SUFFERING

suffering/synonyms: Acute bodily or mental pain. Distress may be physical, but it is more often mental, referring to any deep anxiety, or the external circumstances that may produce it.  Misery is extreme suffering or abject hopelessness, as from sorrow, great loss, poverty, or the like.

Why is suffering allowed by God?

That question has been asked by believers and non-believers alike…….the difference is, those who know God know that He is a balance of justice and mercy.  Sin came into His perfectly created world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  So because of that first sin, all of creation (including you and me) is waiting for the healing that will happen when Christ returns.

Last Sunday I sang at a church in the Tampa, Florida area.  At the fellowship meal afterwards I met a 43-year old mother of 3 who was still having therapy after a triple by-pass heart surgery 3-months ago.  She had no warning, only tightness in her chest.  She has MS, her husband travels for his job during the week, her father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she has 3 boys ages 5-12 years old.  She thought the tightness in her chest was stress from life’s challenges.  The weekend her husband was home he encouraged her to go to the ER, but she refused….he insisted.  They sent her home.  The pain started then and she went back.  This time she was in surgery within the day with 100% blockage in one artery and 90% blockage in two others.  Post-surgically in the hospital one of her lungs collapsed.  Of course many prayer warriors were lifting her up in prayer…..and she is recovering wonderfully.  But, why would this godly young woman already dealing with MS have to suffer like that?

She is radiant with the love of Christ, and is a strong witness to her doctors, nurses and therapists.  She gives God all the glory for His healing touch.

I have experienced pain physically and emotionally in my lifetime, but I’ve never really suffered.  How about you?  If you have, according to the definition at the top of this blog, how have you handled it?

Right now there is an abundance of suffering in Texas due to the devastation of hurricane Harvey and the ensuing rainfall that is still causing flooding.  I can’t even imagine what that must be like.  There will be human suffering, distress and misery there for a long time.  Our prayers, finances and when possible, physical help, are with them.

There really is no way to end this blog on this subject because human suffering will always be with us.  But I must encourage you that God is a loving and compassionate God, and His heart is broken as He sees the ongoing suffering of human kind.

The Apostle Paul suffered much as he shared the Gospel of Christ.  He wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…”

God sent His Only Son, Jesus, to this world; part human due to His birth from a virgin, so that He could feel and understand what we go through as humans.  In the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, we read what was written about the suffering of Christ 700-years before His death on the cross.  Verse 3:  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

Dear God, help us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Photo: Gisela Giardino, Flickr Creative Commons

They Will Know Us By Our LOVE – revisited

Is it me, or has the world gone mad?

And I don’t meant crazy. I mean MAD.

Everyone’s mad at everyone else for existing, it seems. Take a quick scroll through any social media outlet today (especially Facebook), and you’ll see post after post by fearful, angry people. People angry at the government. People angry at the people who are angry at the government. People rushing to decide what everyone else should think… and being mad when they are challenged.

The current refugee crisis has me heartsick these days. And feeling helpless. I can’t begin to imagine the pain and suffering these souls are enduring. Children are dying. And all we can think about is our false sense of security by keeping them at arm’s length and never ministering to their needs. God didn’t call us, as Christians, to be safe. He called us to be loving. He called us to bring hope. The gospel is dangerous. Jesus is dangerous. When did we decide otherwise?

As I pondered writing about this topic today, I was reminded that I wrote almost the same sentiment more than a year ago. Christians were MAD, but for a different reason. Does it matter what we are mad about? Or does it only matter that the world is beginning to frame us as angry, fearful people who don’t seem to really believe that our God has the final say in world events?

I choose love. Won’t you join me?

(You’ll see my original post from March 31, 2014 below… I’d love to know what you think.)

Fired-loveoneanother

PROVERBS 10:12 ~ HATRED STIRS UP CONFLICT, BUT LOVE COVERS OVER ALL WRONGS.

I’m saddened lately by the vicious rhetoric Christians are capable of unleashing on one another just because they disagree.  Quite honestly, if I were not a believer already I don’t think I would be attracted to the faith, based on what I see from Christians today.

You’ve seen it, too.  I know you have. This person accuses that organization of no longer being Christian because they changed a company policy.  Thousands go online to dispute or defend. That person warns Christians who attend a certain movie they will lose their faith. More thousands dispute and defend, and not in a loving correction kind of way, but with outright hate-filled finger pointing. An absolutely-I-am-right-at-all-times attitude that makes me want to pretend I’m not one of you. No mercy. No grace. No love. No bueno.

Scripture references are tossed back and forth like arrows – cutting into the heart and soul of the accused. Whatever happened to the most important ones like

Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39, James 2:8)

Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)

Love covers over all wrongs (Proverbs 10:12)

Let love and faithfulness never leave you (Proverbs 3:3)

Love one another (1 Peter 3:8, 2 John 1:5)

And of course, the LOVE chapter beckons us to read it again and again. Let the words really sink in – these are truly LIFEWORDS:

1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poorand give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

We are told in 1 Peter 1:22  to love one another deeply, from a pure heart.  How is it possible to have a motivation of love when slinging the arrows that accuse and wound so deeply?  I have a friend, a former worship leader, who risks suffering a panic attack every time she enters a church building.  I dare say such a reaction was not caused by being unconditionally loved on by Christians.

I grew up singing a sweet, simple song: “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love ~ yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Stop and take a good look around. Listen to what we are saying to each other.  Will the world know?

NOW YOU CAN HAVE REAL LOVE FOR EVERYONE BECAUSE YOUR SOULS HAVE BEEN CLEANSED FROM SELFISHNESS AND HATRED WHEN YOU TRUSTED CHRIST TO SAVE YOU; SO SEE TO IT THAT YOU REALLY DO LOVE EACH OTHER WARMLY, WITH ALL YOUR HEARTS. 1 PETER 1:22 THE LIVING BIBLE