As I write this, I’ve just received the news: another friend has lost his battle with cancer, and has gone to be with the Lord. On the one hand, the battle was mercifully short. On the other hand, the onset of the disease was sudden and unexpected — a turn of events that could throw any family into chaos. No one saw it coming; no one knows what happened.
It would be nice to believe that whenever something doesn’t feel right with our bodies, we can simply go to the doctor and get a clear diagnosis and course of treatment. And sometimes it’s true. But despite all the medical wisdom and knowledge we have at our disposal, our ignorance will probably always be greater.
It’s nobody’s fault. That’s just how it is.
But from God’s point of view, that’s not how it’s supposed to be.
Because we were created for life, not death.
Suffering is not God’s will for humanity. It is, unfortunately, a fact of our existence because of the multitude of ways in which sin and brokenness distort what God created as good.
But I hesitate to call suffering a “fact of life,” as if death had always been part of the plan. The apostle Paul calls death “the last enemy” that God will finally destroy (1 Cor 15:26, NRSV), on the way to granting the final gift of physical resurrection. As believers, that is our destiny, our hope.
I don’t want to make peace with death. Death is an ugly scar on God’s good creation. Rather, I want to make peace with God, who graciously promises a day in which death itself will die, taking suffering with it (Rev 21:4). In that promise is our hope.
And hope begets hope. Living in the Spirit enables us to live in hope. When we do so, we show that resurrection and new life aren’t only for some far off, ideal future. We live in newness now, as ambassadors of hope in a world of false hopes and hopelessness.
Let us be that kind of people, that kind of community, in the face of all we must suffer. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.