Does it require some secret knowledge, a lab-tested process, or even an emailed daily devotional? Dallas Willard said the divine curriculum for spiritual maturity is the “trials of ordinary existence.” We grow by welcoming God into the everyday challenges of life and facing our sufferings from his perspective and with his grace.
This is why we should look carefully at Jesus’ suffering as a model for how to respond to injustice and agony to our own lives. In The Stations of the Cross* he shows us every type of trial we might experience:
Spiritual suffering- Jesus wrestled with his will in the garden and was abandoned by God the Father on the cross
Relational suffering- Jesus was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and abandoned by his friends
Physical suffering- Jesus’ body was brutally tortured and killed
Social suffering- Jesus was the victim of a corrupt and unjust political system
Throughout these trials we see him employ the godly values he taught others. Jesus never returned evil for evil but turned the other cheek. He loved and forgave his enemies, he relinquished his rights and entrusted himself to his Father in heaven, and he recognized the glory and good that comes through suffering unjustly. Jesus demonstrated a profoundly different view of suffering than our culture’s—one that was shaped by the Kingdom of God rather than a worldly striving for control or comfort.
The suffering we experience in this world, the trials of ordinary life, can be a powerful way to commune with Christ and grow as his followers. How do we come to view ordinary sufferings as vessels of God’s grace? That’s what our devotions through Easter will explore.
*Many associate the Stations of the Cross with the Roman Catholic tradition and are uncomfortable with scenes of Jesus’ suffering that are not found in Scripture. Traditionally the Stations have been more associated with Catholicism, but many other Christian traditions also employ them as a way to remember and reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross. Also, in 1991, Pope John Paul II officially changed the Stations so that all fifteen are rooted in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion.