There is no two ways about it. Life is hard. It is full of pain, suffering, tribulation and limitations. That is life in a nutshell, and there is no way of getting around it.
When you realize this, things became rather dark. This probably happens sometime in late childhood or perhaps early adulthood when we begin to get a sense that something is not right. The world does not revolve around us. We cannot fly even if we use a really big bath towel as a cape. Things that we want do not appear in a sort of magically way, as they did when we were small. These things give us a sense of our limitation. You won’t always be the best. You won’t always win.
People do not always say yes to us. We lose at things. We lose things. People in our lives hurt us. People in our lives die. We become disappointed. We fail. People fail us. If you live long enough you learn to know heartbreak, self-doubt. You learn that there is a big world out there that is really to chew you apart. There are people out there – both real and imagined that are willing to do you great harm without one bit of concern for you or your well-being. These things cause great pain – not to mention all the things like illness and injury that befall us, especially as we get older.
There are no two ways about it: LIFE IS HARD. It’s full of pain, suffering, tribulation and limitation.
As Christians we believe that life was meant to be this way. God had made a perfect place were sin and death had not entered in. And it is because of the Fall that we suffer this way. Adam and Eve by eating the forbidden fruit became self-aware of the hardships they faced. The tending of the Garden given to them by God was once a joy but it became burden whereby they would labor to earn their bread, and they would do so by the sweat of their brow.
They became aware of just how hard life was and is.
It has been said that the wages of sin are death, but given the nature of sin and how pleasurable it often is I think we say something more about it: it our attempt to alleviate the pain, the suffering, the tribulation, and the limitations of life.
That’s the trap. The very thing that we think will solve the problem is the things that makes it worse. The thing we think will give meaning to life and a solution to our pain is the thing that kills – and it kills in the simplest sense in that it cannot save us in anyway.
That is the devious nature of sin – those we commit on our own or through the temptation of Satan.
We try to alleviate, mitigate, reduce and often eliminate the pain and limitation of life either through the pleasure we cause ourselves or the pain we cause others.
Here is the other insidious part of the trap … when our attempt to end the pain of life with sin does not work we just try a little hard with more of the same or some new sin. And on the story rolls.
This is where the application of Christianity has often failed. Many people come from the premise that life should be all joy and painless and if it isn’t something’s wrong. And to fix it all you need to do is pray more, trust in God more, or just pull yourself up by your faith-based bootstraps.
This is why, time and again people fall back into a life of sin or never fully embrace God. They tried it and it did not work. So, they go back to the thing that gave them some short term relief and the long term consequences – well forget about those.
This is the history of human suffering. If you take a look at the suffering that people have caused other – whether it be the murderous rein of Communism that killed 100 million people in the 20th Century or the street level criminal and the back alley thief who inflects pain and misery on an individual, it’s the same. It’s an attempt to bring pleasure to oneself and inflict misery on another to alleviate the pain of life.
So what then is the answer to this.?
Tonight we focus on the answer to this.
In Good Friday we see the reality of this world and true solution to the pain, suffering, tribulation, and limitation of life.
It is the Cross of Christ. It is His life and death that culminates in the Cross. Because the Cross offers another solution – the only solution to the misery that is life.
Sin is the attempt to remediate the pain that is life; it is also a cause of much of the pain.
The Cross says that your attempts are not only futile but detrimental and that the only solution to your misery in this world is assured bliss of the next – a bliss won by Christ for you, upon the Cross, by the forgiveness of sin.
Pain, misery, and struggle are all part of life, sort of like laws of nature – that is just how it is – we cannot fix the problem. Just as we cannot change the laws of physics, we cannot change the fact that life is full of pain.
The solution has to come from outside of us, and it does in the Cross.
The understanding that there is something greater than ourselves, something better than this life frees us from being confined to it and having to continuously through sin find ways to alleviate or eliminate its pain.
The Cross puts before us our finite nature but also puts before us the finite nature of both the pleasures and pains of this world especially those resulting from attempts to deal with misery.
The hope of what is to come is the only thing that makes this life bearable – to know there is something better. And, if we live in this knowledge – one could say in the shadow of the Cross – we might well start living in a way that makes life not only bearable for ourselves but for others as well.
This is what Saint Paul is speaking of when he says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Paul calls us to look beyond the things of this world to the things of God and to live accordingly. God’s number one thing for you is your salvation and thus to live a life in this world according to His will rather than according to your attempts to alleviate and eliminate pain in life.
Jesus knew sorrow, as did the Apostles. Church tradition tells us all but one of the Apostles were martyred for the faith and suffered much along the way, but they kept on because they never left the shadow of the Cross. The never stopped seeing the hope embodied in the death and suffering of Christ for their salvation.
Ultimately, this is what Christ has won for you upon the Cross. By the forgiveness of sin, there is life beyond this one. By confronting the pain of life with the reality of the Cross we can leave behind our detrimental attempts a fixing what we cannot fix, and we can get on with living in such a way that, at least makes life bearable and really worth living.
We no longer have to inflict pain on others or self-medicated ourselves with pointless pleasures but can know real relief through Him who suffered for us.