Lent, Suffering, and Bonhoeffer

“Only the suffering God can help.”  Dietrich Bonheoffer.

1208573_69660271This is brilliant, true and full of hope for us during Lent. During Lent the disturbing reality is that we focus on a God, who in the person of Jesus Christ, was beaten, broken, and buried. This is the God we follow, one who died. Is it any wonder Paul said preaching the cross was foolishness…The world follows power, display, and strength; our God demonstrates sacrifice, weakness, and a willingness to enter even into death.

This though is why only the suffering God can help. We do not follow a God who is above suffering, empathy, and distantly removed because of his power. Instead, we follow a God who knows what it is to be beaten. We follow a God who knows what it is to be broken. We follow a God who knows what it is to be buried.

So if you have ever felt beaten down by life…have hope. If you feel broken in body or soul…have hope. If you have lost someone, or feel like you yourself are being buried under darkness…have hope. Because our God felt all those things, but broke through them to show us the way. Our God didn’t stay in heaven removed from the muck and mire of humanity and our struggle. Our God chose to enter into our struggle, to empty himself of all power and privilege to join us. This is why only the suffering God can help, because only the suffering God can understand what we go through. So you are not alone. God knows what it is to feel betrayal. He knows what it is to look forward and see darkness. He knows what it is to die. But the message of Easter is he also knows about resurrection. He is the resurrection and the life. It is through him that all of the world is changed, in a blinding moment of new creation, new life, and a new future. He enters into suffering to lead us out…so may we reflect and remember that this Lenten season. Let us not rush past the suffering to the resurrection of Easter. Let us remember that only the suffering God can help…

Tears as Prayers

Photo from http://www.sxc.hu by dogmadic

I often remark to my church family that if they want a pastor who doesn’t cry, they should get a different pastor. I often cry because I’m moved, because my soul feels something deep, or something deep within me is trying to express itself. But I don’t believe tears are to be avoided but that tears are in one sense prayers. Expressions of our depth.

That’s why I believe tears can be healing. Tears are the prayers of the soul. Tears are what we give when we can’t give anything else. When my dad died we found this quote in his to-do list:

I cry tears to you Lord, tears because I cannot speak. Words are lost among my fears, pains, sorrows, losses, hurts. But, tears you understand, my wordless prayer you hear. – Joe Bailey

There is truth in that. Tears are the prayers of the soul. But we also know that there is a time coming when we no longer need to cry or shed tears. Revelation 21: 4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” But in the meantime it’s okay to shed a tear. There is a future that is coming that is full of energy, connection, depth, light-bursting, and life- giving reality. In that place we won’t cry because our souls will be whole.

But today if your soul doesn’t feel whole, if your spirit feels low, it is okay to cry. Shedding tears is a prayer to God, asking him to make whole what hurts, to mend what’s broken, and to give to what feels gone. And if today that’s where you are at…then know that those tears aren’t wasted but that God hears, cares, and, in the end, will act…