Recovering Our Humanity

Suffering is common to all human beings and becomes a cord that ties us together. It comes in many different forms, with varying degrees, and slowly but surely chips away at our humanity. 

Topics: Suffering

Suffering is common to all human beings and becomes a cord that ties us together. It comes in many different forms, with varying degrees, and slowly but surely chips away at our humanity. William Shakespeare famously wrote:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother…” [1]

But, for those who share the brotherhood of suffering, who have felt its withering effects on their ability to react to and interact with others, the gospel offers hope that our humanity can be restored.

Losing My Humanity

As a child, I remember receiving a second helping of spankings for crying about the pain experienced in discipline. I learned how to put a lid on my emotions so that I could minimize the pain. My survival savvy worked well to protect myself, but as the lid tightened, I grew calloused and numb to the pain. With each experience I lost part of my humanity.

As an emotionally stunted young man, I remember standing at my grandfather’s funeral, wanting to grieve with the rest of my family, but unable to peel the lid off. It felt like part of my humanity was gone, never to return again. After years of frustrated attempts to take the lid off of my stifled hurt, the need to feel some kind of emotional response to pain grew. Unlike my hurt, my anger did not have a lid, and it became an easy emotion to resort to so that I could at least feel something.

I remember learning about various religions and thinking the only consolation they offered was the potential for eternal bliss to compensate for a life of seemingly purposeless suffering. I felt hopeless to regain what had been robbed from me here and now. Was my only solace that one day my soul would experience peace? What about now? What about today?

Recovering My Humanity

This is where the doctrine of the resurrection breaks through.

In his new volume on suffering, Tim Keller writes, “Even religions that teach heavenly bliss for the eternal soul can offer only a consolation for the life we lost, but Christianity offers a restoration of life. We get our bodies back—indeed, we get the bodies we never had but wished we had and one beyond our greatest imagining. We get our lives back—indeed, we get the life we longed for but never had.”

Believing in the beauty and power of the resurrection can change us now. We recover our humanity bit by bit now, and one day we will be fully and completely transformed. This is what John means when he writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3).” Christians are a people of the resurrection. The restoration process begins now, and it will one day be fully realized at the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My struggle with anger did not need management or control tactics. It needed transformation. I needed wounds to be healed and for the tight lid on my stunted humanity to be removed. By God’s grace after years of prayer, the power of the resurrection has started to restore what I had lost. The sensitivity and emotional bandwidth that had deteriorated are returning.

The tears have started to fall again, starting as single drops, but drops are significant in the desert. Now the drops have gathered to become streams. My adoption by the Father as a beloved son has brought healing, and He has begun to heal old wounds. As I am being transformed from one degree of glory to another, my humanity is slowly but surely being recovered. The lid is being pried off. And one day, when I see Him, that lid will be gone.

Recovering Our Humanity

The hope of the gospel is that we can recover our humanity now. We begin the process of purification now. Hope in our future resurrection has the power to pull into the present part of that transforming reality now. If the resurrection simply meant the reversal of death, that would be miracle enough. But the full beauty of the resurrection is not only the reversal of death, but that the final destination is better than the point of departure. We are not just restored to the lives we once had; we are given the life we never had but always wanted, the life we didn’t know was possible.

So we join the chorus of the saints who sing, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” Restore in full what sin and suffering have stolen. And in the meantime, our singing this song has the power to transform us now, to begin the process of reclaiming full humanity even as we wait.

[1] Excerpt from the St. Crispin’s Day Speech, William Shakespeare, Henry V in Act IV Scene iii 18-67