I was reflecting on our cultural practice of the 'New Year' resolution. Although there is a wide variety of specific commitments people think they should make, they all seem to boil down to a desire to be in a better position than we currently feel we are. More successful, healthier, more in control, and just that we’ve got it all together that little bit more. We are all seeking that upward trajectory.
In the light of Jesus' statement that he didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners, we see that it isn’t the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. We read in the well recognised first line of the Beatitudes, that it's actually the poor in spirit who are blessed.
The sense is that it is actually in our brokenness, flaws, and suffering that we are most prepared and positioned to see, and experience redemption and salvation. That this is where a deeper hope is actually most present.
In his seminal work ‘Man’s search for Meaning’, Victor Frankl explores using his real life observations and experiences of the Nazi death camps his discovery of hope in the midst of the suffering of existence. He declares that the proof that a human being is more than the results of their surroundings and circumstances is seen in that person’s ability to still choose their own way. He recounts that it was possible for each fellow inmate he observed to choose to be worthy of one’s sufferings, and for those that did so it led to a deep sense of spiritual freedom that gave their life a sense of meaning even in the midst of the horrors of the camp.
For those that are open to it, suffering has a capacity to strip away all falseness, all self deception, all distractions, all temptations and bring focus. In humility with a paradoxical helpless openness, it causes a person to truly be able to see and know, to be still and know.
As Jesus said, the path to life is narrow and it seems few are able and willing to find it. But yet the path is still there, and it can be found.
He told his disciples that it is in the suffering of taking up their cross, of losing their life, of joining him in his sufferings, that true life begins. As Paul said of his great pilgrimage, ‘that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain resurrection from the dead.’
As a human being on this journey of existence we each have a choice open to us. The wide road of the ‘New Year' resolution mask or the narrow road of suffering. The starting point of each is our own and our world’s brokenness and sinfulness. However they quickly diverge, one travels the path of masks, distractions, and idols and ends in degradation. The other travels through suffering, encounters the presence of Life himself, and ends in a deep and unfolding experience of transformation, healing and integration into life.