— Warning: foul language follows —
That moment when you’re scrolling through Facebook and realize that all the perfect lives you see in front of you aren’t all that perfect, or that moment as you sit at a long stop light and watch the faces of people as they drive by and you wonder what kind of hidden burdens, crushing grief or soul sucking crap they’re dealing with; because let’s be honest… a great majority of us are struggling with something, whether for a brief period or a long haul that we hide behind a polite smile and a joke.
If we’re really being honest, life’s pretty hard, for some it really just kind of sucks sometimes. I don’t know if anyone has ever said this, but I’m sure there’s some sort of quote by some famous person that basically says, “All of life is one big struggle to pull yourself out of suffering and then you die.” I’m pretty sure that’s how the majority of people feel, at least some of the time.
So then, we have two basic choices when it comes to faith…
- There is no god and life is a random accident; so suck it up and deal with it; or,
- God exists and there’s either some purpose to our suffering or there’s no purpose and God is just some sadistic asshole.*
If the first option is true then read Ecclesiastes. It’ll do you some good. The point of that most profound of books… there is no purpose, life is one endless chase after the wind and you might as well chase after the “good life” and then die. If this is what you believe then you should stop reading this and go chase after the wind; after all, what you’re reading then really has no meaning, no purpose and no point.
If the second option exists then well, you have some real thinking to do. You’re most likely currently carrying a heavy load of skubala** (the Greek word St. Paul used to describe everything that is not God… shit). How do I know you’re carrying a heavy load of shit? That’s simple, we all are. Every. Single. One. Of. Us has some load of skubala. Now then, does God care or doesn’t he?
We have so many pretty songs of hope. Listen to Christian music for just a few hours and you’ll realize that every song basically says the same thing… trust in God’s mercy. Read the Bible for more than a couple of days and you’ll realize that almost every passage says the same thing… trust in God’s mercy. Hope. Hope in God’s love. Hope in God’s mercy. Let go and let God.
Here’s the problem, letting God doesn’t necessarily resolve your skubala, does it? “Letting God” doesn’t really solve anything, other than passing the buck from you to God. Pass the buck all you want but at the end of the day you’ve still gotta deal with the skubala. And sometimes, that load of skubala is just too much to carry. Sometimes, it’s just too much. Can you imagine drowning in a bottomless pit of skubala ? I think you can, most of us can, most of us have felt that way at some point in our lives. In those moments, where is this merciful God we claim to trust in?
He’s standing at the bottom of the bottomless pit and raising his hands up high in order to catch your feet and hold you up high enough to keep you nose above water / skubala . That’s where he is. He’s a the bottom of the pit. Do you think he descended into hell for nothing? Sure our theology tells us he descended into hell to bring all those souls like Abrahama, Isaac and Jacob up to heaven. But I’ll tell you another reason he descended into hell, so that you wouldn’t have to be alone at the bottom of hole of shit, so that you wouldn’t have to suffer in your pile of skubala by yourself, while all your friends slept peacefully just a short distance away.
I’ve been told that “Your god doesn’t care.” My response? My God cares, he cares so much that he didn’t just look on and hold my hand while I was suffering, he became suffering! He descended into hell for me! St. Teresa of Avila was once granted the “grace” of visiting hell. When she returned she taught that it was worth spending your entire life just to save one single soul from hell. Think about that. Hell is so bad that it would be worth wasting every breathe you are granted just to prevent one single soul from it. For perspective, I wouldn’t spend a day preventing someone from watching Episode 1 of Star Wars.
And here our God went to hell and back for me. And so I go to hell and back for you. That’s why I suffer, for you. I let go and let God. Letting God doesn’t mean I let him simply take my place or that I let him remove my suffering.
It means I let God take my suffering, that I offer for you, to himself and let him suffer that hell with me… for you. Does that make sense? Through my suffering he continues to stand at the bottom of the bottomless pit of skubala and hold us up. I stand on his hands and you stand on mine and I stand on yours and we manage not to drown in this skubala … this shit.
I’m sure that C.S. Lewis and G. K Chesterton say this all much more eloquently than I do, but if we’re being honest, you’re much more likely to keep scrolling through Facebook than you are to read Lewis or Chesterton***. So I leave you with this: that suffering of yours, that hell on earth, that skubala, isn’t for nothing. It’s for me. I need you. Your life is mine and my life is yours; you’re suffering for me, I’m suffering for you; all for one and one for all. Your suffering has meaning, it’s helping to save my life. My suffering has meaning and purpose because it makes up for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ. It helps to save your soul and that gives me hope, it gives my suffering meaning. And trust me, when you feel like you’re drowning in a pit of skubala every little bit of hope helps.
* Don’t worry, if God is really a good and just God and the God of mercy, then me calling him an “asshole” isn’t really a big deal. I think he prefers honesty over false piety.
** Philippians 3:8
*** If you are interested in reading more eloquent verse on this type of topic I strongly recommend you check out the following sources:
- “Three Philosophies of Life” by Peter Kreeft
- “Shadowlands” a movie about the life of C.S. Lewis
- “Turn My Mourning into Dancing” by Henri Nouwen (this is the book I read after my mother died. I can’t think of the words that could do this book justice.)