This past weekend I had the unique opportunity to attend The Apprentice Gathering at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. I arrived on Wednesday night and spent the next three days gleaning from some of the top leaders in the field of Christian spiritual formation.
I first heard about this event several months ago when I stumbled upon it while googling some info on Greg Boyd, who happened to be one of the speakers.
Greg is one of my absolute favorite modern theologians/pastors/authors. Since buying one of his books in Books-a-Million back in 2009, I have followed his work with great interest. He has had an immeasurable impact on my theology and the way I think about God. Possibly more than anyone else. It was a huge honor just to meet him and say “thanks” in person.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
We tend to have little affinity for suffering. We wish to avoid it at all costs, wishing to stay within the safe sanctuary of our own contentment. And that is problematic. A life of contentment without suffering will almost certainly be a shallow life.
Suffering, when we allow it to do its work, broadens our capacity for compassion. “Compassion” comes from a Latin word that means “shared suffering.” If you’ve never had suffering it’s hard to share it with someone else. You don’t relate. You don’t understand.
So instead of weeping with those who weep, we want to cheer them up. Not for their sake, but for our sake. Their grief, their sorrow, their pain, their suffering makes us uncomfortable. And so we come alongside them to cheer them up, not for their sake, but because, “Come on, man. You’re bumming me out here. You’re spoiling the mood. I’m uncomfortable. I’m not used to being around people who are acting like this. Get happy for me, will you please?”
And yet, that’s not what the Scriptures teach us to do. Paul says in Romans, “Weep with those who weep.” “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” We want to rejoice with those who rejoice, and rejoice with those who weep.