I am reading The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Veith Jr. and he quoted the following text by Richard Eyer (although it was written with euthanasia in mind, I find it still applies to the theme of “My Suffering Is a Blessing”):
Luther says, “Without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner,” because the theology of the cross is the only way God works. “God wished to be recognized,” not in health, wealth, and success, but “in suffering.” As much as parishioners may want to see the hand of God in nature’s beautiful sunrises, moving stories of conversions, or success in parish programs, it is in the cross of Christ and in bearing their own crosses that God chooses to reveal His heart to them.
In speaking of the theology of glory Luther says, “A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.”…
In short, the theology of the cross says that God comes to us through weakness and suffering, on the cross and in our own sufferings. The theology of the cross says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” The theology of glory on the other hand says that God is to be found, not in weakness but in power and strength and therefore we should look for him in signs of health, success, and outward victory over life’s ills. … All of us hold to a theology of glory at times, not wanting to surrender all to God, but holding out for how we want God to appear and do his magic in the midst of our troubles.
If we do not understand the distinction between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory, we will find ourselves drifting toward a theology of glory in which our culture believes God works though the self affirmation of pop psychology and instant gratification. We will begin to demand that God justify himself to us in our sufferings by giving us healing and success. We will demand a God who does what we want him to do and we will reject the way of the cross by which he comes to us. We will become fearful of suffering and preoccupied with its avoidance at the expense of truth and faithfulness, calling the evil of euthanasia “good” and the good of suffering “evil”.
Richard C. Eyer, Pastoral Care Under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1994), 27-28.
Through our sufferings we are drawn closer to Christ and, more specifically, the cross. There we see God’s ultimate love and sacrifice for us undeserving sinners. We are reminded of the best gift we have through faith: the salvation that Jesus won for us through His perfect life, death, and resurrection. Even though I know this to be true, it helps to turn back to quotes like this one and remind my sinful nature to stop navel gazing in the midst of my suffering. Instead, I can shift my focus to the cross and what God has already done for me there.