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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Blaming Emotions

I'd like to address this issue of maligning emotions - as if they are inherently bad.  "But you were emotional when you responded!"  Sounds like an accusation or something.  I wish we could get over this concept that emotions are wrong.  That we must float through life robotic-like - oh, no, not really - with plastic smiles plastered across our from-here-on-out robotic affect.

I wrote a bit about this in a previous post (Two lies that burn holes in relationships), and received some feedback from an insightful relative.  I asked her permission to post her thoughts here as I thought they warranted a broader audience.  She says it better, and with more credibility than I could!




Thank you so much for your helpful insights, and good observations about those two lie-beliefs regarding emotions! I've been fascinated with the topic of emotions and feelings for a LONG time. Here are just a few brief comments, on a few random observations that seem true to me, about emotions. I would love to hear your honest feed back about them. I didn't know if you'd want them posted as a comment to your post, so, here they are. People often react against emotions, feelings, or tears. Perhaps that is because our own and another person's emotions are not at all easy to figure out. Emotions seem to be very connected to our hearts. We often find it very difficult to figure out, then explain clearly or accurately what we are feeling and why. We are often oblivious to the many things that are going on in our hearts, and we often do not know the REAL reasons why we are feeling what we are feeling emotional about... It gets confusing, to say the least. I've often heard people say things like, "Don't believe your feelings, or your emotions." And, yet it doesn't seem to be our emotions that we are usually believing. Emotions are just emotions, not beliefs. It is the lie-belief that is causing the emotion, that I should not believe... Emotions are a gift from God. Designed by Him, for His very good purposes. One benefit they provide is, our emotions alert us to the fact that there is some kind of problem that needs our attention, our help. E.g. Sometimes someone IS being sinned against, and they need to ask the person to stop sinning against them. If the person won't listen/repent, Jesus instructed us to, take 1 or 2 other people with us, etc. Yes, God's Word does speak of overlooking a matter, also. Rather than just try to ignore the emotions, or stuff them, it seems good to let your emotions, or the other person's emotions, alert you to take that pain to our Father in Heaven, asking Him for His perspective on it. Asking Him for wisdom to know what the REAL cause is, and what to do about that. If the pain SEEMS to come from another person's sinful, self-absorbed, unkind behavior, talk to God about it. He wants and welcomes us to take EVERYTHING to Him with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving... He welcomes us to "pour out your heart before Him." We can ask Him for wisdom and discernment to know, whether this is something He just wants me to learn from, and what He wants me to learn. Or, whether He wants me to love them enough to help them recognize and turn from that sinful, self-absorbed behavior. Considering, for example, the fact that they may well hurt, offend, damage other people by sinning against them in that same way, also... Sometimes a person's emotions reveal that they are believing a lie. We, or they need to be set free, by discovering the truth that will set us/them free. It seems like a sincere love for them, would want to choose to help them, discover just what that lie is, and helping them find the truth that will set them free. Or, genuine love for them, would want to help them discover Jesus' ways of responding to being sinned against... Which includes, but is not limited to forgiving the person whose sinful, self-absorbed ways, have caused me much pain. The pain that comes with being sinned against, as well as the pain that comes with not experiencing anyone who cares about that pain, can become fertile ground for many a very destructive lie-belief to get planted deeply in people's hearts... It's fascinating and sobering to think about the FACT that we do NOT experience the other person's pain, and they do not experience ours. We only have their emotions, or facial expressions, that give us clues to the fact that they ARE feeling something... Many of the ways that we respond, or react to other people's emotions, effectively program them to hide their hearts from us, for fear of us treating them that way again... this hiding of our hearts, ruins relationships, and can even cause people to believe that not even God cares about how they are feeling. A very dangerous lie-belief, that causes people to make very destructive decisions, as they walk away from God, and from the people who "prove" that they don't care, by the way they treated that person. Depending on how we respond, or react, we often cause people to clam-up, hide their hearts from us, even lock up their hearts, believing the lie, that no one will ever care about the hurt that I am feeling! Responding wrongly to a person's emotions, often prevents us from being able to effectively helping them. Caring about another person's emotions, respecting their emotions, and the fact that something has caused them pain, is something that many people long to experience, but many never have...

- Elaine Ferguson

Anger in Parenting...strikes again

So last night there was this episode:

We don't normally have drinks other than water.  But I decided to have a special juice mix and went to find a carton of peach nectar I had stashed in the fridge downstairs.  It had been there a month or so, unopened - chilling for the right moment.  And now it had come.  I open it.  *Gasp* It had been opened!  I smelled it.  Fermented.  Yuck.

Scene 2:  I call a particular child who is known to take liberties.  Did you open it?  Yes.  How long ago?  A while ago.  Do you know it is now ruined?  Yes.  What are the rules about this sort of thing?  Why didn't you ask me first?  Why didn't you tell me?

I expressed my honest frustration and exasperation at that moment.  I didn't, in fact, YELL.  I told him how disappointed I was that now it is wasted all on account of his failure to obey the rules.  I went on for a few minutes.  He slumped and mumbled a weak (and lame) 'sorry.'

Scene 3:  Supper is on and he doesn't eat.  He sulks.  He endures supper.  All evening he is glum.

Scene 4:  I come under attack from the other parental unit for my 'anger'.  How it is inappropriate.  How he has now spiralled downward the whole evening.  How all the books say anger is bad in parenting.  How we had sometime ago met with another couple to hash this out - this disagreement of ours - that anger is either appropriate at times or never appropriate in parenting.  And how, in his mind, I had 'agreed' that anger is wrong in parenting.  (I don't remember it being that nicely finalized!)

At this point, my anger - probably very sinful and wrong at this point - was deeply kindled.  The evening was over.  I was fuming.

So I toss it out to the broader public for your honest input.

We have an ongoing disagreement: I believe anger in justified, though not loss of self-control, at times in parenting.  That when children continue to willfully disobey, they should know that there are harmful repercussions from such actions.

The other parental unit believes that anger is not okay.  That it is hurtful.  I agree about the hurtful part.  I'm just not convinced on the 'harmful' part.  A lot of things hurt that are good for us.

Thanks for letting me get this bee partly out of my bonnet.  It's a hornet's nest in there.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Situational Contentment and CCD

I hear the term 'situational ethics' thrown around with scoffing tones.  And I'm sure there's good reason for this.  But I'd like to highlight something that is far more common, more subtle and more agreeable to our collective palates.  Situational Contentment.  That contentment, shalom, peaceful calm, serenity, blissful reverie that finds it's joy in the situation at hand.  I don't want to knock it - no, we can rightly enjoy the stuff of life - money, houses, land, nice weather, vacations, health, well-being, relational harmony - because they simply ARE enjoyable.  The problem comes when we can only be content if these things are all fine and dandy.  When we can define each area of our lives with glowing, gushing, delightful phrases that make people wonder if we live the realm of normal.

Today I read Psalm 16.  Let's go through it together, shall we?  (It's the cure for the common contentment disorder.  Otherwise known as CCD, it is known to strike the most robustly healthy of individuals who struggle to source their joy on the True Joy Giver).  I, too, struggle with CCD.

16:1 Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.

Stop right there.  It says 'In You.'  Notice what it doesn't say: In my bank account.  In my friends.  In my status.  In my reputation.  In my family.  In my health.  In my own strength.  No - we take refuge in GOD.  Not in the stuff of life.  Money troubles can beset us.  Friends can let us down.  Family can be a pain in the neck.  Health can suffer a blow through no fault of our own.  My own strength and ability to control things in life can be hindered.  None of these things can be the source of our security, refuge or hope.  Only God can do that.

16:2 I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You."

What is a 'Lord'?  It is one who rules, who is sovereign, who has the right to authority.  If I say to God, 'You are my Lord,' I am declaring that I willingly submit to His rule.  That's a hard prayer to pray.  I dare you to.
As for that second line: 'no good apart from You.'  Can you say that and mean it?  Here David is saying basically that the stuff of his life is nothing.  Apart from God everything else is just stuff.  I take no value in my ministry, accolades, giftedness, knowledge, abilities, wisdom.  These are all temporary.  God is not.  Let's be sure to value Him more than all else.

16:3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones , in whom is all my delight.

Since God is our everything we will naturally gravitate towards those who share the same sentiment about God - those who value Him above all else!

16:4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
16:5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.

I will trust God to give what He deems that I need.  Note that I said 'what HE DEEMS I NEED.'  Sometimes our list of what we think we need is not on God's list for us.  Part of trusting Him means we look to Him to tell us what we need rather than us just going to Him and saying, "By the way, I NEED  fully outfitted brand new ___________"  (car, cellphone, house, wardrobe, etc).  Submitting to Him as Lord means we also submit to HIS ideas of what we truly need.  That said, in His grace He often even gives us above and beyond our needs and provides our wants.  Such grace!

16:6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

The language of 'portion' 'lot' and 'inheritance' speaks to the financial realm (maybe indirectly).  These indicate he is thinking of physical provisions.  The amazing thing is that the psalmist has already told us what his inheritance is: God.  God is my inheritance.  He is beautiful.  God tells Abraham, "I am your very great reward."  Would you rather have Jesus than silver or gold?  Would you rather have Him than have riches untold?
You have a beautiful inheritance.  Far greater than wealth, houses or land.





16:7 I bless the Lord Who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Sometimes I'm prone to think others are my source of counsel - and Proverbs does commend this.  However, there is a place for simply receiving counsel from the Lord and even the ponderings of our Spirit-filled hearts.  When God lives within us by His Spirit, even the thoughts of our hearts can counsel us (unless our thoughts direct us to something against what Scripture teaches).

16:8  I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

What is 'shaken'?  In my mind it relates to anxiety, fear, worry, stress.  All of these are things that have tripped me up - often.  When I find CCD (Common Contentment Disorder) striking I start to WAF.  WAFfing is my acronym for Worry Anxiety and Fear.  Often CCD and WAFfing go together.  Why am I shaken?  Probably because I haven't set the Lord always before me.  How could I WAF when I have my eyes set on the King of Kings?  How could I shudder with anxiety when HE owns the cattle on a thousand hills?  Are you shaken these days?  Set the Lord (the sovereign, rightful ruler of your life) always before You - recognize He is near (at your right hand even!) and you will not be shaken!  This is not a formula.  It is a habit of the heart.

16:9  Therefore, my heart is GLAD! and my whole being REJOICES! my flesh also dwells SECURE!

Why does he reference 'flesh'?  Go back to material provisions!  He isn't saying this is just some great spiritual exercise - this thing of putting God before us!  He is saying there are actual physical benefits to this choosing-God-as-my-portion.  When he says 'whole being' do you think he means 'just my inner spirit.'??  Noooo...  Every part of him rejoices because He is filled to overflowing with joy because God is all he needs.  Do you sense your need of God that much?  When we sense our need for Him, and realize He has met this need, and goes on meeting it, we have joy in our whole being.
This is the antidote to anxiety.

16:10  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

The psalmist is confident in God's faithful sustaining presence even through the end of his life - all the way to the grave and beyond.  What hope!  What assurance!

16:11  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy;
               At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Knowing how to live when our situation is glum, difficult, mediocre, sad, frustrating, or hopeless seems to be a challenge.  Who teaches us the path of life?  Who gives us fullness of joy?  The Psalmist is confident in God shepherding him through life.  God is the source of joy.  God's presence is the fountain of life.



Take a look at Psalm 16 and tell me if it isn't the cure for CCD and WAF.

I dare you to try.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

MH370

The news story of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane has had our family transfixed.  We have no personal knowledge of anyone on that plane.  Perhaps it is the magnitude of the grief and tragedy that these families have faced over the past 18 days.  Perhaps it is because both Sam and I have extended family that frequently travel similar routes - my parents even more often.  But after thinking about it and watching the daily headlines and wondering what good can come of this, and entering - albeit from a huge distance - into empathetic grief along with the families affected, I came up with what I feel is the worst aspect of this situation.

CHINA's ONE-CHILD POLICY.

Wait, what does that have to do with this?

Everything.  A number of families have been affected and are facing seasons of grieving and piecing their lives back together.  But the families of Chinese citizens, whose only child was lost in this disaster - these face more than mere grief.  They face anger, betrayal, injustice.  They face the reality of their only child being lost, and the injustice of having been denied more children by the government that holds their wombs and potential legacies hostage.  They face the grief and suffering that adds insult to injury when all their hopes of family - children, grandchildren, and all that go with them - they face the loss of these in a way that is impossible for me to imagine.

Our family has prayed, and continues to pray for those affected by this horrible event.  But in my deepest, groaning prayers and sadness for these families, I pray the Chinese government will come to see, in an all-too-painful way the outcome of some of their edicts.  Many other families face similar losses when a car accident kills their only child.  So this is not the first or only time for this kind of grief to emerge.  But it is very public, and very known worldwide and we need to rise up on their behalf to call on the Chinese government to grant basic human rights and freedoms to their own people. The kind of compassion and empathy that this tragedy engenders should raise new voices of outrage at the 'insult-to-injury' this policy slams upon families in crisis.

So far, my blog stays fairly a-political.  But I can't help but to raise my voice for those suffering the deepest pain and grief in the public light.

We call on China to quit the one child policy.  To quit robbing families of their own decisions about their children.  To quit forced abortions and sterilizations.  To quit injuring their own people.  Just quit it.  Every time we watch a mother grieve over the loss of her only child in China, we need to cry out in prayer and raise our voices to China's government to change the course of their country's future.

END THE ONE CHILD POLICY.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two Lies that Burn Holes in Relationships

There are many factors that harm what could otherwise be healthily functioning relationships.  But there are two that are especially toxic - two lies that, left unchecked, uncorrected, un-remediated, will without a doubt wreak havoc on your relationships.  Think over them carefully and see if you have fallen prey to the trap of believing (and acting upon) these two lies:

1.  I cannot be happy/content unless others do/say/behave/operate according to a certain set of prescribed behaviours.  (These can be as varied as how the tube of toothpaste is flattened to whether my spouse/friend/child attends Church regularly).

What does this look like in relationships?  Here's how it goes...
  Scenario 1:
Joe wakes up one morning.  Kind of groggy, sleepy and headachy.  He drags himself downstairs and puts on the coffee.  Only to find the filter wasn't changed and it was day-old grounds left in the machine.  The water then spills over the top.  He fumes.  "Why didn't she change it!?"  Aargh.  He thinks to himself, "I would be content if she would change the filter after using the coffee machine."  He grumbles, whines, complains and harbours bitterness in his soul.

  Scenario 2:
Sally gets up at the crack of dawn to read her Bible and pray.  She wanders out to the living room.  Plops down with Bible in hand, ready to meditate and bring her soul into some kind of spiritual alignment.  "Hmm...so where am I today...oh, yes, Leviticus - can't wait!"  Her eye wanders and notices the dirty socks her son left on the floor last night.  She looks at her prayer list.  She tries to concentrate and pray.  Then she sees the colouring books and crayons left on the coffee table - and a few smudges where the 5 year-old went not just outside the lines, but the paper too - marking the new coffee table!  "Here I try to attend to my spiritual disciplines only to be distracted by the things my family fails to do!  Lord, I try to seek You with all my heart, but it's their fault I can't concentrate!"

  Scenario 3:
  Caleb comes home after school to find his secret Lego kingdom has been broken into by a little brother.  Some of his treasures are missing!  He rants and raves and blames and bears general ill-will to those in the immediate vicinity.  Surely he can't be joyful and content when such a travesty of justice has occurred in his absence!!

You get the picture.  In each of these (and many more real-life examples to be had in your home and mine) the person has fallen for the lie that other people are responsible for my general happiness.  I will grant that there is a shred of truth in the lie - which is what makes it so toxic!  Of course other people can make us happy (temporarily).  Of course if my husband showers me with affection and love I will rejoice in his love for me!  But if I live dependent on how others can make my life better I am failing to put my hope in God Who will never fail me nor forsake me.  When I look to others to please me, and crash emotionally when they let me down, I demonstrate that my joy is fickle and based on temporal things rather than on God.  God is our source of joy - not what others do for me or even what others do at all.

  Some might think, "Oh, I am not discontent because others don't do things for me.  I am unhappy, joyless, depressed, worried and anxious because others are living contrary to what I deem is God's best for them."  This is a whole other matter entirely.  Can I be happy if my child is living a depraved life, far from God and rejecting God's call on their lives to live in purity and obedience?  You may not be happy about the situation, but by all means, you can still find your hope and joy in God.  People face dire situations and tell of their fervent, unswerving hope in our sovereign God.  So, even if you find yourself tied up in knots over the life choices or circumstances in others' lives, you can still keep your mind on Him Who grants perfect peace.

"Peace I leave with you - not as the world gives...Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Do not be afraid.  Trust in God."  - Jesus, in John 14:27

The second lie is similar to the first:

2.  If I am hurting, then someone has sinned against me.
This lie can also be phrased this way:  If someone is hurting in a relationship, that is solid evidence that they have been sinned against and the other person has sinned.  (If that person were truly godly - obedient and holy - the result would be warm fuzzy feelings on the part of the other, there would be no sorrow or pain).

The problem with this lie is it makes pain the litmus test for sin.  It goes something like this:

"Sarah, I don't like the mess in the kitchen - in fact it bothers me to see it in such disarray."
(Sarah thinks to herself:)"Oooh.  Ouch.  Oh, that hurts to hear that.  I hate hearing how I've let him down.  He must have sinned in saying something because I am hurting so badly now."

OR:
"Sarah, I don't like the mess in the kitchen - in fact it bothers me to see it in such disarray."
(He thinks to himself:) 'If she knew how much it bothers me maybe she would get it cleaned up.  It is so sinful and wrong of her to not get the kitchen in order.  I am so upset by it - and since I am upset it is obvious that she has sinned against me.'

Both of these are traps we can fall into.  (In fact, these two scenarios encompass both lies!)

It is faulty because there are people in this world (probably all of us, actually) with faulty pain-detectors.  We feel pain at times we shouldn't and don't feel pain at times we should.  I can prove that this is a falsehood with the following scenarios:

Scenario 1:
Child throws food on the floor.  Child is reprimanded.  Child reaps the right consequences for such foolish behaviour.  Child is sad and hurting.  Child has NOT been sinned against, but certainly feels pain.

Scenario 2:
A drunk person asks for some beer.  You give it to him.  You are making him happier in doing so.  He feels no pain.  He thanks you.  He thinks you're great.  You are now best buddies!  In fact - you are harming him, but he feels no pain from the harm you are doing.  His pain-sensors are not a good gauge of whether he has been sinned against or not.

Scenario 3:
Husband is unhappy with his wife.  She talks too much.  She asks me to do things I don't feel like doing.  She doesn't know when to quit.  Because he is unhappy, that must mean she has sinned against him - right?  Wrong.  There is a good possibility she had every righteous, holy, good, godly intention in the things she has said to him.  His happiness is NOT a good litmus test for her culpability.

This is very dangerous thinking, because in some circles it is believed that we must 'respect the emotions of another person.'  The Bible doesn't really support this.  In fact, I daresay the prophets would be guilty a thousand times over of disrespecting people's emotions.  The concept of respecting anyone's emotions is ludicrous.  I can't say it any plainer or bolder than that.  I will admit there is often a measure of wisdom in taking into account the volatile emotions of others.  And there is the concept of effectiveness: that understanding how others feel can help things go well in general.  However, other than it being wise to give thought to these things, there is no rightness or wrongness in acting in godly principled obedience when it will cause pain to others.  We don't want to intentionally cause pain, but sometimes it is inevitable.  There are people walking this planet who are so pained by the tiniest of infractions (real or imagined) that there is no possible way to live around them without causing them emotional injury simply by breathing (or occupying space on this planet)!

So - please - extricate yourself from these two lies.  Go live in freedom and relinquish anxiety and walking on eggshells to a bygone era.  You are free - God does not want you living in constant fear (or pain!) because you either require others to please you or because you are afraid of sinning against someone by causing them pain.

This is no way to live!

 Life is too short for such headaches.



Friday, February 14, 2014

Perfect Love

Valentine's Day is charged with emotion - hopes, fears, and sometimes just a wishing it would all go away and pass quickly.  The love we wish for isn't always there - whether we're married or single.  And the love we feel from those who genuinely love us isn't always enough, or thrilling or everything we were hoping for.

Too much is chalked up to how I feel about these things.

I used to hate Valentine's Day.  Thought it was so gushy, mushy, sentimental, sweet and so not real life.

And then I got married, and wanted to make the most of it.  In fact, I thought in marriage it would be the best time to celebrate wedded love.

Well, I won't say much on that, 'cuz we just happen to not be the sentimental sort - except for every other day of the year, when I am showered with love that is undeserved, unmerited and so beyond what I had every hoped for.

But the bedrock of my life is not romantic love.  It is PERFECT LOVE.

I base my existence on the fact that I am perfectly loved.

A love so holy,

    so pure,
         so right,
              so cleansing,
                    so refreshing,
                            so healing,
                                     so joyful,
                                               so wonderful -

Beyond imagining.

Beyond my ability to describe.

It is not the wedded bliss love of the earthly human realm.

It is Divine.

Being loved perfectly means my fear is unnecessary.

Earlier today I was finding myself worrying about my children - what if this happens to them, or that, or they suffer, or I suffer, or they go through things that are hard, what if they suffer too much... And I caught myself - I, who pride myself on not being a worrier, was worrying.

I asked myself, 'Why are you thinking these things?'  'Because I fear for them...This is a crazy scary world we live in!'  'Why do you fear for them? Is God not capable of keeping them in His way?'

I recognized that the root of my fear/worry was a lack of trust in the goodness - the very heart of - the Divine and Perfect love of God.

Be released from your fear today.  Wash yourself anew in the Perfect Love of the One Who Loves Perfectly.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

What Not to Say to Job - Part 2

I have more to say on the Book of Job.

Going back to his lame-o friends...  Yeah, they needed a good theology lesson.  And here I am centuries later to give it to them.

I think they had issues.  Real issues.  They couldn't handle that God is sovereign and acts according to the counsel of His own will - sans our input or even any obligation to give us an explanation for what He does.

They got it wrong because God was behaving contrary to what their human wisdom/reasoning would expect.  They thought God was there to serve them - that God's job was to act according to the plan.  That plan is: Play fair (according to my understanding of fairness).  Reward and punish within good reason (human reason, that is).  Be powerful, but beholden to my will.  Those are the kinds of things we would expect God to do and be.  Because we are human we so badly mix up our desires for how we want God to act with our understanding of Who He really Is.

He is sovereign.  End of discussion.  He acts and allows and does things we can't begin to fathom or comprehend.  This kind of sovereignty should be awe-inspiring, worship-inducing, knee-bending humility-invoking, fall-flat-on-our-faces before Him, sovereignty.  It should cause us to wonder, to fear, to honour, to find shelter in and to draw even nearer to Him Who owns us.  "We are His people and the sheep of His pasture."

I can just overhear one of Job's friends comforting Job with a platitude such as, "God isn't going to leave you in this place to suffer one minute longer than it takes for you to learn what He has for you."  Such wonderful words, I'm sure, would cause one to love God so much more.  (Hope you can hear the sarcasm in that).

The problem with Job's friends is that they mix nuggets of truth with all-out attacks on him (unjustified of course - they were way off base).  The nuggets of truth give just enough 'nutrition' to the onslaught to make the painful intake of such notions toxic to the soul.  If they were all out crazy nut-cases who spouted junk it would be easy enough to write them off as totally warped, psychologically deficient persons.  But the fact that there are shreds of truth in what they said makes the intake of their words so damaging.  Beware those who mix truth with error - they are worse than the flat-out false teachers!  Because their words have some appeal - it sounds so logical.

More on the Matter of Pain

Let's suppose you lived before anaesthetic.  And let's suppose you needed to have your leg amputated.  I'd rather just die than have to submit to the torture of amputation, frankly.  But you go for the surgery and are in the midst of having your leg sawn off when a dearly beloved friend of yours walks up beside you and says, "I know you are suffering right now.  You will be so thankful for what you're enduring because you will come to know God's presence with you in such a deeper way.  God isn't abandoning you.  Oh yes, I hear you screaming.  There now, settle down, grit your teeth and bear it.  Be patient.  This has a wonderful purpose for you.  Just believe it.  I'm sorry you have to suffer like this.  Maybe if you had washed that wound better you wouldn't be in this place right now.  I hope you'll learn your lesson.  Oh, do be quiet.  It hurts me to see you suffer like this.  I only hope I can learn from your mistakes.  Maybe if I see why you have to lose your leg this way I can make better choices and avoid what you so sadly have to endure.  I'm glad I can learn from you.  See, your suffering isn't wasted."

Can you hear the rage mounting?  Can you see the insult this adds to injury?  Are you guilty of saying some of these things?  Are you guilty of thinking them?

In the last post I mentioned that pain is pain and is very real.  I think we forget that.  We see others suffer and it invokes fear in us.  We are uncomfortable with how God can allow such deep sorrow.  It is a part of life that scares us.  And for the most part, we should try to avoid suffering.  Fear of suffering is actually a healthy and good thing - we should fear getting burned badly enough that we don't touch the fire.  I don't touch fire because I fear suffering.  This is not all bad.

But there are going to be times in our lives and in others' lives that are painful and there is nothing we can do to change that fact.  It is going to be real and painful and we will either recognize that God has His hand in it for whatever reason, or we will fight it with nice sounding platitudes and vapid sentiments.  Sometimes we just feel we can't accept what God allows.  And from that place comes all this human-reasoning that tries to explain why people suffer.

Sometimes we just need to submit ourselves to His almighty hand and know He walks with us, and our friends, IN their suffering.  That He loves them, and us and doesn't owe us an explanation.

Yes, He meets us in our suffering - sometimes in the richest, deepest, most personal ways we ever come to know Him.  We may know Him more than ever before because of it.  We may love Him more because we participate in His sufferings.

Being IN Christ means we will share in His sufferings. 

Jesus was unjustly accused.

Unjustly punished.

Judged.

Scorned.

Rejected.

Physically tortured.

Emotionally abandoned.

Betrayed.


Scripture connects, time and again, suffering with glory.

We don't want to sugar-coat suffering and glorify suffering.  Sometimes it's tempting to do that - to somehow look at the suffering and glory and glorify the suffering.  There's something dark and twisted about that.  There is no glory in suffering.  The glory follows.  There is fruit borne of suffering and there is blessing that comes from it.  But it is equally insulting to those who suffer to glorify their suffering as it is to insinuate they suffer for their own sins.  Ask anyone who is in deep pain if it is glorious and I'm sure they will tell you to take of your rose-coloured glasses and take your thoughts to some journal-that-no-one-shall-read.

So to one who suffers, we don't have all the answers.  And perhaps answers aren't what is needed.  That was the big mistake Job's friends made.  They wanted answers and they spouted them, right, left and center.  Their linear, zero-sum logic thinking led them to be mocked for centuries for their rude, disdainful counsel.  Let's not be like that, okay!?

Sometimes we lay aside the search for answers - theological and practical.  And instead we find the all-sufficient hand of God sustaining and helping and leading and comforting.  When we quit the striving for getting it all neatly packaged sometimes our eyes are opened to the all-encompassing love and grace of God that has been flowing about us unnoticed the whole time.

Maybe it's time Job and Job's friends took their eyes off the situation and began fixing them on Jesus - the author and perfector of faith - no matter how weak, feeble and miniscule that faith may be -

Fixing our eyes on Jesus...

Who for the joy set before Him

Endured the Cross.

Jesus suffered and endured His suffering, and completed the work God the Father had laid out for Him.  He conquered sin, death and the grave.  Jesus suffered like no-one else.  And He endured perfectly.

We cannot fail to recognize that Job endured, and though he wasn't perfect, he turned his eyes heavenward and accepted whatever God deemed right.  He willingly submitted himself to His Creator and meekly received whatever God chose to dish out.

And we would be wise to do likewise.