Great Suffering and Great Love: The Tension of Faith

January 23, 2018

Where I’ve been & Where I am going


It’s been a few weeks. Some time has past between a time of sadness and now. And my 5w6 Enneagram type, my first born A+ student compulsion, and competitive Type A personality all raging inside of me, screamed day after day to “just post something.” Night after night I’ve been woken up by thoughts of failure.



“See- you never finish things, your dad was right”

“You knew this would happen, you shouldn’t have put yourself out there”

“Now everyone will know your failure”


I’d be lying if I said I didn’t believe these thoughts most of the time.  But as I practice the idea of Re-Imaging, introduced months ago on this blog, I see more clearly:

The Truth is … I’m in a continual process of healing old wounds.

The Truth is … sometimes it takes time.

The Truth is … this dance never stops, there is no point of failure.

(The Truth is … not everyone is thinking about you (massive eye roll.)


So I’m staring into the face of my false beliefs about myself and I’m soldiering on.

The Tension of Suffering and Love


“It is the things that you cannot do anything about and the things that you cannot do anything with, that do something with you” – Richard Rohr


This may come as a surprise to no one- but I identify very strongly with Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet of the Christian Old Testament. I feel things- suffering specifically-so very deeply I am sometimes paralyzed. A simple conversation with my husband about gender roles and careers has had me sinking into a quick sand of thousands of years of patriarchy and “this is what we do to women” in a matter of minutes. And before he knows it I am sobbing for all the women of generations past with unrealized dreams because they were unfortunately born with the wrong sex organs. I can hear a sermon with only male gendered pronouns and find myself weeping for girls being sex trafficked in countries 1,000 of miles away- the connection so clear to me it pumps through my veins and leaves me exhausted from emotional pain.

This happens to me all the time. And yet, instead of throwing my hands up in frustration and denouncing God all together saying “What kind of a benevolent being could allow all this pain??”, I find myself still searching. Sure, sometimes I am kicking and screaming along the way, and some might even say I am being dragged. But through the heartache and suffering I come back, again and again, to the water looking to wrestle with the Divine.

And that’s where I have been these last weeks- holding in my heart the tension of the Great Suffering I feel and the Great Love I seek, so tightly that little else can get in.  I realize now that this is a tension I must become comfortable with, and will never have a perfect answer for, but I offer you a few insights.

The Truth is … (and it’s taken me a long time to come to this) Suffering doesn’t negate God. This isn’t an equation to figure out. 

The Truth is … people of faith are not idiots, placated by moral and doctrinal certitudes who aren’t smart enough to convert to Atheism.

The Truth is .. real faith, the kind of faith that is a life-long struggle- accepts the tension of Suffering and Love.

It is in the acceptance of this tension where true faith is found and spiritual growth happens.  We must be willing to balance our knowing with an open ended not knowing. Thus our “conversion” is not really a matter of professing certain religious doctrines, but rather it is willingness to hold in our hearts both Suffering and Love, both knowing and not knowing. I know God is running after me, but I don’t know why we suffer so. 

Surely, it is in this place where the Divine is found.

The God Who Suffered

The more “Inter-Spiritual” I become, the more Christianity calls to me, beckoning me deeper and deeper into its simple truths and humble love. While contemplating the tension of Suffering and Love these last few weeks, I began to remember a truth I had forgotten- that in Christianity we see a God who accepted Suffering Himself. (Side note: Isn’t it lovely how we rebel against the things of our adolescence only to come back to them as adult and infuse them with new meaning and life?) 

The Cross, the mantle of Christianity for two thousand years, is symbolic of this tension. In Christianity we have a God who suffered and failed, and in doing so saved us by showing the greatest love of all. Jesus, “The King of the Jews” did not rescue the Jews. After his crucifixion Jerusalem was still under Roman occupation. His suffering did not ease their own. You could say that their God did not show up for them.  At least not in the way they expected. The early followers watched their Messiah suffer, and then they continued to suffer (and things did not turn out like they expect), but they didn’t stop experiencing His Love. 

The Savior of the Christian faith held this tension himself. In 3 of the 4 gospel accounts, we see Jesus just before being arrested, struggling with his own crucifixion:

“…if it is possible, let his cup pass from me…” -Matthew 26:30

“…all things are possible, remove this cup from me… – Mark 14:36

“…if you are willing, remove this cup from me…” – Luke 22:42


Two thousand years later we are still trying to avoid suffering. We strive to be moral and ritualistic hoping that suffering will pass us by. But with to avail.

“The cup that I must drink, you must also drink”  – Mark 10:39

The Truth That Will Set You Free

The Truth that “will set you free” is found in accepting suffering and pushing yourself to grow from it, to be transformed by it. We are not victims, looking around for someone or something to blame for our unnecessary suffering. Rather, we hold knowing Divine Love exists and not knowing why suffering happens with an open hand. We rest in the mystery. We allow suffering to open communication between ourselves and The Divine. It is at the point of greatest pain, when our ego and pride are striped away, that we are the most open to this union. We come out of our suffering transformed in the process. 

When suffering comes, and it surely will, we can learn from it and be transformed by it. Just as through the Cross, Christianity sees the transformation of the crucifixion into redemption and hope.

The truth that will set you free is not found in a doctrine of beliefs, but in the ongoing tension of Suffering and Love, the acceptance of both sides of life that set us free from having to figure it all out, having to have the answers to everything.

The cup did not pass from Him. And it will not pass from us. Whether global, family, or personal suffering- we will feel it, and see it, and we will be a part of its continuation. But it is in the tough place between holding suffering and holding onto God that we find faith. That is faith.


No cross, no redemption.

No mud, no lotus.

No winter, no spring.


No suffering, no transformation.


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