Suffering and the Weight of Glory

cs-lewisI have been reflecting for the last few days on the issue of suffering. This is due in large part to a tragic, viral article about a young woman named Brittany Maynard. She is a beautiful young woman dying of cancer. In response to Brittany’s story, another young woman, Kara Tippetts, wrote a letter explaining her similarly tragic story of an impossible fight against a cancer that she will not win.

Both stories are heartbreaking. In reading both, I see the power of worldview at play. Both women see the battle with death looming in their future, but their responses could scarcely be more different.

As one woman looks forward at death’s slow approach, and she seeks to make death her servant. She will choose when to bow her knee to that master, and in so doing, she fools herself into believing she holds the power. She is fighting so hard to feel like she is in control. Yet even her assertion of her control is a feeble bow to the reality of death: he comes for us all.

As the other woman looks forward at death’s slow approach, and she serves the one who has mastered death. She does not fight for control, because she realizes she has never had it to begin with. She bows her knee to the One with all power, the One who has conquered death for her. Though death is assuredly coming for her, she rests in confidence that his visit will be brief.

I cannot imagine walking the path these two women are following. I do not mean to cast aspersions, and my heart is broken for them both. I simply notice the stark difference in the way these women view their future. One sees meaningless suffering, and dignity is determined by control. The other sees beauty in suffering with submission as her goal. One chooses to end her life on her terms. The other chooses to live her life according to God’s terms. The issue, in my mind, goes back to one simple question: for whose glory do we live?

I think of a phrase C.S. Lewis once used. He talked about the weight of glory. And glory is a very weighty thing. Highest praise and greatest honor carry with them a burden no human can uphold. These women, and every other person, exemplify the ultimate reason we cannot bear the weight of glory – our bodies are too fragile. We have at least one fight we cannot win.

If we live to glorify ourselves, what happens when we are beaten? If we live our lives glorifying ourselves, it only makes sense that we would try to assert our power over death. Unfortunately, we do not have the control we attempt to assert. We are forced to settle for dictating how we submit to our defeat, and we celebrate as though we are the victors. We are hiding behind the allusions of control. We grasp at the shadows and hope no one notices our hands come up empty. We cannot bear the weight of glory because we do not deserve it.

But Christ has earned glory by proving his power over our greatest enemy. His shoulders bore the weight of death, which was really nothing compared to the weight of his glory. When he shrugged off death, he secured for his followers, his brothers, the ability to one day shrug for ourselves.

But it all hinges on one big question: for whom are you living? There are only two options: Jesus and anything else. Only one has shown power over death. Only one offers hope beyond the battle we will all lose. Only one can bear the weight of glory. Only one can be your rock and your salvation. Only one can be your fortress.

All suffering humbles us in the face of the one who suffered victoriously. And all glory belongs to Him.

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