The Power of Suffering


Caption reads: Book soaked with blood of Juan Ramón Moreno

Last August I had the opportunity to be a part of the Washington DC Metro Synod delegation that travelled to visit its companion synod the Salvadorian Lutheran Synod in El Salvador.  The purpose of this trip was to further the relationship and partnership between our two synods.  One of our primary goals was to listen and hear the stories of the Salvadorian people and to think about ways that we can partner and accompany one another in our shared lives together as the body of Christ.

Part of our time was spent learning about the history of the last thirty to forty years and the impact of the Salvadorian Civil War had and still has on the people of El Salvador.  We heard countless stories of violence. Families who have been torn apart, villages of people were massacred, thousands of people missing and/or killed, and perhaps most notably six jesuit priests, a housekeeper and her daughter were assassinated by the government.  Hearing these stories were difficult to take in, but to also know that the United States government had helped finance the Salvadorian military which in turn perpetuated the war and implicated me as a part of the cycle of violence.  Yet there was an authentic hospitality and genuine love that was shared between our groups and there was a collective spirit of hope and joy in the faces and voices of the Salvadorian people as we shared our faith and lives with each other.

Today in class we discussed the mystery of evil.  We began our conversation about Martin Luther’s theology of the cross.  At the cross is where we see God revealed in the person, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Theologian Jürgen Moltmann has written extensively about the relationship of the Triune God and the Cross and argues for how God as Father and Son experience suffering through the crucifixion (in different ways) and through that suffering emerges a love through the work of the Holy Spirit that brings transformation and new life.  Theologian Daniel Migliore writes in Faith Seeking Understanding: “The power of the triune God is not raw omnipotence but the power of suffering, liberating, reconciling love.” (pg.133)

This power reveals to us a God who is not removed from those places where suffering, violence, death, and destruction take place, but rather a God who is immersed with those in the midst of these things.  God’s power comes not in strength, but in weakness, in brokenness, through death on a cross.  When we encounter suffering in our own lives, we can trust that God and God’s love will accompany us through whatever we encounter.  Knowing that God is present with those who suffer, provides us with hope and empowers us to keep pressing on.  God’s action in the world and especially in our lives is love, working to free us from the things that cause us harm.  Responding to God’s action we are called to participate in helping to liberate others who are victims of violence.  We have a responsibility to seek out non-violent solutions and to walk alongside those who are hurting.  

Where do you see suffering in the communities you are a part of and how might you accompany those who are suffering?  What’s your story of life and faith and how might you share that? 

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