Lenten Reflection: Gratefully Ill-qualified (for a monopoly on suffering)
Sometimes people say things like, “if I were in your shoes I would not get out of bed in the morning,” to which I respond, “guess what… I usually don’t wear shoes, and without the help of others I can’t get out of bed either.” Rather than dwell on my challenges, I am quick to emphasize the many blessings that are part of my life as a result of my “disability,” not the least of which is a community of people who support me and make sure I am able to function to the best of my ability. However, it would be dishonest to suggest that my life is without suffering including physical, chronic pain and medical treatments, emotional, facing attitudinal barriers, and psychological when dealing with systemic barriers related to transportation, education, employment and community resources.
In the company of able-bodied people, it is easy for me to think of myself as limited. However, the Lenten season serves as a powerful reminder that no matter how much I endure in this life, Jesus’ sacrifice was much greater. It is humbling to recognize that my challenges do not qualify me for a monopoly on suffering. I am comforted and grateful for the fact that Jesus suffered more and yet overcame. He himself suffered, not for the betterment of himself but for me and for you and for all (John 3:16). He suffered in order to bear our burdens on the journey (Matt. 1:23).
In the context of theology we are prone to talk about disability in terms of getting beyond suffering. This could refer to helping someone seem more to others than his or her disability, overcoming challenges, focusing on other aspects of life, or anticipating our heavenly bodies (2 Cor. 5:2). Each of these angles has merit. However, recently I was more encouraged by a pastor who said, “suffering is not to be avoided rather it is part of the human journey. Jesus did not avoid suffering. It was part of his good plan to redeem us all” (Phill 2: 7).
Throughout this Lenten journey and beyond, I invite you to consider how you might embrace your sufferings more fully, in the knowledge that God is with you through them. I wonder how this might serve others and ultimately bring greater glory to God.
Holy Week Resources
- Part One: Get to Know the Individual
- Part Two: Accessible Gospel
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