I’ve always struggled with the mystery of the cross. It’s a bizarre part of our faith, and Lent is a chance to grapple with it. The mystery lies in the seeming needlessness of it. How can such a tortuous murder give way to our redemption? Richard Rohr says that struggle and incomprehensible mystery are the way to transformation. If you avoid such tensions, you learn nothing new and become stagnant in the spiritual life.
The way I see the cross—and much of the spiritual life—is as a blessing and a curse. The cross symbolized the curse of sin and brokenness, yet the action on the cross blessed humanity with healing, redemption, and divine love. The mystery of the cross may never be understood except in the context of the blessing-curse paradox. Interestingly, we find this paradox throughout life.
How many of us have been through an extremely trying event only to emerge stronger and better off on the other side? St. Paul speaks about his weakness making him strong. Stephen Curtis Chapman, in his song “Beautiful Scars,” sings about the painful “stories that make us who we are” and the wounds of Christ that helped heal and set us free. Much of life seems cursed with suffering and sacrifice, which upon struggle and reflection turn out to be blessings that build our identity and help us to face life in new ways.
Lent reveals those blessings through intentional sacrifice, giving, and prayer. I recommend journaling through the season of Lent, and come Eastertime, reviewing all that you had experienced and struggled with. Then make a note of the graces and blessings you received as a result. These are God’s Lenten gifts to you.
Suzanne Marie said: “and still we believe.” That is where I get stuck because “believe” is such a powerful word for me. I try. I ask. I believe. And, then it all disappears. But, once again, I try and I ask. The cycle goes round and round for me. So, I trust my belief in “I hope.” I envy people of certainty. It is not a gift that has been given me.
I often have the very same questions as those who
have sent in their comments.
And still we believe. “God alone”…….
May I also recommend another song that speaks of mystery. It is called “Blessings” and sung by Laura Story ” What if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise”? Thank you, Andy. Thank you,Terry. for sharing your experience with us.
Terry, I will keep you in the same prayers in which I keep my 42-year-old daughter, Rachel, who is going through chemo for the second time. I will pray for remission and healing for you both; and my prayers will also be for your family, I know what it is like to watch a beloved one go through treatment. God bless and be with you.
Jean, I can so understand your struggle with thinking you “get it” and then something happens to make us realize we really don’t; and I am always so grateful for those “aha!” moments that keep me coming back for more in this faith journey. Yes, each new experience seems to bring about another, new, different perspective on the Cross, suffering, sacrifice, the Trinity, the mystery of it all, and never leaving us alone for very long. As long as we have these thoughts and feelings, we can be certain that God is not far away.
I also find, the older I get and reflect on past experiences, I often have a whole new insight. It’s as though each of life’s memorable (good and bad) experiences and outcomes is a pearl on a strand, as though my life would be incomplete without them all. And yes, God was there, whether I realized it or not at the time, guarding and instructing me.
I am relieved to read others struggle with the mystery of the cross as I often do. Just when I think I “get it”, it seems to slip through my comprehension and then I feel guilty for wondering why Jesus’ crucifixion was necessary. And so it begins all over again, the wonder, the meditating, the “aha” moment. The mystery of the cross, the mystery of the Holy Trinity, always the same but a different understanding of it all depending on where I am on my journey. Wishing all a good Lent!
How often is the answer revealed when you are struggling with the mystery of faith?
This paradox between a blessing and a curse, and love and crucifixion is something that I am now struggling with. When I hear of someones hardship like Terry’s or the crucifixion of Christ my simple struggles just seam irrelevant. Terry’ for you to endure that kind of suffering with grace is a model for us all. I will pray for you and your family, that your suffering will lead to a deeper love and understanding of God’s will and his plans for you.
Thank you Andy for starting out the Lenten season on this subject. You have given me something ponder and pray about.
Thank you all for your concern and especially your prayers. They are deeply appreciated. I would like to add there is much more to my cancer journey. It is also teaching me a great deal about gratitude, compassion, living in the moment, finding God in all things, and rediscovering a sense of calling. Though at times the experience is tough, it is also amazing.
Hang in there. I just read what I said but in this case it is a good thing, hang in there. You’re fighting the good fight.
Terry, thanks for sharing. I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through chemo, just as I can’t imagine what it’s like to be nailed to a cross. I guess we all endure our own unique suffering that, God willing, leads us to blessing. All of you are in my prayers.
Much of life is a tension between blessing and curse – the times in life when I have learned the most and have been brought closer to God have been the times of greatest suffering. I am grateful for they have turned out to be times of blessing in the end. The choice is ours.
Terry, thank you for sharing your experience. Prayers for you and your family.
Terry, I pray for strength for you and your family during your treatment. I hope you will be on the road to recovery soon. My husband went through chemo and he is my hero. It will be six years cancer free for him this year. We are grateful.
Remember, too, that you will get through this time, you will. Sometimes it seems too huge to get over, through or around, but you will make it.
The cross & Christ crucified are huge mysteries. I just know that the cross has been my strength during my most trying times.
Andy offers some wonderful insight. A current experience complements his. Recently I had my first chemo therapy session. The days immediately following were pretty murky. Though my wife and son were attentive, gentle and soothing, in truth, I cannot remember ever feeling so full of physical anguish and so abandoned. In this broken (but fixable!) body I found myself before Another, broken on the cross, with a profound sense of being forsaken, calling out, â€œMy God, my God, why have you deserted me?â€ (Ps 22). It’s the beginning of Lent; the Passion came to me early this year bringing a strong sense of identity with the crucified Jesus and the hope of healing.