Suffering comes unwelcomed - but it comes nonetheless. Suffering does not feel like a gift, but we all want the gifts suffering brings.
The first four characteristics of the Contemplative Christianity are gifts we give to God: silence, solitude, stillness, simplicity. The next two are gifts God gives to us; Scriptures, Sacraments. The seventh, servanthood, is our response to His call. The eighth stands alone. It is not our gift. It is not God's gift. It comes unbidden and its benefit is proven in how we respond to its call.
- If our response is typical - protest, complaint, and questions - we receive little if any benefit at all.
- If we completely medicate it away and put ourselves into a state of oblivion, we miss the opportunity.
- But if we turn the curse of suffering into an oblation of worship poured out at the feet of our master - if with trembling hands we offer it up to God - it becomes not a withering destroying force but a sharp sword with which we cut down the enemy and his nefarious aims, and a means by which our character is refined and our walk with God made pure.
Where does suffering come from? Suffering was not a part of creation. It was not part of God's original plan. Human sin introduced suffering into the world. But God uses our sin produced suffering for His eternal purposes and glory. It comes to steal, kill, destroy; it is captured by grace and with our grace enabled righteous response, it is forced to serve God's eternal purposes, for our ultimate good.