Little pieces of everything that is God, all under the auspices of hope, are what people exercise in times of trouble. Heroism, the result of protecting the innocent, and selfless commitment to serve others in their need are character traits of the creator. Godless governments say the state or some titular leader inspires these efforts.
Christians know all authority comes from God. Any hope Christians have—or anyone for that matter—reflects who God is. Whether folks know it or not.
Image by Gordon Johnson
By John Pearring
Studying some of the greatest saints will scare the bejesus out of you. These people are held up to us as examples of how we should live. Dear Lord. We have great difficulty focusing on their holiness when we read about their tribulations. There’s suffering, and then there’s what holy people added to the annals of sainthood had to endure.
In almost every social circle, the horrors of saints’ suffering are unspeakable. “Uh, Ralph, don’t go there. Have a piece of pie and think good thoughts, OK? Sheesh.”
The saints not only didn’t choose the pie option and put misery out of their minds, but their very presence—a painful reminder of suffering’s reality—reveals a window upon God. Even in silence, their lives spoke loudly. Suffering with eyes held on God, that is. I’ll note some of their tribulations, with a tip of the hat to good old Ralph, but will hold off on the litany of specifics itemizing the saint’s full list of terrors.
Edith Stein (gas chamber), St Teresa of Avila (illnesses), St. Mary MacKillop (excommunicated), Thérèse of Lisieux (tuberculosis), and Mother Teresa (death everywhere). And that’s just a few women of recent history.
Christianity offers this great promise of things to come—names written in heaven, immortality, no demons, see God’s face—but our time spent on earth, energies expended, and love offered are real-time fixations upon our life here. Planetary existence is where we reside. Even people with heaven’s promise ahead of them must live like everyone else.
What does everyone do in the face of trauma and awfulness? Some cower, and we understand. Some succumb, exhausted and undone. Some look away, and that’s understandable, too. We are not all frozen by fear, though. Eventually, a large number of us go into fix-it mode. Daily traumas affect everyone, and we mostly react with reason and maturity. In wars, we heal the wounded and comfort the refugees—the same in all global disasters. The bulk of us react with care, concern, and solutions. We knuckle down and solve stuff.
When the dust settles, though, wars and disasters keep coming. Crime, too, is relentless. What keeps people going? God’s love and miracles keep Christians going. Even in death, we can see the miracles. What keeps everyone else going?
Little pieces of everything that is God, all under the auspices of hope, are what people exercise in times of trouble. Heroism, the result of protecting the innocent, and selfless commitment to serve others in their need are character traits of the creator. Godless governments say the state or some titular leader inspires these efforts. Christians know all authority comes from God. Any hope Christians have—or anyone for that matter—reflects who God is. Whether folks know it or not.
And, there you have it, folks. The underpinnings of Christianity’s plight—exposing reality, honesty, and truth in the face of a world bent on either usurping the person of God, or hiding from him. That’s why Christianity is so great. It exposes God behind everything, even the allowance of evil.
Who of us escapes tragedy, trauma, loss, and the ultimate decay of death? Not anyone. Mary, Joseph, and all the apostles earned their suffering badges with high honors. Jesus, our king, is esteemed as triumphant upon a cross, the epitome of pain, for goodness sake. Yes, exactly. For goodness’ sake.
Yet, there’s not only a reckoning we must each address but a true-to-life tale of wonderful things right here and now. Luke outlines them in the middle of Chapter 10’s gospel.
Turning to the disciples in private, [Jesus] said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (Luke 10:23-24).
While almost everyone learns to go beyond themselves and do whatever they can to remove suffering from the lives of humanity—a noble and necessary adventure of being alive—the knowledge of God and experiencing his presence are greater gifts than anything we can give the world.
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Luke 10:22).
That’s why Christianity is so great. We’re not here only to wait upon heaven’s promise and pray for everyone to turn to him but to expose what’s been revealed to us. That’s saintly behavior. It is what makes Christianity pretty darn great.