Psalm 86.11

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 16 (Listen – 3:15)
Philippians 3 (Listen – 3:21)

Complaining in Prayer

Scripture: Job 7.11
Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Reflection: Complaining in Prayer
By Jada Swanson

Job was a godly man. There was no issue of willful sin in his life, nor was God angry at him. Still, he was struggling through an extremely difficult season of suffering. One in which there were many questions, but few answers.

In this passage, Job expresses his real and raw thoughts and feelings. However, he is not the only one to to have expressed emotions to God. In the Psalms, we read about real-life struggles, such as fear, disappointment, depression, and despair. Jonah also expressed anger towards God. Even Jesus experienced feelings of loneliness and abandonment on the cross when he cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Have you ever wondered if it was appropriate to express your thoughts, feelings, and darkest emotions to God?

The majority of people are hesitant to share their true feelings in the normal circumstances of life, much less when life blows up. Throughout the Bible, we are encouraged not only to identify our feelings, but to express them. Take for instance the life of our Savior. In the Gospels, we discover that Jesus expressed various emotions. He grieved when his friend died. He got angry at the money-changers in the temple. And he wept for the people of Jerusalem.

Although it is common for people to wear masks, which disguise their authentic selves, God knows everything about us. There is nothing hidden from him. As such, dismissing and minimizing one’s emotions is never the answer. When we do so, we give them power and control of our lives. Instead, it is best to embrace our emotions, even the dark ones, recognizing that they are essential to processing and conversing with God, especially when we are facing seasons and situations that we do not understand.

Have you been in the habit of concealing your true thoughts and feelings? If so, understand the importance of being real not only with yourself, but with God. Talk to him openly and honestly. Share your feelings and struggles. In doing so, you will pave the way for healing to begin.

The Greeting
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy Name and glory in your praise. — Psalm 106.47

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 7 (Listen – 2:23)
Romans 11 (Listen – 5:23)

The Crucible of Suffering

Scripture: Job 6.2
Oh, that my grief could actually be weighed
And placed in the balances together with my tragedy [to see if my grief is the grief of a coward]! (The Amplified Bible)

Reflection: The Crucible of Suffering
By Jada Swanson

With these words, Job responds to the accusations of Eliphaz. He felt that he was being unjustly judged by his friends. Since they had not suffered the great loss that he had, there was no way for them to understand his grief. The raw emotions that are expressed cannot be truly understood unless one has walked this journey.

It is easy to see God’s grace when things are going well. But in the midst of suffering—when we don’t sense any positive change in our circumstances—we can start to question God’s goodness and his love. Not to mention, navigating the advice of others while in the midst of great pain and suffering can be an added trial. To be sure, Job’s friends doled out quite a bit.

Suffering and brokenness are common experiences to which all who live in this world can relate. Yet, many tend to gloss over suffering, thinking it is unspiritual to dwell upon it. The pain of suffering is like a visit with an unwelcome friend. Still, the importance of sitting with this intrusive companion, learning from the experience, and, in the end, being transformed cannot be minimized. It is essential in navigating the journey of suffering and loss.

There is a deep richness that comes to people who face suffering biblically. A key to this richness is a joy and a contentment that difficult experiences cannot steal. Unfortunately, many Christians do not look at suffering in this way, and run from it, instead of facing it head-on.

Are you in the midst of a trial, experiencing great loss, suffering without hope? You may wonder is God being too heavy-handed? Or if this kind of suffering is “normal” for a Christian’s life? Those are honest questions. And, sometimes, the answers do not come as quickly as we would like.

In the crucible of significant suffering, profound good often emerges. In these times, we can be assured that our powerful, tender God is with us, helping us discover meaning and purpose in the trials we experience and the suffering we endure.

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who sowed with tears will reap with sons of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 6 (Listen – 2:56)
Romans 10 (Listen – 3:21)

Holding Space

Scripture: Job 5:27
We have studied life and found all this to be true.
Listen to my counsel, and apply it to yourself.

Reflection: Holding Space
By Jada Swanson

Eliphaz continues to share his thoughts, encouraging Job to simply turn to God and everything would be alright. When the fact remains, Job never turned away from God to begin with. To his credit, this is what Eliphaz’s tradition has led him to believe. Sadly, he is a misinformed theologian. Which, no doubt, many of us have encountered or, perhaps, we have been at one time or another.

As Christ-followers, we are called to carry one another’s burdens. However, when someone is navigating grief, a traumatic situation, or a horrific loss (relationship, job, etc.), we must resist the need to try and fix the problem, heal the hurt, or repair the damage, and, instead, embrace the tension that exists. Although it can be awkward, during these sacred times, silence is our ally. Instead of expressing empty platitudes or well-meaning, but unhelpful Christianeze expressions, choosing to simply be present with another is the most loving alternative, even if the silence is deafening.

What is most needed in these times is a willingness to simply “hold space” for another. What does it mean to hold space for someone else? Author Heather Plett describes it in this way,

“It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control … To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.”

God, help us all to become comfortable with the necessary response of holding space for another. May we sincerely seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance during those times.

The Request for Presence
Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 119.147

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 5 (Listen – 2:29)
Romans 9 (Listen – 5:15)