There are two ways God draws us deeper into the transformative work of salvation, through great suffering and great love. Great suffering leads to great love, and great love leads to great suffering, and both lead us into becoming a more healed, whole, and healthy person.
The cause of our suffering is self-autonomy. When we suffer well, it reveals the root causes of our suffering, the areas in our hearts and minds where surrender to God is still needed.
A self-focused life is about controlling everything for our own purpose and pleasure. Our attempt to bend the whole world to us, to re-create its purpose as something existing for us, is the cause of all the suffering in the world, including our own. We even do this to ourselves, when we attempt to recreate our own identity for selfish purposes. That’s because we sometimes think of love in terms of being loved, or getting love, when love, by its very nature is something which can only be given, never taken or earn. Our suffering stems from the attempt to be loved by others, instead of our attempt to be love for others.
We tend to attach all kinds of strings to love. We tend to love with expectations and requirements. We often love in transactional ways. When we do, we turn love into a commodity, and love as a commodity is something which can be bought and sold. It’s no surprise, in a world where everything seems to be for sale (even human beings) that we also come to love in much the same way.
We grow up trying to figure out how to get love. This is the greatest dysfunction of our broken world. If, somehow, we could learn how to be love, instead of get love, we would begin to be the remedy of love in a world where everyone is struggling to get what seems in such short supply. It is often in short supply, because we have not truly learned how to love. And, we have not truly learned how to love, because true love requires suffering.
What is love? Is it a feeling or emotion? Is it a commitment or action? How do you know when you are loved? Love can be hard to define, yet, we certainly know when we feel love, and by contrast, we know when we do not. You know the phrase, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Love can be like that. When we are in love, it’s easy to take for granted, because it just feels natural. Love is like breathing. It’s a natural part of how we are meant to live. We were created for love. On the contrary, we were not created to feel unloved.
Love is our natural state.
We don’t often pay as much attention to its presence as to its absence. The absence of love often feels more intense and easier to identify than its presence, because the absence of love creates our suffering. If that’s true, then how does suffering get us back to love, and how does being in the flow of love produce more suffering?
There are two kinds of suffering which stem from love.
We can suffer from the lack of love, and we can also suffer from loving well.
The first kind of suffering is hard to bear, the second can actually be a joy. Suffering the lack of love is painful and can feel unbearable. It tears at our very soul, because it puts us in a condition we were not intended for. When we experience the loss of love, we can set out down a path of protection from be hurt by love again. When we experience the pain of love, we can decide that preventing that pain is paramount. We most often protect ourselves from the pain of love by trying to love from a safer distance, and so we go down a path of trying to learn how to love without being vulnerable to the pain of its withdrawal. The irony is that trying to love and protect ourselves from love puts us in a place to be less and less loved.
The only way out of this is learning how to love without fear. How do we become brave enough to suffer love in the right way, the way that leads us to greater love instead of away from it? Love requires trust in order to be received, and trust give love the space to prove itself. But, in our fear-based state, that can be a delicate and difficult dance to manage. Love in a defensive stance usually means that we progress in love very little, even over a long period of time, and waste so much time trying to navigated a love based on fear instead of love based on mutual surrender.
Surrender must be present for love to abound. But how do we learn to surrender in the midst of the potential to be hurt by surrendering to love?
In order for us to learn how to suffer for the sake of love, we must learn how to uncover the dysfunction of love in every part of our being. When love has led us to withdraw and retreat, we must discover a greater love that can lead us back out again. The only love that can do that is the love of God.
God is love.
God as Love is a giving force, always flowing to all things, into all things, and out of all things. Love is a bonding energy, never a separating or isolating energy. Whenever we see the action of love in the world, we know we have seen the presence of God. Wherever we see the absence of love in the world, we know we are witnessing the blocking of that flow.
The process of God revealing our woundedness, which has led us to retreat into ourselves for fear of loves pain, is in itself a painful process. Each part of us has its own unique way of translating that dysfunctional fear, and so each part of us requires a different, separate kind of process in order to retrace our steps back out into the open spaces of God’s love.
Our reaction to fear translates differently in our three Centers of Being and Knowing. The way the mind isolates and insulates itself from love, out of fear, will be different than that of the heart, body, soul, and spirit. It is only as we come into contact with the perfect love of God that we are able to learn how to surrender to love in the same way. God invites us into a space where the freedom of love is possible by a love that is completely free from the transactional, merit-based kind of love we create in order to feel safe in an unsafe and dysfunctional world.
We will only suffer for the sake of love, instead of the loss of love, when we know that there is a love worth suffering for. That kind is a love which steps out and does the suffering first. That is why we must reorient our picture of God to that of one who is strong enough to be vulnerable enough to love us first, which is the picture Jesus of Jesus on the Cross.
A God who suffers for us is the only kind of God who could love us enough to truly rescue us from the hiding place our broken love has driven us. A God who demands that we suffer to love him/her, only teaches us to do the same, to expect others to suffer while we remain protected by our safe distance. If God is love, and the absence of love is the cause of our suffering, then it’s our separation from God as our source of love which is the true cause of our suffering. That means that the reversal of our suffering is coming back into contact with God.