Last summer I read the book Proverbs of Ashes. I'm finally getting around to writing something about it. First, I only recommend this book to those who do not mind reading about abuse. It is graphic and haunting and disgusting. It deals with the pain and suffering of abuse of women, especially those who have been told that it is their cross to bear.
I can only half believe that women are told that being beaten will bring them closer to Jesus and their suffering is a good thing. I say half believe not because I don't believe it happens, but because it is so far from how I relate to Christ and abuse and people that I can't put my head around it and figure out why someone would say it. It is just so far from anything I would think.
The book explores the messages of suffering we give people in the church and how it can be twisted into something so hurtful. So what to do with "take up your cross and follow" and "Jesus suffered and died and we should be like him."
It finally comes down to the question: "Is it life-giving?" Not all suffering is bad suffering. Sometimes suffering does bring life. But abuse doesn't fall in this category because it is not life-giving to either person. When Christ suffered and died, that wasn't the end of the story, there was Easter. Is there and Easter to this Good Friday should be how we look at suffering. If what we are doing brings about life then the suffering may be worth it.
Also, we are called to take up our cross and follow, not to hand out crosses. We can't justify making other people suffer, so that they can experience life later. We empty ourselves, so we can help someone else. We say in those moments that it isn't all about us, and I'm going to put aside my problems and worries and baggage so I can help you. I won't hand you a cross, but I will help you carry your load.
Unrelated Extra: I learned this week that both wood and fire are life-giving. Thanks for the insight.