Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Experiencing the God who speaks of pain and suffering

I am now at the threshold of experiencing God in a different way. In the past, I had associated God mainly with His Almightiness and omnipotence. It is only recently that I have read and experience the God who speaks the language of pain and suffering. I am only starting to discover that our God is intimate with our pain and suffering and yet I do not have sufficient inner resources to articulate this understanding as well as the courage to live my conviction of the relationship with this God.

Matt 16:24-25 "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

There are few times in the books of gospel (twice in Matt, once in Mk and twice in Luke) when Jesus commands his followers to take up their cross and follow Him and this command comes with a price tag- whoever wants to save their life will lose it. What does it mean to "carry the cross daily"?

For me now, it means to step into the pain and suffering of others and to share others' agony and despair together for the sake of God. This is to deliberately pray for others, to offer hope and encouragement for others, to share with others what I have, to cry together with those who are suffering. It is in the midst of pain and suffering that we will encounter God together. Every encounter with a human being is a window of opportunity when God is speaking to us. When we only know how to busk in the light of joy and celebration with others, we could only know the God who bestows blessings. But to learn to take on the burden of pain and suffering of others is an avenue to see another face of God through the door that can only be opened by the key of agony and affliction.

There have been times and again when I shrunk back from circumstances to share others' pain by sitting and praying together with them. I pray for the courage to take up such future opportunity that God has opened for me. It is very rare for me to experience God this way in Singapore as we are so blessed materially and sheltered from the harsh reality inherent in the political, financial and the disrupted ecosystems in many parts of the world. I also pray for increased capacity to take in others' pain, to be an avenue where God continue to speak to me and others through this shared experience and to be able to relate to God with new vocabularies.



Sze Zeng said...

I sympathize with you on that. The Protestant in general, the Calvinist tradition in particular, focus solely on the transcendence.

And from all the pain and suffering experienced by humanity in general, we can see a resurgence for appreciation of God's immanence, especially among the painful and the sufferers.

Thus, we have J.Moltmann and the current Process theologians from Claremont School and the Panentheists from around the world.

Our Catholic brethren seems to be not entirely wrong on the immanence all this while.

Arthur, Koh Swee Leong said...

This experience stems from some of my readings in bioethics and new insights gained in my Hebrew Bible Introduction class taught by Dr Katheryn Pfisterer Darr.

I realize that the Hebrew's tradition is so rich and their ways of relating to God are so diverse and complex that learning to read it slowly with a framework in mind would equip one in learning to relate to God in the Hebrew's tradition.

My learning informs and re-constitutes my life experience and when relating to others. We may have different insights and it is by the sharing of different insights that our life experience continues to be enriched. Do feel free to share your thoughts, brother.