Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

Running from pain

We are always running.

 

Okay, let me try this again.

 

trapped

 

I have spent most of my life running. Running from suffering. Avoiding loss. Trying not to get hurt. Afraid.

 

But Jesus wasn’t afraid of suffering. He embraced it on the cross for us. For me. He lived His entire life knowing how and when it would be over. He knew that He would be separated from all those dear to Him. That no one would fully understand Him, or His purpose. That though surrounded by disciples and the multitude, He would still be alone because they couldn’t fully understand His struggle. Only He knew that He was going somewhere they couldn’t follow.

 

I’ve been so afraid of losing that sometimes I held on to things more tightly than I should have. I lived trapped in a box of fear. Always afraid of getting a text, a phone call, a message that spelled doom for myself or my loved ones.

 

But to live in fear of suffering, loss, sickness, or death, is to prevent yourself from fully living. Negative circumstances and pain is unavoidable. But we don’t have to let hurt change and cripple us. All we can do is pray for strength.

 

Recently I went to go watch a movie that displayed the relationship Jesus has with those of His children who are suffering. In this movie the protagonist not only got to meet Jesus but he got to meet God as well. He began to accuse God of leaving Jesus when He (God) let Him (Jesus) die on the cross. But then God showed the protagonist of this story, His (God’s) own nail-pressed hands. God too was wounded by Jesus’ sacrifice. God told him (the protagonist) that He (God) never left Jesus. Just like He (God) never leaves us.

 

Yes you will face overwhelming circumstances, but God will never leave you. Jesus will never turn His face from you. There is no one better to have on your team. God is more than a mother or a father; he is also a brother, a sister, and a friend. He has your back. He will carry you when you are weak. When you forget Him He will still remember you. I have turned away from God. I felt like He had deserted me. But even as I turned from Him: He kept me, protected me, and He drew me back to His side.

jesushand

 

#firstworldproblems

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I tend not to complain out loud about my problems unless I am talking to my mother– since we all know it’s every mom’s duty to listen dutifully to just about everything you have to say regardless of whether you are 25 or 40. If I complain about my issues to anyone else it might sound overwhelmingly like #firstworldproblems, an impression that may only be partly wrong. I called my mom once… –just last week if I’m being honest–in the middle of the night after I hadn’t been able to sleep all night for 3 nights in a row, plagued by my own mental demons, and she picked up. She picked up– even though at that time she was with a patient who would be taken off life support soon.

 

She was just reading a few bible verses to him, and I am pretty sure he couldn’t hear her and was totally unaware of his surroundings or anything else for that matter, but I was shocked that she as a physician was taking time out of doing her rounds to read some verses for a patient that couldn’t hear her and to pray for him before he passed… and also that amidst all this that she picked my call because she was worried about me. I proceeded to tell her I was completely fine, she should get back to work and after I hung up I began to cry. The perspective that the call gave me forced me to tell myself that: hey you should be happy and grateful you’re not deathly ill or dying, and that your problems are so small, and in the grand scheme of things– probably even meaningless.

 

But the truth is minimizing our problems by comparing them to someone with bigger problems can be both helpful and at the same time hurtful. It can invalidate your hurt and your pain and trust me it is incredibly hard to heal from something you don’t fully let yourself feel. If you don’t come to terms with pain in your life because ‘hey there are people starving in Africa and you have it much better than them,’ which may very well be true, but that doesn’t mean that your suffering, albeit privileged suffering, is any less real or any less hurtful. Much of our own life is shaped by our mind–our thoughts, and thoughts can be powerful enough to cause a person to pull a trigger, jump of a bridge, or prevent them from trying to achieve something they have always wanted to achieve.

 

It is good to be grateful and to see life from a perspective other that your own. Be thankful for your privilege. But also be gentle with yourself. Know that it is okay to let the small things sometimes get to you. It’s okay to not be invincible all the time. To feel weak, overwhelmed. It’s okay to simply just let yourself feel. Now it’s another thing to dwell, to sink, to never move forward. But just for today I want you to be honest with yourself about the emotions you’ve been keeping bottled up, the frustrations laying there right under the surface of all the pretense and fake smiles and cheerful demeanor. If you can’t be real to people at least be real to yourself, because honesty takes you to a place where true healing can finally begin.

 

Safe/Control

feeling-safe
I run to him, and I am safe.

 

“But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.” Deuteronomy 12:10

“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you!” Deuteronomy 20:1

“I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. ” Leviticus 26:6

 

Have you ever laid down to sleep in fear?

 

The writer Paulo Coelho writes in the Alchemist that “the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.” Our thoughts control us. Whether for good or for evil. We are often limited by what we think we can’t do. And often times we limit God by dwelling on the fears of what God has already said he will take care of.

 

We are human, and as a result it is in our nature is to value the things that are seen more than the things that are unseen. We are more concerned with the love of those we can lay eyes on, feel their touch, and hear their voice. We strive to please parents, friends, teachers, lovers. And we forget to seek to please God. We assume that attempting to please God is like walking with no gravity.Like praying for sunshine in the middle of the night. Or like grasping for an orange from an apple tree. 

 

Nevertheless, that is our claim to faith. Our belief in something more. Something more than the things we see with our eyes. Something more than the immediate pleasures and sufferings of this world. It is the concept of a greater plan, a greater purpose for our life. To nonbelievers it is wishful thinking, it is a conscious rejection of scientific evidence and ‘reality.’

 

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

 

But the amazing thing is that people of all walks of life, with varying experiences, upbringing, and cultures are drawn to this belief. And what compels them? It’s not the rejection of common sense as most atheists are want to believe. But it’s the openness and awareness of a thread that runs through each and every one of our lives.

 

Death is inevitable. Till then our actions play a large role in the outcome of our life journey. But what controls these actions? It is our thoughts. Descartes said it best, “I think, therefore I am.” If you knew the outcome of your life hinged on a single strand of thoughts, what would you focus your mind on? “To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” (Henry David Thoreau)

 

What are thinking of today? Are you dwelling on failures, doubt, worry, and weaknesses? Or are you trusting in God? Are you trusting in Him to protect you from your enemies? To give you security? To give you peace?

 

Control your thoughts. Don’t let them control you.

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Blame game

People often gather to celebrate the victories, but their presence would have been more greatly felt in the defeats.

 

anger

I woke up one day and realized that I was angry. That life, had made me angry. There was so much rage, bitterness, and anger. And it surprised me.

 

I don’t know when it happened. But it did.

 

 

Sadness, self-pity, disappointment, and depression often turns outward when the burden of self-blame becomes too much. We search for an object, a person, or an institution to blame. Anyone but ourselves. Perhaps if we pass the blame onto someone else, we no longer need to face our own demons. Instead we can turn sadness into anger. We can hold our parents, our teachers, our preacher accountable. We can say that our family rejected us. That the government neglected us. Or that God has left us.

 

The American Psychological Association defines anger as an “emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.”

 

In life we often times feel that we have been wronged by certain people or society as a whole. And for those taught to believe in a higher being, they begin to hold Him accountable for every bad thing that has happened in their life.

 

A brother was brutally murdered.
A wife, raped and killed.
A child, left to die after multiple gunshots to the chest.

 

After overwhelming grief, sorrow often turns to anger.

Retribution is called for. Someone should pay! The guilty party should suffer to the extent of the law. But when that doesn’t bring peace or equanimity. We need a scapegoat—who better than God?

 

“Why did God allow…?”

“If God is good, then why…?”

“Where was God when…?”

“How could a good God let…?”

 

It’s amazing how many of us today believe in good without believing in evil. We can by a stretch of the imagination believe in God. But by that same stretch we don’t consider that there is a source of evil.

 

Did God promise us roses, sunsets, no hardships, or suffering? Yes, He did. And then he also gave us freedom. Freedom that enabled the ability for pure, unforced love. And freedom that also allowed for disobedience. The fruit was eaten. Mama Eve, and Papa Adam left the garden. And we came to the knowledge that though “all good things come from God,” saying yes to the fruit allowed Satan to also take hold of our lives. There entered destruction, war, famine, hardship, death, and suffering.

 

God is surely stronger and wiser than Satan, thus Satan will not roam free forever. But since God will never force us to love him, or command us to follow him, we now have this freedom: to choose who will be our God, and find which side we will serve.

part-time Atheist.

“No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6; God’s Word Translation)

 

 

According to the bible, without faith, it is impossible to please God. The writer of Hebrews, then goes on to say, that having faith means 1) believing that God exists, and 2) believing that there is some benefit found in following him.

 

If you believe in God, but you don’t believe that there is any benefit to following him—you don’t have faith. And since knowing that God is good (Psalm 100:5, Mark 10:18, Psalm 119:68), and knowing that he rewards those who seek him (Philippians 4:19, James 1:17, Isaiah 41:10), is inextricably tied to who God is—denying his benefits is equivalent to denying his existence.

 

In Matthew 14:31, after Peter stepped out of the boat and began to sink, Jesus rebuked him saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

In that moment, when Peter lost faith, he doubted who God was, and what God could do for him. In essence, in losing faith, he called into question God’s existence.

 

Often, when Christians gather together in groups at bible study, after church, or during prayer meetings, they sit down and just ‘wonder’ at the disbelieving Atheist.

“Tsk tsk” they say, completely aghast. “How could anyone live without Christ?” “I simply do NOT know(!) how I’d ever make it without God,” they sigh.

 

And what do the rest of do when we aren’t chiming-in in agreement? We nod our heads, raise our hands, and shout mercy(!), as we pity the poor unbeliever. Looking down from our church-bench on Saturday or Sunday, we wag our fingers the shortsighted atheist—who ‘luckily,’ of course, aren’t present to offer any rebuttal.

 

The fascinating thing is that when we claim to be Christians, yet become so lost in worry, fear, and doubt, we become no different than Atheists, who are at the very least consistent in their lack of faith. Like Peter who one day declared to Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” but then the next day swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” (Mark 14: 31,71) Our relationship with God often wavers depending on our environment. And God forbid, we enter into severe trials or struggles, we sometimes completely loose faith in God. We become like Job and wonder as he wondered, “Why did I not die at birth?Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11)

 

It’s at moments like this, that we no longer believe that God rewards those who seek him.

 

We ask ourselves, “Where was God when…” or “How could God let this happen?” We look at our failure and our shortcomings and we wonder what we even gain by following God. At those moments when we doubt God’s goodness and his benefits, we are actually doubting his existence. We go to church, but we are worried about our future, our family, our job – or lack of a job. And at these moments of intense worry, pain, and doubt, ask yourself if you really believe that God exists.

 

 

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It’s summer outside.

 

I am standing in the basement,
with the AC on.
 

The room is cold.
windowless,
and the air feels bleak.

 

But it’s burning hot outside.
The sun shines. The sprinklers are on. And the ice cream truck circles round.

 

Yet I can’t feel the warmth down here. I can’t see the sun. 

 

————

 

 

You will not always remember that God is good.

 

But make sure there is at least one person you can turn too who will remember when you forget. 
Who will pray when you cry.
Who will worship when you forget. 

 

Sometimes you will be standing in the cold, while others are basking in the heat.
Make sure you aren’t standing alone.

 

 

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Riveted

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The sun was hot, and I was thirsty. I could see the bugs starting to take residence near my toes, and so I kept fidgeting. That morning, in a rushed attempt to be conservative I had worn a cashmere sweater over a dress that showed a little ‘too much’ of my arms. But at this point, all sense of propriety vanished as I felt myself roasting under the hot sun. I slyly took off my sweater and tried to pay attention to the man who was currently speaking. We were in the middle of nowhere, hick-town Massachusetts, and church was taking place outside. Mentally preparing myself for another out of touch sermon from someone who could probably relate best to those in my grandparents generation, I settled in for the long haul.

The preacher had this thick black mustache that started from beneath his nose, and traveled all the way down to the bottom his face, leaving his chin freely exposed. I was still examining the complexity of his mustache (wondering if it grew that way naturally, or if he had altered it in some way), when his lips began to move. His words pulled me out of my thoughts and I heard him say,

“How much can you lose, before you begin to blame God?”

And with that, ladies and gents, I was riveted. They could have told me Usher Raymond was waiting for me in the back room, and I would have said he should hold on!! I don’t know what it is, but when I see someone who has been through hell and back, and still comes out praising God. It leaves me breathless. It makes me think, that well, maybe I can do it too.

The pastor continued saying, “Faith, is not hoping in Christ when all is well, but trusting in Him when all seems lost.”

You see, there is something quite remarkable about meeting someone who has gone through immense struggle, pain, or loss. You fully expect the joy to have left their eyes, the spring to be gone from their step. You expect them to wear the burdens of their past or their present firmly upon their shoulders. Yet it is even more astonishing to meet someone who has felt searing helplessness, pain, and misery, but each day you see them make a conscious effort to not let the consequences of life, mar the beauty of being alive.

It is so easy to stay faithful when everything is going well in your life. But when struggles come instead of thinking that God has left you, it’s time for you to ask yourself: were you following God just for His blessings?

Did you think you could play God like a vending machine?? Putting your request in and expecting your every desire to come out?

Or are you with Him for the long haul!? Are you like His disciples who said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

Look, the fact of the matter is: God uses trials to build your faith. But He never puts you in a situation in which He can’t use you or your circumstances. You are covered in grace. So, never underestimate what God can do with your life!