“Soon it will be done / trouble of the world / trouble of the world / trouble of the world” sings Mahalia Jackson in the 1950s recording. The minor key and descending piano lines give a brooding feel to the song. There is hope, to be sure, she seems to be saying, but first we must admit that things here are not as they should be.
Suffering is not an easy subject. Most of us prefer to focus on more cheerful topics. We tell each other to “look on the bright side.” We turn away from pain, avoiding the hard things, and stick to polite conversation. Even in church, a place to admit our brokenness and find healing, we often spend most of our time singing songs of praise, songs of victory, songs of celebration. This is appropriate, to be sure. The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest victory of all. But without a deep acknowledgment of the difficult parts of life, these songs sound a hollow note.
Suffering is a part of life. It reminds us of our limits and causes us to slow down. It shakes our assumptions. It ignites our fears. Suffering forces us to recognize our weakness and our need for a power greater than our own.
And then, in our suffering, we discover the one who walks with us through it. We find Jesus, our great good news. We discover the one who came to bring good news to the poor, to comfort the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and favor for those who mourn.
For the next few weeks, this blog will focus on the experience and role of suffering in our lives. As we move into the Lenten season and onward toward Easter, we will be featuring writing that examines this from a variety of perspectives. Some posts will offer teaching. Others will share personal stories. Our hope is to provide you with tools for understanding suffering and its work in our lives, that these tools will give you strength and encouragement for your own journey, and that maybe, in some way, you’ll find a little more light to go on when things seem dark.
Blessings and peace,