Suffering

...now browsing by tag

 
 

September 15

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

After a day when we contemplated an issue that tested our willingness to trust and surrender (Thanks Ryan S.), let’s move on…to more of the same. 🙂

I think one of the hardest times for many of us is because we may not, or don’t, see the clear path, we have trouble moving forward. Sometimes we act paralyzed. Sometimes we simply hesitate following.

Let me revert to an illustration from the book. Many firefighters survive because they know a key truth: a meadow, brush, or even trees, can only burn one time. Many of them will run to the burn. It seems weird, but it is true. Many firefighters have been saved because they ran to the burn.

That brings up an important point. There is a positive side to adversity. Let’s be honest: most of us would like to avoid adversity. Avoid it like a plague would not be too far off. We see adversity as incongruous to a loving God and that said loving God would place adversity in front of us, let alone have us go through it. We do all we can to avoid it! We are far more interested in what will make us happy; God is far more interested in what will make us holy.

Instead of our natural aversion to pain and adversity, maybe we ought to embrace it. Instead of looking for a way around it, let’s stop trying to avoid it. Suffering can actually give us a greater platform for sharing the truth of God’s love.  Instead of running away, maybe God is saying, “Follow Me into the burn. You may not understand. In fact, you probably won’t. But follow Me anyway and I will lead you to safety. You will get to see what I can do.”

Truth: He does not want us to run ahead of Him; He wants us to follow Him. Even if that following has us meeting adversity.

And for your encouragement this morning, stop and read Psalm 86: 11-13. You’ll be glad you did.

June 30

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

The other day during my Encounter Time, I read the following-and familiar-passage: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Pr. 25: 21-22 NASB)

I hear and have used that passage to teach not seeking revenge. It is human nature to want to defend ourselves, to put up a fight if we feel we have been wronged. “An eye for an eye.” “Don’t tread on me.” “Stay in your own space and we will be okay. But DO NOT cross the line.”

And if they cross us in any way, shape, or form. LOOK OUT!

Today I read the story of a woman who was a student at Cambridge in the 1940s and decided to join the Communist Party (CP) as a secretary. The winter of 1946-1947 was brutal, causing water pipes to freeze, thereby causing a water shortage. They were allowed one shower a week and not even the secretary of the CP could avoid the long lines that developed in the ladies dorm at Cambridge. The jockeying and grumbling were intense. But this woman could not help but observe the actions of one. She had direct access to the bathroom but never asserted her rights and responded gently to the selfishness of others. Upon investigation, this secretary found out the girl was a Christian who was practicing and living what the Communist claimed but did not do. That observation led to a conversation, which led to a conversion, which led to a new missionary in the Far East.

And just think this through with me: if that Christ-follower had reacted in kind to the way she had been treated?  I don’t need to tell you the result.

She chose to act as Jesus would. She chose to live Proverbs 25: 21-22 in real life.

Just imagine if we would do that as well. Go ahead. Do it! Imagine. And now what?

June 27

Monday, June 27th, 2022

A recent Our Daily Bread devotion (June 26) told the story of a dog whose owner broke his ankle and was using crutches to walk. Soon the dog began to hobble as well. He took the dog to the vet worrying that something was wrong, but the vet said there was nothing with him. He romped and played like all dogs until he was with his owner. That’s when he walked with a limp. I guess you could say the dog was trying to identify with his owner. 🙂

I heard some sad news yesterday. As this lady told me the news, all I could do was hold her and let her cry. NO words were needed. None were necessary to be said. They would have been a drippy faucet-annoying and serving no good. After she got herself together, we talked.

I’m a fixer. I want to fix people’s problems.

But I can’t.

That’s not my job. That’s not in my “pay grade.”

That job belongs to the only ONE who can fix it. Someone has said, “When someone is broken, don’t try to fix them. (You can’t.) When someone is hurting, don’t attempt to take away their pain. (You can’t.) Instead, love them by walking beside them in the hurt. (You can.) Because sometimes what people need is simply to know they aren’t alone.”

All those are true. For me. For you. What I did offer was that I-and the church-would walk alongside her through it all. She needs to know that more than anything right now.

Be someone’s “come along” as you come along side someone who is hurting. Don’t try to fix. Just be.

June 9

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

I actually wrote this on Tuesday morning, June 6th, while at the hotel.  If I had had a way to post this that morning I would have done so, but typing on my phone is not my idea of fun so I figured I would do it this morning.  Here were my thoughts on that Tuesday morning.

After a very restless night not sleeping in a hotel bed, fraught with a lot of tossing and turning and pain and discomfort, I received a text from a man in the church who told me on June 1 that he would be praying for me all month. Here was his text:

“Lord, I pray for Pastor Bill. Lord, if his bodily pain persists, may his bodily pain lead to your Spirit’s deeper working in him. I know that many times continued pain uncovers things in us. I pray that if you are uncovering something, that he in raw honesty, talks to You about it and he lets You do whatever You want to do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I have often said that pain is never wasted. Just Sunday, one of our ladies sat next to another young mother going through the trauma of betrayal and a broken marriage. When I hugged the one mother (Lady #1), she whispered, “Only God could know that she (Lady #2) would be going through what I’ve just gone through.”

And that’s it!! Pain is never wasted. We were never meant to keep the lessons we learn from pain to ourselves. God is in the midst of the pain. Being fully human He knows what it is like. He promises that He will be with me through my pain and carry it with me, and when it gets too heavy,  He will be my heavy lifter.

I know Lady #1 knows that. I also know Lady #2 is experiencing some of that and will, with Lady #1’s help and other’s help, come to see that. She will also come out on the other end praising God for His faithfulness.

“Father, thank You for Your presence. Thank You for Steve’s words. Thank you for Lady #1’s willingness to use her pain to hold Lady #2’s hand and let her cry. May I be that same type of vessel.”

I would love to share with you the name of Lady #1 but privacy will not allow me to do that. I’m sure you understand.  🙂

May 23

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

I’m back…with more confusion! 🙂  Revelation 16 has me bewildered. But rather than focus on the bowls of wrath and their meaning, let me take another road.

Several times throughout this chapter we are told the people blasphemed God.

  • In verse 9 it says they blasphemed God because He had power over the plagues but evidently didn’t exercise it.
  • In verse 11 they blasphemed because of their pain and sores.
  • In verse 21 they blasphemed God because of the plague of hail.

Let me just say that this chapter sounds a little like the plagues God put upon Egypt in Exodus. (Short side note there).

It has always been interesting to me how God gets the blame when tough times come. It is never because of our own stupidity, of course. It’s always God’s fault. Both followers of Christ and those who aren’t followers are too quick to blame Him for all the bad stuff that hits them. It’s as though we think that we “deserve” not to have this trouble. You know…we “deserve” better treatment. Ironically, in this chapter it is those who despise Him and His people who are doing the blaspheming. In verse 1 I think it is summed up well: “they blasphemed God because of …” It’s all His fault.

One last thought before I go: Verse 15 seems out of place but it is a true statement of hope: “Behold, I am coming like a thief.”

God is in control. There will come a day of reckoning. When that day will be no one knows.

“Father, help me to be ready. Keep my eyes focused on You not on events. And certainly help me not to blame and blaspheme Your Name.”

May 10

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

Okay…so this is strange. Maybe I should say, “This is getting stranger.” So I read Revelation 9 & 10 this morning. Chapter 8 (yesterday’s post) included the first 4 trumpets. Chapter 9 included trumpets #5 and 6. I read chapter 10 thinking Trumpet #7 would be there. Nope.

Chapter 8 seems to continue the ecological disaster from the previous chapter and the first 4 trumpets.  The big difference was who was doing the destroying. It starts in an abyss and out of the abyss comes a swarm of locusts. Not just locusts-which are bad enough-but a swarm of the ugliest, meanest, weirdest-looking locusts anyone could have ever seen. Their description is in verses 7-10.  But the big reveal is their leader: Abaddon (Hebrew) or Apollyon (Greek) . Translated: Satan. I guess the clue should have been where they came from: the abyss.  (Sounds like a scene from Lord of the Rings)

With the 6th trumpet comes more devastation. An angel (trumpet) releases an army that rains down devastation on the earth. But a change occurs in the narrative. Devastation and destruction rain down on the earth but this time people are included, not just the environment. Sinful people. Those who refused to repent (verses 20-21).

I’ll save chapter 10 for tomorrow.

What does all this mean? Got me. Hmmm. Perhaps the answer is two-fold. One, devastation is coming for sure. Two, maybe a clue is found in 10:4- “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken, and do not write them.” Perhaps we are not to know?

“Father, Your Word is sometimes too complex for me. But I trust it because I trust You and You are its author. I do not and can not know it all. Give me faith to trust You and Your Word.”

April 20

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Two things ran through my head this morning as I read the Scripture about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11).

One, around here we have a saying, “It’s all good.” Very seldom do you read or meet someone who either has nothing negative to say about another person or whom nothing negative is said about him/her. We tend to think there has to be a flaw somewhere. The church at Smyrna is one of those churches where there is nothing negative to speak of. Perfect church? There’s no such animal. But in matters which really count? Nothing. “It’s all good.”

The second item is a stab at the current idea that a follower of Jesus does not suffer.  There are certain religious teachers, i.e shysters, hucksters, false teachers who teach that a follower of Christ should not suffer. To suffer is to show a lack of faith. Hmmmm. I wonder what they might say about this passage in Rev. 2:8-11- “Do not fear what you are about to suffer…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” In fact, previously in verse 9 Jesus says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)…” Those both slam the door on the heretical health/wealth un-gospel (as I call it) of Copeland, Hinn, Osteen, et al. Tribulation (suffering) and poverty: both things they teach against.

As follower of Christ, we can and should expect suffering. The difference is when we are faithful unto death it will be well worth it. AND IT’S ALL GOOD!

“Father, Your Word says to expect suffering.* Give me the strength I need to hold up under the pressure and be faithful.”

April 14

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

One last thought from a quote in Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur:

“An easy, routine way of life which many associate with stability and security only gives man stagnation. Entrenched routine only spoils man and makes him simple and weak. On the other hand, progressive resistance in life always has the potential to give man progressive strength, and to make man progressively wiser…Resistance makes a man think new thoughts he never thought before. It makes a man seek answers he never sought before. It makes a man beg God for help that he never before realized he needed. Theses quests, quests of the heart and soul, eventually make a man deeper, wider, taller.” (Pages 249-250)

One of the fallacies of our thinking today among certain religious people is that we shouldn’t suffer, we shouldn’t have a hard time. Even the one deconstructing or questioning the faith states it: “Why do Christians suffer?” or some variation of that.

Tragically, we have bought into the lie that one who follows Jesus ought to have an easy life. It’s almost seen as a reward which is earned. I’d like to think I’m wrong in that assessment but I’m not.

Instead of seeing it as a punishment or a bad experience from a “mean” God, it seems wiser to consider them a way to grow. In the words of the quote: “To grow deeper, wider, fuller.” At this time of the year, when remembering the crucifixion of Jesus is right around the corner, let’s consider the suffering of Jesus as an example to us that we too should expect to follow in His steps. See I Peter 2:21-25.

“Father, may I see the difficulties in my life not as a bad thing but as a growth thing.”

March 30

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022

“It’s not fair.” If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times. If I’ve used it once…

That phrase came up in a texting conversation I had the other day. A very much loved brother and son is dying of cancer. He has fought valiantly. He has taken his treatments for his wife and 2 children and is still in a lot of pain. He will be called home soon and is ready to go. The words said to me where, “It’s not fair. He was an organic, health-conscious person.”

Consider me stumped.

Not because I didn’t know what to say or how this all fits into God’s dealings with man. I do on both counts. I do know what to say but I didn’t want to sound all cliche-driven. As for the latter, I can’t answer specifically for his case, but I do know sin has brought about destruction and death.

I think at the core of that statement  is the “I don’t understand.  Why him/her? When all the while this evil person is well or is healed” idea which runs through our head. In our heads, the injustice of it all just doesn’t gel, especially with the idea of a good God.  I think in the back of our minds is this feeling that “I’m a Christ-follower. I shouldn’t have to deal with this” mentality.

We have bought into the lie, be it ever so little, that we shouldn’t suffer. We rail against the health/wealth un-gospel, but all the while semi-expect it for us. The truth is that sickness and health, wealth and poverty, unhappiness and joyfulness, peace and misery are found equally in believers and unbelievers alike.

I could go on some more about this, but two things rise to the top of my thinking: 1) It (life)-good or bad-happens to all of us; and 2) no one knows God’s ultimate plan except for the fact we can’t see it all here. Someday we will. Someday justice will be served.

Take a moment and join me in what I read this morning: I Peter 5: 8-10. Perhaps that will help answer a question or two.

“Father, I don’t understand. Help me to rest and rely on Your plan and trust You to bring it all to pass.”

March 17

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

One word. That’s all it takes is one word and watch the reactions. Eyes glaze over. An eyebrow will be raised.  A hand will go the chin. Or you might even get a sigh, an exhale of air, and a judgmental look.

The word? Depression.

Disclaimer: I have never suffered from depression. I’ve have some down days, as have had all people from time to time. But I’ve never been one who suffers from it days, weeks, months, or even years. My first real exposure to it was in 1974 right after I had graduated from college. I visited a woman named Jane (not her real name) Doe in a psych ward. I could not understand how this woman who laughed a lot and called herself a Christian could be there.

How little I knew. Time. Maturity. Almost 50 years in ministry has shown me Jane is not alone. Some deeply spiritual people have suffered from depression. Some I know. Even pastors! (Charles Spurgeon being one of them). Some have clinical depression (it is in their DNA). Some have seasonal depression (they head south for the winter). Some have it from a past event or action. Some from guilt and shame. Some have it worse, like bi-polar. Medication is often prescribed for depression and should not be seen as a testimony to a lack of faith or a failure in their walk with Christ.

David suffered from depression upon occasion. Please stop right now and read Psalms 42 and 43 and tell me he didn’t. I soon learned depression was no laughing matter and certainly not something upon which to judge another person. I don’t always understand and may not always understand, but I must always have an understanding heart, a soft shoulder and a spirit of empathy.

“Father, teach me to be more caring. Help me not to judge a person’s closeness to you by his mental state. You are the One who knows all. Help me to be more loving.”