When Jesus, after great agony in Gethsemane, stood up to the Temple officials, the Roman Governor, and all His accusers, faced His awful death and then rose again from the dead three days later, He set a pattern of life for us that we, His followers, still go through today. Although we may feel the fear of what is coming just as He did in Gethsemane—a job loss or the death of a loved one or any other event that brings suffering into our midst—we believe, no we trust that, no matter what we will be held by God and supported through the crisis. For we believe in life after suffering, in life after the little and big deaths; we trust that in everything God is holding us, protecting us, guiding us. So, although we feel fear, we turn to face whatever is before us. So, even though we grieve the loss of a job or a close friend or family member, we still put ourselves in God’s hands, just as Jesus did. “Thy will be done, not mine.” And enjoy His peace.
For we are resurrection people who have learned from Jesus how to live and how to die the small deaths we face and the final death that comes to us all. We don’t even need Jesus in the flesh to walk through each suffering with us; for He left us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to accompany, to succor, support, advocate for us. His and His Father’s Holy Spirit is with us always. And the more we realize this, the more we live in peace in the face of any challenge.
We have some wonderful followers of Jesus from recent times to guide us. Did Martin Luther King turn away from his call to our nation to end segregation of the races? Even as the death threats piled up, did he waiver from his purpose? Did Dietrich Bonhoeffer stop advocating against the Nazi’s when He was jailed by them? Listen to what He writes of Jesus companioning him in prison:
“In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.”
“Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
When all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is Your will that I should know You
And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me.” 
There are so many other examples of people living in Christ’s arms when under immense suffering in prison camps, in daily life, in our times and before. When we believe in and are followers of Christ, we are resurrection people. What does that mean in our daily life? As we surrender more and more of our pain and suffering to Jesus to heal, we begin to realize that what we have most resisted and often denied is actually a gift to us in learning about how to live with God. It often becomes the area in which we have the most to give to others, once it is healed in us. Just as an ex-alcoholic counsels in AA, so wherever we have been troubled the most can become our greatest gift to others going through the same trauma. It’s the old story of the wounded healer, once healed, then redeemed through helping others.
Throughout our lives as the small sufferings and the big ones pile up, and our culture says that we are to avoid suffering at all costs and to deny all pain, we actually begin to see that we greatly increase our own suffering in each instance by resisting it. And as we really learn to surrender everything in our lives to God, then we begin to see that what would have been suffering to us before, now becomes just the latest thing in our lives that we have to deal with. And when we deal with it without resistance, there is no suffering, but only an attitude like this, “Now that this is here in my life, let’s see what I am to do with it.”
I know I’ve written about my husband’s cancer and death quite a bit, but the help the Lord gave me through that time was not just invaluable, but life changing. As Hank’s cancer came back with a vengeance, just four months after being declared cancer free, I was overwhelmed with fear. At three o’clock in the afternoon, I’d be wishing it were bedtime so that I could pull the covers over my head and forget about this horror. The Lord spoke these words to me then in my mind: “If I can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well, then….” Since I was well practiced in surrendering the little stuff of life, I surrendered to this, too. I soon realized that I had been totally consumed by fear of his death, not considering any other of the hundreds of outcomes that were also possible. Days after I surrendered to this idea, I was given a gift of faith that went so wide and deep that I knew that nothing could push or throw me off that rock, not even Hank’s death.
So I went through the next two months until he died, supporting him, our adult kids, and our friends. Even as it became clear that he would die, I still held all possible outcomes equally, although there were fewer possibilities then. And when he died, I fell into the grief. But I never resented his death. Over the years I could begin to see that he was ready to die. After a 10-year depression and 10 years of therapy, he had healed all his childhood wounds. He was so clear about who he was: “I just am who I am. If someone doesn’t take my advice, it’s not about me.” Up until then he had been pretty apologetic for who he was.
For me, the way the Lord managed his death for me took the sting eventually out of all the other stuff in my life that I might have resisted. I can be at peace even as I go through tremendous dislocations, because I understand now, I know that what is happening is for my own good, for my own growth, and so I’d better get on with it and see what I am to learn in this cast and that case.
Jesus set the pattern for us for how we are to go through our lives, doing God’s will, pausing to pray about whatever troubles us and then facing it headlong. Death and resurrection are the pattern for all life on this planet, for plants and animals, for all of us. We’re in this cycle of death and resurrection all the time. Plants go through it every season, every year. What is visible in the life cycle of plants also applies to us. Not all deaths are permanent, but they are all inevitable as the arrival of changing seasons every year. Let’s not waste our precious time on this earth in resisting what is already true in our lives. Big things like deaths or little things like I wanted that to happen not this! are all just the experiences of our life through which we are to gain wisdom, peace, grace and a joyful dependence on the Lord.
Questions to ponder over the week: How do I deal with the challenges and suffering I have been through? Do I deny it? Push it away? Or Admit that it happened and ask God for healing? Can I embrace all that has happened to me and all the suffering that I have caused others? Do I live a resurrected life in Christ? Am I able to learn from any pain and move on from it as Christ directs?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who embrace the whole of their lives, who can trust God through any suffering or dislocation that comes our way. May we live in trust in God and in His peace always.
If you’d like to receive my blog five days a week in your email, go to patsaidadams.com/by-the-waters-blog/. There’s a gift waiting for you.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 8.1.19’s is entitled “God Speaks to Us.”