“Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”
2 Corinthians 4:10
The three Rs.
They are drilled into us.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
It’s a way of helping us to deal with a harsh reality – just by living, we produce a lot of garbage.
None of us wakes up determined to ruin the earth. We don’t intentionally clog the oceans with our plastics, make rivers uninhabitable with our waste, or destroy ecosystems with our insatiable demand for more ‘stuff’.
It’s just an unfortunate side effect of our collective thoughtlessness.
I love the feel-good stories of students gathering to clean up a beach. Ingenuity turning old coke cans into practical building materials. Engineers designing parks and playgrounds over old reclaimed landfill sites. There a beauty, a power, a restoration that gives me hope whenever I hear of something ugly being reclaimed.
Enjoying a beach – lovely.
Watching sea turtles return to a reclaimed beach which was rendered uninhabitable for a generation because of all the hideous waste choking it?
Wow. Just wow.
Powerful, potent stuff.
Which brings me to God’s great recycling project.
Only God can take the garbage choking us – the abuse, the abandonment, the betrayal, the disease, the broken relationships, the devastation of armed conflict – only He can take the suffering of this fallen world, and turn it into something beautiful.
We live in a reality of suffering. Suffering takes so many shapes. It operates on so many timelines. It can hit out of nowhere, or grow in intensity, or remain a chronic problem that seems to have no end.
So. Much. Suffering.
Which is why the concept of a suffering Saviour is so crucial to our understanding of pain.
See, Jesus suffered.
On so many levels, He suffered. He was constantly misunderstood, misquoted, misjudged. He who designed solar energy and chemistry became subject to scientific laws. He who was timeless had to stop and eat and rest at regular intervals.
He who came to enlighten had to endure darkness. The impulse to save and protect was rejected and despised.
And then, the Author of Life was condemned to death.
But out of His pain poured grace. And out of the grave, rose life eternal.
The greatest recycling project ever designed!
Now – back to your suffering.
Friend, don’t waste your garbage. Don’t thoughtlessly toss it out. Don’t gloss over it, ignore it, fight it. A big part of your story, of the power of your one small life, is what God can build out of your messiest hardships.
For Jesus to be declared the Most High, to be handed the highest glory, He endured the deepest pain.
We want the glory.
We don’t realize that the glory comes through the grave.
The pain. The heartache. The rejection.
I have suffered. I have begged to die, just so that the pain would end. I have squirmed and wriggled and avoided the torment, tried to smother it with unhealthy behaviours, tried to drown it and destroy it and ignore it.
I am learning to embrace it!
My deepest hurts, my harshest lessons, are being recycled. The garbage pits, the cess pools of my soul are being redesigned into gardens of healing, oases for the soul.
The great recycling project…
I know it hurts.
I know, and my heart hurts with yours.
But oh, the glory to come, when those scars are healed, when you come through the fire and the flood and declare that God is yet good!
Choose to participate in the great recycling project with me?
Father, how we hate the discomfort, the heartache, the suffering. Remind us that Your suffering brought You great glory! Remind us that our pain is also our greatest power when we relinquish it into Your gentle hands. Heal and restore, and turn our trash into a beautiful oasis for others to see Jesus in us. Amen.