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20 Things I Am Learning About Pain and Suffering

Photo Credits: freefoto.com

Photo Credits: freefoto.com

My last post on the problem of pain and some of the needs that come with it was somewhat raw, but real. Here are a few things that I am learning – in no particularly significant order.

1. One of the greatest gifts we can give to folks having a difficult time is letting them know they are not alone. Never underestimate the gift of presence.

2. Having people around you who believe when all you can do is doubt, is priceless

3. The theological perspective of “you must have done something wrong to be going through what you’re going through” is flawed, twisted and a bunch of #%&@%#!

4. Just because a person is still holding on doesn’t mean they’ve never considered giving up.

5. It’s ok to question God, correct or argue with crazy responses from friends, and admit that you despair of life and sometimes despise the day you were born like Job did (eventually, I must write about that brother and his wife too).

6. When you are so angry that you don’t have anything to say to God, having praying people in your life helps. They pray for us when we can’t (and don’t want to) pray for ourselves.

7. Honesty is better than pretense.

8. Folks who claim that they have never been pissed off at God or wanted to give up could possibly be lying or maybe just need to live a while longer in order to find out that it is possible to get there.

9. When people are courageous enough to expose their heart/soul, we should be compassionate enough to support rather than run away from them/avoid them.

10. Sometimes the people you never expected to “be there” are there in ways that provide healing and a sense of relief. They listen more than they talk, they call, they check in with you….

11. [In relation to claiming the status of “friend”] Asking people what they need is so much better than assuming you know what they need. It might even preserve/strengthen a friendship

12. Sometimes people ignore you in the name of “I didn’t know what to do/say,” which leads to an increase in your feelings of isolation.

13. Sometimes forgiving those who add to your pain (knowingly or unknowingly) is frustrating and difficult.

14. God provides others when some neglect you and say they “thought” they needed to give you space. What!?

15. Every smiling face is not happy…. When you take time to look beyond the surface, sometimes you’ll discover the pain of a soul that is crying. Be kind. Be gentle.

16. God can handle expressed anger and doubt and will love us anyway.

17. Faith = holding on when everything in you has quit, given up.

18. People say a lot when they are silent and sometimes the silence is just plain loud!

19. Presence truly is a gift – just being there goes a long way. Nuff said. (I know I said that already, but it’s worth repeating). 🙂

20. Scars are evidence that not only have we been hurt, but that we have been healed. But when the wound is still fresh and open, gentleness is appropriate.

 

I am pretty sure that the list is not complete, I am continually learning…. What would you add to this list?

 

Earthquakes, Tsunamis and God

Earthquake Response by the U.S. Navy
*Photo by Fox News Insider

I don’t get the theological connection that some attempt to make between natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and the like and God. Without disrespect intended to my parents and other many others from former generations, I acknowledge that I had parents who made us shut everything off and sit quietly when storms arose because in their words “God was talking.” In essence these words and this practice lead me to believe that when natural storms or disasters occur, God is trying to get through to us and that He had to cause such destruction in order for us to pay attention.

I wonder why God is our default when tragedy strikes. Why is it that some believe that God – through natural storms, is doing so to punish the people he created? Church leaders and political commentators alike embrace the belief that we are in trouble with God, thus the earthquake. Earlier this week Glen Beck alluded to his belief that the earthquake in Japan was a “message from God” to get people to clean up their act. And sadly, a few Jesus followers would agree.

After all Jesus did say that earthquakes would come – that was His prediction many years ago. Maybe the fact that Jesus said when we see these things (earthquakes) taking place we should have a heightened awareness that we are moving closer to His return, is not about his causing these things in order to communicate the message of His return.

Maybe He mentioned it to communicate His awareness of how messed up His creation is and announce His desire to rescue us from this chaos. Maybe His love for us is so deep that He weeps when He sees the destruction that these disasters cause… and maybe He anticipates an end to the pain even more than we do.

What Jesus did not say was that “I will cause earthquakes to occur.” There is a difference! Deep within us is a desire for answers to the question of “why?” Why this, why them, why now? The longing for answers to the unexplainable and intensely painful is part of the human experience. But I have lived long enough to know that the “why” question is not always answerable. Sometimes, it’s just more helpful to ask “what next?”

Unfortunately, many of those who blame the behavior or “sin” of people who experience calamities are not as likely to give equal energy to extending a hand of help, resources, or prayers and reaching out to help people pick up the broken pieces and start over. Grieving with those who grieve is also something that we are instructed to do.

I can keep it real and say that yes, I find myself a bit annoyed when I hear pronouncements of judgment regarding those who are in pain/suffering through natural disaster. In essence I believe that people have multiple foundational beliefs about who God is, and from those foundational views we build ideas and explanations regarding what is accurate. For some, God is nothing more than a strict disciplinarian who will beat us down if we stray from the path He desires. I used to believe that way (I think), but today I believe that God is loving, God is just/fair, and that God is good. Are there consequences for wrong actions – of course there are, but are natural disasters punishment/consequence for human behavior/wrong action/sin? This writer believes that the answer is no.

What do you say?


It Doesn’t Make Sense

Though I have been a follower of Jesus for over 20 years, I must be honest and say that during the journey it hasn’t always made sense to me. Lately as I read the Bible and really think seriously about some of the stories contained therein I find myself realizing how far fetched and outlandish some of the stories are. Here are some examples:

Fully grown man created from the dust of the ground and a fully grown woman created by use of that man’s rib

A guy being put in a den of ravenous beasts, lions to be exact. And living to tell the story. He even took a nap while he was hanging out with them

A sea of water parting long enough to allow thousands to cross to the other side on dry ground. (no mud at all???) Be serious.

Dead people coming back to life after being dead for 4 days.

People blind all their lives eventually being able to see again either because Jesus honored their faith or because He decided to make some mud out of God knows how much saliva and smear it on a dudes eyes

And that’s not even the half of it. The Bible has some bizarre stories to tell….

And then as I live life from day to day, following Jesus seems like the last thing a person should do – the pain in the world, the things that simple don’t work out favorably for me, living with more questions than answers, not to mention years upon years of waiting for Jesus to return like He said over two thousand years ago that He would.  But still I keep following and calling Him my Lord and acknowledging Him as Savior. WHY?

Why do I keep following? It’s simple. #1 He changed my life. #2 He Himself is life and hope. #3 I still believe. #4 His love constrains me.