I hope I didn’t alienate you with this title. I know the word “suck” can be offensive to people. It’s one of those slang words that has evolved in its meaning over the course of time. But I think we can all agree that life gets pretty “suck-y”, right?
– when you don’t get the promotion that you’ve worked hard to deserve
– when you get blamed for something bad that you didn’t do
– when your expectations get dashed or when something good goes “south”
– when you’re stuck in a bad situation: sickness, financial set back, relationship difficulties
It all feels bad, looks bad, smells bad, tastes bad. In other words, life “sucks” sometimes. And sometimes it sucks really bad.
It was in a moment of great “suckiness” that it happened. It was 2:30am. I was lying in bed – wide-awake, in discomfort, felt extremely bloated from my dialysis treatment. I was itchy on every part of my body. My heart was downcast because our transplant surgery was cancelled. I was discouraged over the extreme weight gain that happened over two weeks of dialysis. And, yeah, I’m sort of a wimp and I have a low threshold of pain. But I was at the point of despairing in life and I wondered where God was?
And the words I heard in my soul were: “Doug, embrace the suck.”
I kid you not! (“God, did you just use the word ‘suck’? That’s not polite or even theologically appropriate!”)
But these words were not condemning or blaming in tone. Rather they were comforting and soothing. And at the same time, the words were strong and powerful. What I realized was that Jesus was giving me an invitation, actually a command, to move forward, to go toward Him. Because Jesus is there – Jesus is in the “suck” of life!
So instead of being angry at the suck or being afraid of the suck or denying the suck or medicating the suck (I already used two tubes of itching cream) or distracting the suck (how many games of Solitaire or Candy Crush can you play on your phone when you’re in pain? Apparently, not enough), Jesus invited me to “embrace the suck.” Why? Because that’s where He was: Jesus was present in the very center of my pain, my discomfort, and my frustration.
So I embraced the suck. More importantly, I embraced Jesus in the suck. And when I did, he wept with me. He lamented with me. After a long silence, he gave me some specific directions (I’ll cover that in my next blog). Then, finally, came a very powerful peace. Although I had not moved from my bed, I was in totally a different “place.”
Biblical writers have long espoused the unique power and perspective that comes with suffering and trials. Paul, James, Peter, and especially Jesus talked about the new reality, even exceeding joy, that comes when we embrace God in the “suck.” It’s not a sick, masochistic thing – there’s no pleasure in pain whatsoever. But it is a deep pathway to a greater reality.
Christian theologian, Richard Rohr, puts it this way: “Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance… Great religion shows you what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust. (Because) if we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” (taken from Hidden Things: Scripture and Spirituality)
Among other things, Jesus is the great Transformer. And he transforms by locating himself precisely in the center of our pain, our suffering and, frankly, our “suckiness.” And we find freedom when we follow him into those places. There we find new reserves of strength and resilience. There we find new perspective and wisdom. There we overcome fear and can face darkness head on – together with him! And there is where we find the power of true love: we discover the depth of God’s amazing love for us and we uncover a new ability to love others in their suffering and pain (instead of running away from them or pretending they don’t exist).
Are you going through difficulty, hardship, pain … suckiness? Embrace the suck. Find Jesus in it and hold onto him. And see if that doesn’t open up doors into a greater reality.
Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-ladened (Matthew 11:28)
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain (Isaiah 53:3)