There is a certain type of freedom rooted in the pain and agony of suffering. This truth became quite evident to me during an exhausting 10-mile run on a hot summer daynear the end of August. It is etched in my memory, and I can still recall with vivid clarity almost every detail of that beautiful day.
I remember that as the sun began to slowly sink below the horizon, it painted the canvas of the countryside with gentle strokes of amber and violet light.
The hills and nearby woods began to glow and the smothering humidity loosened its grip and gave way to a cool refreshing breeze.
As I ran down the path, a young deer gracefully bounded over an old white fence and trotted off at a casual pace into the trees. An incredible joy and sense of freedom filled my heart as the constraints of fatigue melted away. It was a freedom that made me feel like I could go on forever.
But that moment of pure bliss came only after pushing myself through numerous excruciating workouts over the course of a long hot summer. The pain and agony of these workouts were the fertile soil that brought to fruition
the type of freedom rooted in pain and suffering. This is the truth of suffering, and the truth will set you free.
This doesn’t mean that the only way to achieve freedom is through suffering, but that pain and suffering have meaning. This is what Jesus accomplished on a hot dusty day 2,000 years ago. A day when he suffered and died on a cross atop a skull- shaped hill called Golgotha, just outside of Jerusalem.
The world can be a hard, brutal place that brings much suffer- ing into our life, but that suffering is not meaningless. We find hope in a savior who, as Scripture says, emptied himself taking on the form of a slave, humbling
himself and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. We take comfort that the trials and tribulations of this world are temporary, but the joys of heaven are eternal.
There is no completely satisfying answer to the question that “If God is all good and all powerful, why is there suffering and evil in the world?” We don’t know why little children die from disease leaving their parents grief stricken, or how we can live in a world where evil men will torture and maim others simply because they can.
But how much worse would all that suffering and heartache be if we didn’t find hope in a higher existence? An existence of eternal bliss spent in the presence of God. This is the good news of the Gospel. The good news that one day we shall climb that mountain where every tear shall be wiped away, and every broken heart will be mended. That on that day, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will be found at last.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)