When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, he realizes clearly that his greatest need is God. – Thomas A Kempis

This Lent I have found that my response to a little suffering from self imposed mortification has been…well…to recoil.  Internal dialogue for me this Lent has been a lot of “what’s the point?” and justifying my failure with the all encompassing “my life is hard enough.”

This response of course looks at suffering as something to fear, rather than an opportunity to endure something difficult out of love for another… namely God.  God doesn’t gain anything from our suffering and we don’t earn points with him for giving up beer for Lent.  No, the exercise of Lent is for us primarily.  It’s an opportunity to train our will in order that we can then conform ourselves to the image of His son.

This recoil response, or flinching back in fear, brought to mind a different kind of recoil.  The word recoil in my line of work instantly conjures the image of the action from a firearm when it is fired.  This type of recoil is something completely different then a response to fear, and I think it offers a more adequate depiction of how we are to respond to suffering when it comes our way.

The recoil of a gun is defined as the action of springing back or to rebound.  When looking at how a gun operates the recoil is the violent reaction from a discharged firearm and results in the slide springing backwards to extract the spent casing while almost simultaneously loading another bullet in order to continue to engage in battle.

I believe that this represents a better perspective for dealing with suffering.  Rather than recoiling in order to shrink from evil, we can instead participate in the normal rebound that suffering requires and the shedding or our old self like a spent casing.  Simultaneously we are made to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus and spring back into action.  We are to rebound in a way so as to continue to be a weapon in the hands of Christ, ready to engage in battle.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)