Can We Bear It?

"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now" (John 16:12).

What is it we cannot bear? The loss of a child, a broken marriage, a devastating diagnosis?  We each have our list of unbearables -- experiences we believe we could not survive? 

Yet people just like us face and endure all of the above and worse. Even terrible things are endured over time, in stages, and people adjust, cope, make decisions about how to deal with suffering, find community with others, and renewed faith that gives meaning to senseless tragedies and unspeakable losses. 

In one sense, Jesus knew that his disciples would enter a time of bewildering shock and confusion when he was crucified. The Gospels do not tell us how long the dark interval was from his death to the glorious revelation of the Good News that he was alive and among them. The symbolic "three days" suggest only a tragic weekend that ends in joy, but other accounts suggest the disciples were dispersed and did not encounter their Lord until they had returned to Galilee. After a long night on the sea of Galilee, seven distraught disciples trying to be fishermen again encounter a stranger who is revealed as the risen Christ. In any case, Easter faith was born in a travail of rebirth and forged in a fiery baptism of grief that carved out a space large enough to hold an immense gift of new hope. 

In another sense, Jesus was also talking about a joy so deep, he knew they could not bear that either, not all at once. Whatever they experienced, the disciples were totally dislocated from their former reality and thrust into in a new way of understanding everything: Jesus, God, themselves and history. 

Do we have a list of unbearable joys? A lost child returning home, a love relationship restored after rupture, a breakthrough after long suffering, recovery from an addiction or near-fatal injury?   Easter faith is about believing that whatever happens, God is always with us and is the ultimate happy ending to every tragedy, even death itself. 

The Ascension of Jesus positions us to pray with the same intensity the first disciples experienced as they awaited the promise of Pentecost. The Spirit came to them as a whirlwind and an earthquake. Why should it be any different for us?

The question is, are you ready to bear such unbearable joy and overpowering love?