If we enter into this relationship with God willingly; if we enter into the suffering of others willingly, we will suffer, but the God of all grace promises to restore our strength when we grow tired, to make us firm and steadfast in our faith, hope and love when we are overburdened. It is true.
Our greatest fear in life is that of being alone. It fills us with a dread like no other. Yet we can feel utterly alone even in a crowd of people. What saves us from this feeling of existential loneliness is relationships. This is why we are always seeking relationships, though sometimes with the wrong people and for all the wrong reasons. For example, we all know about the experience of “cliques” from our school years. If we were among the “in” crowd, the world seemed well-ordered and pleasant. If we were not “in,” we may have felt all kinds of emotions from rejection, to negative self-worth, to anger. We might even have been one of those who was “bullied” by those who were “in,” who treated us out of the false superiority that status gave them. It wasn’t fair. Because it wasn’t just. The saddest thing of all is that, sometimes, we carry those feelings of superiority or inferiority into our adult lives and the effects become worse, even more insidious.
There is a reason for this. It is a reason that, for a Christian, seems obvious. God is not in these things. Yet, even Christians can often be the cause of separation and loneliness in others, or they can give a blind eye to those around them who are suffering terrible loneliness, simply because no one notices them. The reason is that we have not yet developed the steadfast faith in God that we profess, or the alertness to the suffering of others that comes from that steadfast faith in God. We need that faith in order to resist the evil one and his temptations to “take care of number one.” We have not developed the humility that is necessary to see the suffering other, or to willingly take up our crosses to follow Jesus. If we did, we would recognize the causes of our separations, we would respond to the lonely, and to the suffering other, with compassion. We would be going out of our way to form relationships with them. We would be living as Jesus lived.
In order to do this we need to work first on our relationship with God. Jesus makes God tangible to us in the flesh. He came among us to reconcile our broken relationship with our Father, the One who made us in his own image and likeness, out of love. It is our broken relationship with God that is the source of the world’s suffering and loneliness. But here we encounter a paradox too. For it is in suffering that Jesus saved us. The Christian life is to be lived in imitation of Christ. If we are truly in relationship with Jesus, we can believe Peter’s words here that, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”
God is with always with us. But we can not know that until and unless we know God. This, then, is our first duty; to develop and deepen our relationship with Jesus through daily prayer. As Christians, we know that the God of all grace, gives us all the graces we need to be able to be his disciples, his living words in this world. He commands us to love all others as he loved us. How are we to do this? We are to serve the lonely, the hungry, the naked. We are to visit the sick and the imprisoned. We are to love our enemies, to turn our cheeks, to forgive and to pray for them. In other words, we are to form healthy, loving and compassionate relationships with them. In this we will suffer, but our suffering united to that of Jesus, will help to reduce the aloneness and the loneliness in the world; ours and that of others. This suffering is noble, holy, and meaningful. If we enter into this relationship with God willingly; if we enter into the suffering of others willingly, we will suffer, but the God of all grace promises to restore our strength when we grow tired, to make us firm and steadfast in our faith, hope and love when we are overburdened. It is true. It is God’s infinitely loving and merciful relationship with us that has saved everything. We are called by God to share that relationship with our spouses, our children, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, and, yes, even our enemies. For it is in relationships that we participate in God’s loving act of salvation.
Lord, deepen our recognition of your love for us. Help us to see the power of that love to overcome our loneliness and that of others. Help us to see that we are not alone, that you are with us. More importantly, help us to see you in the face of all others, so that we will be drawn into healing and healthy relationships with them in your name. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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