Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.
(Matthew 16:24-25 Message)
If you claim to be a follower of Christ, get out of the driver’s seat. We may not like it, but we understand.
The next words out of Jesus’s mouth shock us. “Don’t run from suffering. Embrace it.”
Back then, Peter said “That can never be!” and Jesus rebuked him as Satan’s messenger. “Get out of my way, Satan. . .You have no idea how God works.” The rebuke is ever weirder, following on the heels of Peter’s recognition of “You are the Son of the Living God.” God praised Peter highly, describing him as a rock, and all the affirmation that came with it.
From the highest heaven to hell itself. Peter understood God’s heart about one thing, but he was as blind as the rest of us about the other.
If Jesus meant, of course I have to suffer and die. I’m not here to restore the kingdom, the rebuke makes a little sense.
But Jesus says more than that. We will suffer, as He did. We should embrace suffering. In suffering, we find our true selves.
Perhaps those hermits who spent years on top of a platform in the desert understood something we ignore today. They sought suffering as a means to knowing God better.
Luther tried the same thing. He flailed his back. He later recognized the futility of his actions, that the just shall live by faith and not by acts of contrition.
When I am suffering, should I seek escape?
Perhaps Paul’s advice to the church at Corinth can guide our thinking: “Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it.”. (1 Corinthians 7:20-21, NIV)
Our true selves depend on the inner man, not the external shell—not even a wheel-chair bound nursing home resident.