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Suffering and Peace

First Reading: Acts 14:19-28
But Jews came there from Antioch and Ico’nium; and having persuaded the people, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city; and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Ico’nium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed. Then they passed through Pisid’ia, and came to Pamphyl’ia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attali’a; and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 145:10-13, 21
All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O LORD, and all thy saints shall bless thee! They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and tell of thy power, to make known to the sons of men thy mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of thy kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Gospel: John 14:27-31
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, `I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence.

ESV

2015-May05

A few months ago a girlfriend and I were talking about our increasing discomfort with certain story lines in film, television and books. We both agreed that as we had grown older we struggled more and more with watching or reading about suffering and loss. I remember a specific movie about genocide that my brother had recommended to me around the time I was twenty-five years old. He did give the disclaimer that it would be hard to watch. Normally I would have had no problem grabbing a box of tissues and giving the movie a go, but something switched for me around that time in my life. It wasn’t a drastic change but more of a gradual shift. I couldn’t mentally handle the idea of true physical and emotional suffering. I didn’t want to think about people losing their parents, spouses, siblings or children. It was too much for me.

I don’t know if it’s just a natural psychological change that happens around that time in a person’s life, but I started to realize how hard it would be to lose a loved one. I developed a real fear of loss. And I’m not talking about the kind of loss that involves your house burning down with all your personal belongings, or your car getting totalled. I mean the kind of loss that can appear so permanent. Death.

As a newlywed I experienced this on a new level. One night, early on in our marriage I turned to my husband as we drifted off into sleep and I asked him to promise me that he would “wake up tomorrow.” I asked this of him several times and he promised several times that he would, but we both knew the truth. Neither of us could make that promise. It was not our guarantee to give. Eventually I stopped asking. I started to face the reality that either of us could die any day, at any time.

Six months into our marriage we were elated to find out that I was pregnant. But something in me had an unsettling feeling about it all. At an early ultrasound around nine weeks we found out our baby had passed. We were fortunate enough to have a burial provided for our sweet little babe. And as my husband placed the tiny casket into the cold, snowy ground, a deep sense of peace flooded my heart. This life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with joy and peace. And the source of that joy and peace lies in the promise of Christ and His resurrection. Easter has been a time of great joy for us since the loss of our child, and we look forward to and strive for that great heavenly reunion.

The absence of suffering is the world’s understanding of peace. But true peace is Christ himself, and nothing can take that peace from us.

How has Christ been the source of peace for you? Do you trust in his promise of peace?

photo by Laura Jensen

 

Jacqueline Skemp is a daughter, sister, wife and mother who endures living in Minnesota after leaving California for her one true love. You can find out more about her here.

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