Tag Archive | suffering

let the rest go.

When facing tragedies as a Christian, I have discovered it is really important to embrace the core beliefs of the scripture and let “the rest” go.

The core beliefs are the scriptures that have been understood for centuries. They have been the buoyancy which has carried the nearly drowning soul since the beginning of time. And with some simple research, we can find the men and women who have rested in God’s provision to sustain them through the suffering of loss, failure, and heartache.

“The rest” can mean something different to a lot of people because there are many views within Christianity – interpretations of scripture, emphasis on certain topics, etc.

Despite the differences, Jesus Christ and him crucified is not in dispute and that is a good thing. And since losing Christopher, I have found myself time and time again, returning to the Apostle Paul’s words:

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

That’s because “the rest” was and has been meaningless, noisy, and distracting to my shocked and confused mind.

If you don’t really know what I mean, you are likely to know if you find yourself standing at the threshold of some real suffering. Jesus is the only one who can calm the storm. There was nothing in me to “speak to the wind and the waves”.

Yes, me, of little faith.

Tragedies have a way of reducing us to running on low power and we only need some basics to keep functioning.

One way of thinking in Christian circles is the emphasis on faith and/or positive thinking/speaking.  Both fit nicely in the American culture of don’t give up, you’ve got this, keep on keeping on – all positive, good advice.

Combine this with the scripture and you might begin to think you’re invincible from tragedies. Maybe this is why so many of us go on so long with questions, causing us further pain.

Maybe if you’re reading this, the mountain moved for you.

But what about the mountain that did not move for someone else?

I remember praying Psalm 91 for years, paying particular attention to the part that says, … no evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your dwelling.

I really believed my diligent, committed, watchman-on-the-wall type prayers put protection around us and our property. After all, the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous accomplishes much, right?

In time, I realized (since I know God is the one who shows us) the protection around us was how God protected us through the tragedy of losing a son and a brother.

This isn’t a cop-out. I am fully aware of how we can justify anything to make us feel better. But if you are tempted to think you didn’t have enough faith, you didn’t pray enough, you must have sinned, well, those are Job’s comforters’ words (and we all know how that went).

God showed me a lot during those days and he still does. Because He is all I had.

He is all you have, too.

We cannot keep analyzing what we have believed all our lives, even if it’s through what we learned through a church sermon, class, or conference.

We have to dig deeper when we’re alone in our grief. Because well meaning people think they understand or know the answer.  They don’t.

Only God does.

And the digging deeper is not weeks or months of researching. It’s actually pretty simple:

No matter how you feel, settle it now that all things are in God’s hands and you will trust Him no matter what. Then watch what happens.

If you resist, you block his help. Not because He doesn’t want to help because He is with us always. But He is watching and waiting.

Ever try and help a toddler who doesn’t want your help? Kinda like that.

All throughout history and even now, humankind suffers. It’s a fact of life that all Christians have to come to terms with or you will be bitter the rest of your life. Bitter, because you will always be searching for the answer to fit your paradigm; the way you think or the way you’ve been taught.

But the Bible tells us God’s ways are not our ways and he does not think the way we do.

Sometimes, I think our suffering does not find the relief God offers because we are trying to get out of it. That’s normal. Who likes pain? No one.

Particularly in America where we have so much when you think about it. We’ve grown accustomed to getting what we want or getting our way. We expect it. We even demand it.

This doesn’t mean we should embrace suffering as if it makes us more worthy or holy. There is more to the story of our lives and there is a good ending to be played out in eternity. God gives us this hope. Every Christian knows this.

It is not hope the way we think about it – “I hope this or that happens”.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines hope like this:

:  to cherish a desire with anticipation :  to want something to happen or be true hopefor a promotion; hoping for the best; hope so.

Here is their archaic definition:

: TRUST

Interesting how the passage of time changes meaning. Has the scripture’s meaning changed, too? Causing too many to question for too long?

We hope because we trust. We trust God is who he says he is and he will do what he says he will do.

Anything less is temporary and disappoints.

Isn’t it time to set aside the questions that go around and around in your thoughts? This is not what God wants for you. He wants you to know there is rest for your tired soul.

finger-womans-gingham

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Photo credit: http://foter.com/re/ce1695″>Foter.com

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preserve my life.

Christians are familiar with this scripture:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)

I’m not sure if they are with the next part:

I have suffered much; preserve my life, LORD, according to your word. (Psalm 119: 107)

Verse 105 is easy. It is the declaration of every Christian who believes in the scripture to be the inerrant word of God. It is used as the point of reference for the application of morality. It is used when a Christian is navigating through difficult situations.

But then there is the next part: I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord.

There used to be (and still is in some church cultures) an emphasis on faith, to the point of almost denying there is such a thing as suffering for the Christian. It kept one buoyant…above the fray…optimistic, positive, and fighting with the sword of the spirit (the scripture).

This is not a bad thing. It’s only bad when you are caught off guard.

Sometimes, we think suffering happens to other people.

There were times when Christians would speak of God’s goodness of an answered prayer while I was sitting there, suffering, because my prayer was not answered.

Then I learned to speak of God’s goodness when I was suffering. When I did, I found myself feeling stronger, finding peace, and even joy. When we accept, we are trusting God.

Joy and sorrow were together at the cross.

How is it we acknowledge there is suffering in the world, but then are surprised when it comes to us?

We are offended with God. We are angry. We are hurt. We are rejected because God didn’t hear our prayer. He didn’t see how hard we worked. How faithful we were. How much we did what God asked because we loved him with all our heart, soul, and strength.

Two things:

  • As smart as we are, as capable as we are, as productive and innovative as humanity is, we do not understand everything. Think about the things science and medicine cannot explain. So how can we possibly think there is an explanation for our personal pain and suffering?
  • Life is eternal. There will be a day when we will understand. All things are hidden with God. There is comfort when you believe that. And it’s not hard to believe it. Because when you have truly hit rock bottom and there is no place to look but up, God is there.

God preserves us during times of suffering. He does it even when we do not know it.

But when you know it, it is all the more wonderful.

sidewalk flower

 

the truth shall set you free.

Since losing Christopher, there have been small markers along the way which have helped me to live with such deep sorrow and loss.

If you’re a mother, you know what I mean. A piece of my heart is missing. I know it. I feel it.

I know God sees it, too.

Eleven years later, he still whispers truths to me that open my eyes to greater understanding.

The truth shall set you free.

It doesn’t put the missing piece back in my heart, but it helps my mind.

There are things that do not occur to us. We just don’t know everything.

Here is an excerpt from a book I am reading, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. It was a truth God showed me some years ago and reading it only solidified it in my mind.

(I did not begin reading all kinds of books on grieving and suffering after Chris’ death. I took the position of letting God “lead” me. Reading would have been a kind of mission for me and it would have only complicated my already overwhelmed mind.)

” … … the meaning of life in our Western society is individual freedom. There is no higher good than the right and freedom to decide for yourself what you think is good. But if the meaning of life is individual freedom and happiness, then suffering is of no possible “use”. In this worldview, the only thing to do with suffering is to avoid it at all costs, or, if it unavoidable, manage and minimize the emotions of pain and discomfort as much as possible.” 

Isn’t it true? We try to manage or minimize the emotions of pain and discomfort as much as possible. Mostly because of other people who expect us to be who we were.

Heck, even we want to be who we were until we figure out we can’t do it.

And if we aren’t doing it to ourselves, others are doing it for us. Even the distance so many feel from friends and family is a form of managing or minimizing the discomfort.

Why?

In the Western world especially, but not exclusively, (because of the great strides of progress and readily available solutions throughout all the world), we fail miserably at understanding grief.

Because it takes time.

There are no quick fixes.

And that good ol’ American spirit just doesn’t jive with suffering.

God wired us to handle suffering.

And he promised to walk through it with us.

Let truth set you free.

 

sad

 

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derailed.

derail: 1. To run or cause to run off the rails. 2. To come or bring to a sudden halt

My Christian faith taught me to believe.

It taught me God heard my prayers.

It taught me God would give me the desires of my heart.

It taught me influence and dominion in every area of my life.

It taught me God is good, he wants to bless me, has plans for me, to give me a future and a hope. We can back track and say it didn’t mean an absence of trials, but you and I both know it meant insulation from trouble and rising above it.

It didn’t teach me I would suffer. No, Jesus did that on the cross.

I learned the hard way.

I know there are faiths which embrace suffering. That somehow it made you more acceptable to God when you suffered.

My faith did not teach me that but it resisted suffering for that very reason.

You are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ!

You can be a conqueror while you are suffering.

If we’re close to God in our hearts (not our activities), we’ll be okay. Because God and you worked together, building faith and trust in him.

Even when it hurts.

Have you been derailed? I almost was. But I had spent years being committed to my faith and when suffering came, I was already anchored.

I hung on for dear life. I remembered what the disciples had said to Jesus when he asked, “Will you leave me, too?”

 Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Yes, my faith taught me there is no where else to go. I can’t explain it. I can’t understand it.

I only know when I sincerely turned to God long ago, it allowed him access to me. He mysteriously deposited inside of me something that could never be taken from me. When suffering came, it sustained me, even though my soul was being battered.

Let the questions come. Let the anger find its place. Feel the pain.

But eventually, it will be time to settle it once and for all. And only God can help you settle it.

Otherwise, you will be derailed. The epitome of suffering. Complete and utter devastation. Crash and burn. Life coming to a complete halt.

Don’t derail.

It’s worse than the suffering.

train

Photo credit: Timothy Neesam (GumshoePhotos) via Foter.com/ CC BY-NC-ND

 

 

mothers.

letter MNo one knows the burden of a mother’s heart … except another mother.

You smile when you’re heart is heavy. Why? Because you don’t want your child – whether young or old – to know you’re hurting. We just can’t seem to venture beyond protection mode. It’s just the way it is.

I can’t comprehend (really, I can’t) how a mother can live her life without God being her strength. Because just as the joys run deep, so do the sorrows. And with some things, no one can hold her up but God.

Maybe your child has a chronic or terminal illness. Maybe your teenager is involved with drugs and/or drinking. Maybe your adult child is having marital problems or going through a painful divorce. Maybe your child died.

Photo credit: Lars Plougmann / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: Lars Plougmann / Foter / CC BY

There is suffering in the world.  Yet, many carry sorrow with strength and dignity.

Are you a mother who is hurting? Look in God’s direction. He has helped me. He will not turn away from you.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble.

-The Bible

suffering.

” When people remember the past, they don’t only talk about happiness. It is often the ordeals that seem most significant. People shoot for      happiness but feel formed through suffering.”

Please take the time to read this New York Times article, What Suffering Does by David Brooks.

It will be well worth your time.

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suffering.

Suffering is part of life. We don’t understand why. It just is.

But beyond the here and now, there is more.

under-the-milky-way_l

Sometimes, we become very focused on our suffering and dwell on it.  It helps to look up and remember humanity has suffered since the beginning of time.

There has to be more than what we see.

There has to be more than we understand.

Maybe not having the answers is the answer.

~~~

Photo credit:  jurvetson / Foter / CC BY