suffering; part 2

suffering; part 2

I don’t believe we can endure suffering without resting our hope and faith in eternity with God.

At one time or another, all of us have questioned how a good God who is supposed to love us would allow suffering.

Thing is, we won’t get a satisfying answer. That’s because as advanced as we have become in areas such as technology, science, and medicine, we don’t understand everything.

Yet, we still seem to want and even demand to understand this. Even people who don’t believe in God are really recognizing his existence through rejecting him.

That’s because the Creator of the universe has written eternity on our hearts. In other words, whether you accept it or not, you can’t change it. It’s there.

When we accept suffering as a part of life, we learn to co-exist with it. We don’t accept it to the point of self deprivation or thinking embracing pain makes us more holier or acceptable to God.

Through faith, we trust God with it all, and find comfort in all his promises of being near us when we are in pain.

A child runs to a mother or father or any trusted caretaker for help and comfort. A picture of our Heavenly Father being there for us, too.

We’ve had our own personal experiences of suffering which can make us bitter and miserable if we cannot see beyond our life on earth. And often, when we get angry with God, we are only responding humanly to injustice. We don’t like to see people suffering.

God understand this. He created us to respond with compassion. We know how to help in many ways whether helping a neighbor who is suffering (from illness to the inability to shovel snow) or volunteering/contributing monetarily to a charity.

Yet, we are limited. In our own lives and the lives of others.

Consider this scripture found in the Bible:

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?

Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

Thankfully, most of us are not always thinking about this (I respectfully realize some suffer with fear). This is God’s design, too. We live life each day, our routines, and doing the next thing.

Even people who do not live as freely in some countries will tell you they have happiness. It may not look like yours or mine.

Throughout the centuries, people have looked ahead. I think suffering makes us do this. Like the adage says, “things will look better in the morning”, we are designed to hope in tomorrow. This is from God, too: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I think one of the most inspiring times of suffering in American history is listening to the richness of the spiritual songs sung by plantation slaves of the Old South. Their suffering was immeasurable. Yet, I have read about an immeasurable strength in the midst of their pain.

Then, other times in American history of mothers and babies dying during childbirth, loved ones dying with illnesses and diseases we now have medicine for, young men as young as 16 going off to war and never experiencing a future.

Then, the Holocaust. I recently finished a book based on a true story, The Girl from the Channel Islands, about a Jewish girl trapped on the island of Jersey occupied by the Germans during WWII.

Consider this passage:

No fat reserves, she’d recenlty discovered, meant that sitting for long periods, even with a cushion, was a painful experience. She had spent the afternoon wandering aimlessly from room to empty room, searching for the balance between warming up and burning calories, but last night even climbing the stairs to the attic, had left her panting and dizzy, Her weakness frightened her …

… for seven days, they had between them two ounces of margarine, seven ounces of flour, three ounces of sugar, four ounces of meat … for a few moments they rejoiced as they devoured an acceptable lunch – perhaps a slice of tongue to go with a crust of tasteless Occupation bread.

Lastly, Hebrews 11, found in the Bible, records the heroes of faith. It begins with this:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

People of faith who had amazing victories:

who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

Yet, at the end of the chapter:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Not so victorious, were they? At least not our definition of victorious.

But God commends all of these people:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

I have determined, only this satisifes the questions we have about suffering. We might call our perseverance the human spirit, but even that comes from God.

We don’t have all of the story now. We don’t have a complete explanation now.

But through faith, through trust, we believe.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,

neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

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no feeling is final.

no feeling is final.

“Let everything happen to you

Beauty and terror

Just keep going

No feeling is final”

-Rilke

No feeling is final.

Our lives are filled with beauty and terror, joy and sorrow.

Some of us have more joy. Some of us have more sorrow.

Yet, those feelings are not final.

We can be sure that when we breathe our last breath, there is more.

Christianity gives us the promise of eternity with God. God created eternity. God put it in our hearts.

He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

We have emotions. Those feelings can overtake us and hide the truth from us. When you are ready, when you are able, step away from feelings, even for just a moment, and the truth will be illuminated.

Truth is what holds us up. It is the foundation of all things.

Jesus had emotions. He felt what we feel.

Joy at pleasing his Father.

Exhaustion through ministering to people.

Anger at the prideful, religious leaders and the money changers and merchants selling livestock and doves in the temple.

Peace through accepting God’s will.

Love for the rich, young ruler, his disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and the whole world.

Sorrow, grief, and agony of the impending suffering he would experience on the cross.

Yet, the Bible says He endured the cross because of the joy waiting for Him: the promise of what is true, the promise of eternity, and the promise of making a way for eternity to be ours, too.

Truth says, the last feeling is this: everlasting joy. The joy Jesus felt when he accepted beauty and terror.

The joy Jesus felt because He knew – no feeling here on earth is final.

path

 

measurements.

measurements.

Everyday we use measurements.

We rely on the accuracy of measurements.

We trust measurements.

Buildings, medicine, travel, food, time .. life requires a standard of measurement.

The Bible is a standard of measurement, too.

It is accurate. It is to be trusted.

The scripture is not a measurement to hurt us. It is for our good.

We may not understand the Bible 100%, but we understand enough.

When we are suffering, it provides the standard of measurement to help us.

All too often, we turn to other things.

I think God understands this.

So he waits.

We were made to reach out to Him. He wrote His words on our hearts.

We choose the measurement. Ours or God’s.

God uses the natural, physical world to explain the spiritual. They are parallel. Jesus spoke in parables to explain the spiritual.

Give us this day our daily bread. 

Bread that mysteriously anchors us, comforts us, guides us, frees us, strengthens us …

Bread that changes how we think, how we feel, how we act …

Are you grieving?

Do you know what God says about eternity? How he will wipe away every tear? And there will be no more sorrow or death?

This is a measurement for grief.

Without it, we will feel stuck in a place not meant for us. Unsettled. Asking the same questions over and over.

Until we apply the correct measurement.

measure

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it’s not fair.

it’s not fair.

Recently, I substituted a class of 5th graders at a local public school. The teacher asked me to talk about the character trait “fairness” as part of the Positivity Project.

I asked if anyone had a personal story they would like to share about a time they thought they were being treated unfairly.

Almost every hand went up.

Every one of us would raise our hand, too.

Is there any one thing that is more hurtful? Genuinely being treated unfairly?

There are no pat answers for unfairness. But there are many scriptures offering real help to manage our feelings and understanding.

Unfortunately, it requires waiting in a very activity-driven world.

This doesn’t mean you should be used. There is a place for speaking up and addressing it.

But often, we find ourselves without a resolution. How do we live without becoming cynical, bitter, or miserable?

Unfairness in not relative. God cares about it. The arrogant or less compassionate often interpret for the rest of us but God has the final say.

He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. Psalm 9:8

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you. 2 Thessalonians 1:6

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

We think God doesn’t notice when he didn’t stop it or doesn’t fix it.

God doesn’t think the way we do. But he doesn’t leave us without a solution.

Life on earth will end.

Eternity is forever.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

road landscape nature forest
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anticipation.

anticipation.

God created us to look ahead, to anticipate, and to hope.

We make plans and look forward to an event, a completion of a project, a vacation, retirement – even the end of the day when we can rest.

It takes more effort to take a step back and think about life beyond death, but it is attainable.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

God put it in our heart to think about eternity. Even though we cannot possibly grasp all that God has done since the beginning of time – or the beginning of our lives for that matter – doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

When we are hurting and life is difficult and confusing, God wants us to remember eternity.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Perhaps, never before has life been so full of “seen” things that distract us. Our lives are full and overflowing with temporary comfort and satisfaction.

When something goes wrong, those things are reduced and God gets our full attention.

Whether your body is hurting physically, emotionally, or mentally, it is possible to be renewed within (peace, hope, joy). How? Seeing beyond and anticipating eternity where God promises us he will make it right.

Remember, countless numbers of people throughout the centuries who have endured. You can, too.

Earth is our temporary home. Live it, enjoy it.

But always live with a view of eternity and the culmination of perfection yet to come!

 Sunset with mountains and clouds

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eternity.

eternity.

He has placed eternity in the human heart … no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

-the Bible

God, magnificently distant and yet so close, placed the knowledge of eternity in the hearts of mankind.

What are you facing today? Are you troubled? Afraid? Sad?

God gives us comfort, strength, and peace.

But eternity with him is really where our thoughts should be. It was important for him to place it into our hearts because it causes us to look up and away from here and now. It is the expectation of things to come. Even if we don’t understand it, we feel the power of this promise.

No one can fathom the works of God. He tells us to set our hearts on things above, not here on earth. We will always know happiness here but we will also know sorrow.

In eternity, God will wipe away every tear. There will be no more sorrow or death.

Let the eternity that is written on your heart grow and feel the fullness of the hope God has placed in each one of us!

14299487794_40fca51434_c

 

we live in the shadows.

we live in the shadows.

Everything difficult indicates something more than our theory of life yet embraces.

-George MadDonald

For a very long time, I’ve tried to understand suffering.

I know I am not alone. God is questioned all the time.

The problem is, we cannot reconcile “God is good” or “God loves us” with the pain and suffering of humanity. So we either reject God entirely or we maintain a belief in him but steer clear of getting too close.

In trying to reconcile a good God and human suffering, I finally came to this conclusion: I believe God is who he says he is and even though there are some things I do not understand, there is a lot I do understand. Since I believe in God, then it will suffice that he knows more than I do.

That doesn’t mean we don’t feel a whole gamut of emotions when we are suffering.

It means we can stop the endless questioning, leaving us unsettled.

If I know one thing about God, it is that he doesn’t want us to feel unsettled. He is with us when we are suffering, giving us comfort and peace in ways we may not be readily aware of.

How often have you really thought about God, the creator of the universe and all things within, having a vantage point far surpassing our way of thinking?

It’s kind of like thinking about all of us on earth, being suspended in darkness. I don’t think we have words in our human language to describe the magnificent and staggering view God has over all creation, big and small.

We don’t have the language for understanding the why of suffering, either. We just know how it feels.

God sees the beginning and he sees the end.

We do not.

We know that for every action there is a positive and equal reaction.

One day, there will be a redemption of all things. This means a glorious and magnificent judgement on all the pain and suffering throughout mankind. God will make things new and right.

But for now, we live in the shadow of what we do not clearly see; what we do not understand.

Will you be okay with that?

shad

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where were the angels?

where were the angels?

Many of us believe in angels.

More commonly, angels intervening in a situation and saving someone from danger or death.

Car accidents, a house fire, or a bullet that just missed the heart, to name a few.

In the recent church shooting which murdered 27 people on a Sunday morning, at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the question may arise, where were the angels?

The truth is, angels are not always protecting or saving people from death, are they? Which in turn, we equate God is not always protecting or saving people from death.

Otherwise, everyone, certainly the devoted Christian, would be protected.

At least that’s how our mind might work.

I have always felt badly for those left behind after a tragedy because the consensus of angels getting the credit for a miracle (sent by God, of course). It could make those who lost their loved one think they weren’t good enough, they didn’t pray enough, they didn’t have enough faith, or that God does not care about them or love them.

Those can be very painful thoughts. Thoughts that some carry throughout their lifetime.

Thoughts that are not true.

When I lost my oldest son at 24 years old, I wondered, where were the angels? 

Even though there will always be a part of my heart that feels like it is not beating, I had to come to terms with my faith or I would have wanted to die, too. A mother wants to know her kids are safe and where they are. When your child dies, no matter how old he or she is, you cannot fix it.  I was suspended in a place unknown and unfamiliar.

I had to figure some things out. If I had stayed focused with the lack of angelic protection for my son, I would have been miserable all these years. Faith is believing what you cannot tangibly see and I had to either believe God’s promises were true or not in order to go on.

Today more than ever, people “believe God” for healing and miracles. Sermons are preached of doing greater works than Jesus and  faith that moves mountains. People even pray for God to dispatch angels.

How did suffering people throughout the centuries view this message? What did they do when this was not so prevalent as it is today? People who did not have all the bells and whistles, entitlements, access to one-click purchases, retirement funds, and more?

I think they embraced what the bible says, they “longed for a better place, that is, a heavenly one”.

On a good day, do we long for that better place?

How about on a bad day?

I believe in prayer. I think we should pray for healing and miracles and everything else that is good. I don’t believe we should sit back and settle.

If we have attributed angelic intervention to our circumstances (ultimately God’s intervention), we have to remember others do not have this same experience.

What they do have is something else I believe is valid and important to understand. It is rarely not shared with the testimonies of answered prayer, especially those with the acknowledgment of angelic activity. I mean, who wants to say what is not so wonderful to hear? Give me the answered prayer. The miracle.

The angels.

Early on after Christopher’s death, I felt God in a way I had never felt before. Yes, I did stop eating on purpose. Yes, I did end up having anxiety attacks and needed medication.

But, God was showing me so much that brought comfort in a way that I think only those who have experienced immense suffering and grief understand.

Angels don’t just rescue us from physical danger.

They are sent by God as ministering spirits, just as God sent one to strengthen Jesus as he was suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion.

Had I not walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I would not have known what it was like to not fear. I would not have experienced the comfort of God’s rod and staff. I would not have gotten stronger without God leading me to green pastures and still waters and eventually, seeing my soul restored.

People who have been to this valley have seen God in a way others have not. In the bible, Job suffered unimaginably in this valley, and at the end he said, I’ve heard of You [God] but now my eyes have seen you. 

It is true, today, even the most devoted Christian can be caught up with here and now. God made us to live with eternity always within our view. When we don’t, we are missing something vital to the Christian life. Something that keeps us steady, anchored, and accepting of things gone wrong.

Living with an eternal view keeps things in perspective.

And perspective is exactly what we need when we ask, where were the angels?

Church Shooting Texas

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perspective.

perspective.

 

Today, while peeling an orange, I thought about people who lived centuries ago, who never tasted an orange.

Or a banana.

Or ice cream.

Those who struggled to breathe on their death beds without the remedy of penicillin.

Those who went to war without a cell phone to call home.

Those who died in childbirth and premature babies who did not live without access to what we have today.

And more.

This doesn’t make the pain better. But it does give perspective.

God spoke about an eternal perspective and living daily with a view of eternity in sight.

That’s because God knows we need to look ahead in order to survive the pain.

Way ahead of here and now.

Without pausing to reflect about people who lived without the small and big things available to us, we get self absorbed for too long.

It’s up to us to reflect and remember so we don’t become consumed with hopelessness.

There is a last chapter and it’s not written yet.

Meanwhile, God comforts us until that day in eternity.

 
orange

wait for the Lord.

wait for the Lord.

I personally have found it challenging to wait on the Lord because of the fast paced world we live in today.

Nevertheless, the Bible says:

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

I have navigated through life always embracing the scripture, no matter how I felt, no matter what things looked like.

That’s not to say I haven’t run the gamut of emotions when faced with frustration, disappointment, and tragedy.

But at the end of the day, we put our trust in something.

Putting your trust in God and what he says makes us wait. Waiting is difficult for most of us.

Waiting for what?

Waiting for God to lead us in a way we weren’t anticipating.

Some people say , “God opens doors”. We might not like that because WE want to be the one to open (or close) doors.

That’s not to say we can’t because God does give us that ability to do so.

It’s just that many times we find ourselves stuck in a place and not moving. We don’t like that. If we don’t trust God and wait (only because he tells us to), we will either forge ahead or go backwards. Either way, we can make it worse.

And it’s amazing to me how he is always with us even when we take matters into our own hands. He places sure footing before our steps, even when we’re going in the wrong direction.

Make yourself wait.

When you least expect it, a door will open and bring you into a new place. This has happened to me and it really is wonderful because you know God did it.

But there is another waiting.

Waiting for eternity.

Because we’re all going to die someday. No matter what your religion, you can’t dispute that fact.

I know God promise eternal life with him when we believe. Not the kind of click your heels 3x fairy tale stuff believing.

This kind:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

And this:

Yet to all who did receive him[Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. – 1 John 3:23

If you are hurting right now, God promises this:

He [God]will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

You don’t understand now.

But someday you will.

For now, wait for the Lord.

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