If there is one word that captures 2020, that word might be suffering. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the many effects it has had on our lives physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, all of us have experienced suffering this year. On top of this, our country is socially and politically divided as we face a critical election in a couple weeks. It’s enough to make anyone want to just give up. We might ask ourselves, “How could God allow this to happen?” or “Where can we find God in all of this?”
As Christians, suffering is a reality of life, no matter how much we might prefer to avoid it. Throughout the Scriptures, we hear stories of people who are struggling and suffering. In the Old Testament, the Israelites experience enslavement, war, famine and exile. And, of course, in the New Testament, we witness the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Even after the resurrection, the early church experiences suffering in the form of persecution with all but one of the apostles martyred for their belief in Jesus.
The truth, brothers and sisters, is that being a Christian does not provide us a pass from suffering. There is no “Get Out of Suffering” card that we receive at our baptism. Instead, the good news of Christianity is that God does not remain separate from us in our suffering, but enters into it with us to bring us comfort, strength, resilience, healing and restoration. We believe in a God who became one of us in Jesus Christ, experiencing all the pains and sufferings that we do, in order to show us his love for us! This is good news!
And yet, it doesn’t make the suffering go away. So what are we to do? In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). I don’t know about you, but 2020 has me feeling pretty burdened and in need of rest. I think it’s time that we bring our hurts, our pains, our wounds, our suffering to God so that he can give us comfort and restoration.
To help you do this, I want to invite all of you to join me in “A Night of Hope.” On Monday, Oct. 26, we will host a simple, virtual retreat where we will pray together and ask for the Lord’s guidance in our lives so that we can continue to live in hope. This event will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. and all are invited to join us. I specifically want to invite our Hispanic brothers and sisters to participate, as we will have a translator on hand for those who speak Spanish. You can register up until 3 p.m. on the day of the event at gbdioc.org/hope.
Friends, the Holy Spirit desires to reveal Christ to us, who will give us rest and bring healing to our souls. God is filled with oceans of merciful love. He wants to pour out his love on the whole human race and all of creation. Now, perhaps more than ever, we could all use some hope, some glimpse that it will never be the suffering that defines us but the transformation that God can bring when we share our suffering with him.
I am praying for all of you and I encourage you to make some time to join us for “A Night of Hope.” May all of us find rest for our weary souls in Jesus!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.