Author’s Note: I’m starting a blog series about weakness, prophecy and the charismatic life. The series will focus on experiences in everyday life and be a theological reflection and revision of some older journals i had written over a year ago, broken down into a series, for easier reading. I know many of my readers are in graduate studies, or have loaded schedules. Thank you for your continued reading, and for the donations. I appreciate you all so much. -Eli
Most days, we are challenged with issues that are simply beyond our scope of comprehension and ability to manage. We do not live in world of ever present idealisms and ideas. We face challenges that sometimes seem unanswerable by theology, lay or academic, or we face problems that escape explicable understanding.
We live in a broken, fallen world where we are set to the task of living lives empowered by God’s Spirit, the very presence of Christ Himself to do his will and establish the reign of the kingdom. We have to recognize the place of Christianity and its ability to speak to us in everyday life.
What do we do when there is a lack of direction or just a general, deafening silence from above? We are told in many circles, to just go on believing in faith, or we become alienated when we do not share the same experiences as the “In Club.” When our sufferings persist and our life is in shambles many people find it easier to pass over us.
Sometimes we experience the absence of God, as did Jesus on the cross, or as Job did in the Hebrew Scriptures. The story of Job still speaks today, reminding us of the cry of the innocent who suffers in his body while blameless. The story of Job teaches us to discern both the great cries and powerful utterances of the LORD, but also his silences.
Job teaches us to remember that God loves us, not because of our merits, but simply because, and we love God not because we are blessed but simply because. The love that is shared between God and His people is one based in respect, trust and mutual faithfulness. We are left with a reminder that even in silence there is a reality of God beyond our comprehension. In Job’s story we are shown how to live the silences of God.
Job does not curse God, but passionately questions God and demands justice for his situation. While I think we will at times be so overwhelmed with the sheer absurdity and evil of the world we may seek to curse God, I feel that as a weak people, following a weak and suffering God we will be ultimately convinced to join him in His struggle to bear the world, rather than to stand outside and hate God. Jesus as the face of God changes everything we thought we knew.
For us, we see a world in flames, riots grip the streets of countries across the world, the poor remain poor. Children are abandoned in toilets or murdered at birth based on gender. People are oppressed and downtrodden by the injustice reigning over them, and everywhere humans are stripped of their power to do good, or strip others of this power. We pray and pray about these real issues in our shared life, and wonder whether it could even be that God only answers prayers for those who want a Mercedes or a job promotion and has forgotten the case of the weak, the needy and the abandoned.
The poor and oppressed continue to be so, women and children are abused and mistreated, and we simply look to the God of Hope, asking him whether there is any salvation at hand. We sense the absence of God as the disciples must have when they ran away and left Jesus behind. When faced with these dehumanizing aspects of life we are left in a state of crisis when they become reality and we look to God asking “Won’t you do something? Where are the prophets to right the situation?”
To experience these realities as a detriment to oneself is to experience the Heart of God, which is the core of prophecy. Those who feel the world in all its chaos are the ones who are prophets of God. When we feel the world in living color black grey, and crimson it grips us powerfully clinching our hearts with deep, powerful wounds, that is when we are prophets. The silence of God is not necessarily silence if we are given over to the task of feeling the world and allowing ourselves to feel the incommensurable chaos that ensues from the current state of our affairs. The task of the prophet is to share the heart of God with humanity, and to share the depth of humanity with God.
God is not silent, though at times he does not speak in ways we would like to hear Him. Our emotional life is a valid medium by which we can experience God speaking to us, and it should not be ignored. When we are moved with compassion and concern for others, with care for the lives we find ourselves around, it is then that we express the heart of God.
When we are drawn into the feeling of weakness, when our strength is being drained from us and when we are suffering, it is then that we are bearing the image of Christ. To intercede in behalf of the world as a persecuted one is Christ-like. When we too can say “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” it is in that moment we are truly conquering the way Jesus would have us conquer the world in His behalf. Christian conquering is essentially non-conquering, and we must be a weak people if we are to express truly what it means to follow Christ.
If we are not readily identified with the weak, the lost or the least, we have failed somewhere. Jesus Himself made his place among the least of society because it was they who needed physicians. God constitutes a people, but they are not a strong and mighty people, they are not a defeated people either, because their weakness is a sign of the glory of God, their wounds bear the living presence of the Spirit of Life. Just as the resurrected Christ confirms his identity by his wounds, so too the church bearing the suffering of the world, will confirm her identity as the body of Christ by her glory bearing wounds. Such lives as bear these wounds are in God, and they see their prophetic task as compassionate empathy with the world which is rebellion against cold-hearted death and decay.
It is only a weak and suffering people who can overthrow death, by bearing it with the power of the inextinguishable Spirit of Life who renews the world to life though death is at work in their bodies and minds. Death has its work in them, bringing them suffering and decay yet they are being renewed by the Spirit as vessels who can bear the wrath of the world in the safest of divine love, that their suffering may bring life and reconciliation to the world. This is the manifestation of the Sons of God that world is longing for. When the Church suffers, it is that the world may live, for she alone can bear the fury of the power of sin by being in Christ, the Suffering and Crucified One, whose death is the power of new life already.