Sometimes, this is what we face in life. A nagging cold hits us when we have too many things to do. Plans are made and they fall apart. Dreams are unrealized. Disappointment ensues. Too often that is what life brings.
I was just listening to a sermon (a very bad sermon) about challenges and temptations. This preacher, who I happen to know, suggested that somehow these problems are not as bad as they seem. As he rambled on and on, I could not help but think that he was doing more damage than good. Because life is full of disappointments, and the pain of unrealized dreams is intense, should we just try to grin our way through them and pretend the pain is not as acute as it feels? Is that a life of a disciple?
If so, then discipleship seems to be more about pretending than really living? If it hurts, can we say, "it hurts?" I have seen this kind of plastic spirituality too many times. If it's not "follow Jesus and get a big boat," it is "follow Jesus and shrug off the hurts, wounds and disappointments." After all they must not be real.
One of the first and worst heresies of the Church was called docetism. Docetists taught that Jesus did not really suffer, he only seemed to have suffered. The implications of this theology are profoundly damaging. A docetist would, like my friend the preacher, say that the way of the cross is a way of escape, way of avoiding suffering and pain. I wonder, since pain and suffering are part of life, if the docetist misses out on the true meaning of these struggles.
There is no way any of us can avoid suffering. But we were not let comfortless. Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to sustain us. Sometimes suffering can be redemptive and to ignore the truth of the pain is to miss out on the redemptive nature of it. Sometimes suffering is simply not hearing God's voice when we cry out in the midst of the pain. It never means that God is absent. But it does mean that we are called to continue crying out, continue to pray and continue to endure. We need the encouragement of others to endure. When we endure in the midst of the pain we find true life, peace, fellowship, character, hope and God himself.
Perhaps my cold will go away quickly. That is certainly what I will pray. But no cold, no pain, no suffering will ever separate me from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ. I do not have to fake it. I can be real and true to myself and to others. This is called authentic faith. The essence of that authenticity is a loving God. To experience God's love is to experience real Joy, no matter what we face.