ON REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY, IS IT ENOUGH TO JUST REMEMBER?

‘Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place, where the Word became a man
Show me the place, where the suffering began’

from ‘Show me the Place’ by Leonard Cohen

Today is Remembrance Sunday a day which, like Remembrance Day itself, offers us the opportunity to together remember those who have died, not only in the Great War but also the many subsequent conflicts that have been, and indeed, continue to be waged until this very day.

It is of course good to remember. More than that it’s important that we recall all those who paid the ultimate price in securing the freedoms we enjoy. But, I wonder, is simply remembering enough? Is it sufficient to merely bring to mind the suffering experienced by others and to say to those that we know are facing unimaginable difficulty that we are thinking of them? Because more than wanting to remember those who have suffered, don’t we long for the suffering to finally come to an end?

I’d like to think there was more that could be said. And, for what it’s worth, I believe that there is, for the Bible, far from denying its existence, has a great deal to say about suffering and offers us hope even when we find ourselves in its midst.

Life really can be hard sometimes and, contrary to what some believe, this is the case for Christian believers every bit as much as those who have no faith. In his second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes that he was so utterly burdened beyond his strength that he despaired of life itself [2 Corinthians 1:8] and similarly, so overwhelmed was Job by his own pain and loss, that he expressed the wish that he’d never been born when, in Job 3.1, he curses the day of his birth. Jesus himself wept [John 11:35] and is described as a ‘man of sorrows’ who was ‘acquainted with grief’ [Isaiah 53:3], and the Psalms too are full of examples of those who acknowledge that their souls are sometimes down cast within them. [Psalm 42:5].

So if you are facing trials the like of which you have never known and feel totally unable to carry on, know you are not alone in feeling the way that you do. And know too what the psalmist knew, that ‘the LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’ [Psalm 34:8]

At the risk of repeating myself can I say how I love the honesty of the psalms? I love the way they reflect the reality of how we sometimes feel. But even as they do so the scriptures assure us that the current unsatisfactory state of affairs is but temporary. The day is coming when our tears will be wiped away and death shall be no more. [Revelation 21:4]. Soon the former things will have passed away.

I do not know your current circumstances. Nor do I know how long you have experienced your present sadness. Perhaps far from seeming ‘light and momentary’, your suffering has felt to you both intense and prolonged. Maybe having already suffered for such a long time, you question how the psalmist can speak of all being well ‘in just a little while’. [Psalm 37:10]. I can only suggest that the answer comes when we step back and consider the future and recognise that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [Romans 8:18] Furthermore that glory that will one day be fully realised will be one that lasts for all eternity. [2 Corinthians 4:17]. And just as our future glory will be immeasurably greater than our current suffering, and our future joy will be immeasurably greater than our current sadness, so too will eternity be immeasurably longer than the time we now spend in this vale of tears.

So whilst weeping may tarry for the night time joy really will come in the morning [Psalm 30:5] even if for you the night has already been long and the day still seems a long way off. In just a little while, the sun will rise.

So do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ [2 Corinthians 4:16-18]

Jesus himself says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ [Revelation 22:20] and when he returns we will see, and feel, what currently we can not. And whether his return is in our life time, not for another thousand years, or so far into the future that we can’t begin to imagine such a length of time, what we will see and feel on that great and glorious day will be infinitely worth our ‘momentary’ wait. For the ‘little while’ we have waited will not be worth comparing with the time we have to enjoy being home at last in the presence of our loving Heavenly Father.

Another Christian believer who experienced overwhelming sorrow, so great that he frequently knew the anguish of suicidal thoughts, was the renowned English poet and hymn writer William Cowper. Perhaps the words of one of his own most famous hymns will be as great a help to you as they have been to me in my own times of sorrow.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

So, as well as looking back and remembering what is past, it’s important too to look forward to the future, to a day that is surely coming, guaranteed as it is by another sacrifice that was also made to secure our freedom. That sacrifice is one that Christian’s remember, not annually, but weekly as they share the bread and wine. This they do in remembrance of the death by crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a death that paid the penalty for all our sins and ensures that, not only we, but the whole of creation will one day be redeemed.

For as Christians celebrate the Lord’s supper they proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again. [1 Corinthians 11.26]. Jesus is coming back and when he does absolutely everything will be made right. Then there will be no more pain, no more death, and no more sorrow. Even wars will come to an end for on that day swords and spears will be beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks, nations shall not lift swords up against nations and nor shall they learn war anymore. [Isaiah 2:4]. Of this we can be certain, because this is what God has promised.

Today then we rightly look back and remember with genuine gratitude all those individual sacrifices that have been made on our behalf. But as we do so let’s also look forward with confidence to a wonderfully bright future as we hope in the God who makes all things new, the God whose promises are sure.

So then, irrespective of the trials we may currently be experiencing, may we all know the joy of the salvation that is surely ours in Christ Jesus. May the LORD bless us and keep us; may the LORD make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us; and may the LORD lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace. [Numbers 6:24-26].


Related posts:

To read ‘Everything is Alright’, click here

To read ‘Order out of chaos’, click here

To read “Hope comes from believing the promises of God”, click here

To read, ‘But this I know’, click here

To read “Suffering- A Personal View”, click here.

To read “Why do bad things happen to good people – a tentative suggestion”, click here

To read “Luther and the global pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the cross”, click here

To read ‘Covid -19. Does it suggest we really did have the experience but miss the meaning?’, click here. This is a slightly adapted version of “T.S. Eliot, Jesus and the Paradox of the Christian Life’.

To read ‘The “Already” and the “Not Yet”’, click here

To read ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac – Law or Gospel?’, click here

To read ‘on being confronted by the law’, click here

To read ‘Good Friday 2022’, click here

To read “Easter Sunday – 2021”, click here

To read, ‘The Resurrection – is it Rhubarb?’, click here

To read “Waiting patiently for the Lord”, click here

To read, ‘Real Love?’, click here

To read ‘Real Power’, click here

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