This is a welderbeth first. We have a guest blogger today. I’ve known Lindsey since, hmmm, at least 2006. We were a part of a tight knit house church together and we’ve kept in touch over the years, even though we live a few hours apart. She even ran in our half-marathon team last year. If voluntarily running a terrible 13.1 mile run isn’t being a true friend, then I don’t know what is.
I appreciate Lindsey’s voice because she comes at things from a unique perspective. She is very thoughtful and isn’t afraid to shy away from topics that are hard or difficult to wrestle with. UNFORTUNATELY (ahem, hint, hint, Lindsey), she doesn’t currently blog anywhere but maybe she’ll start soon. Without further ado, Lindsey…
When I was 18, riding the public transit, I became aware of an Asian woman that was also a frequent passenger. On my way to work in the morning, I would see her helping kids cross the street, as she held up a little red stop sign. I don’t remember if it was one of the days that she was halting traffic or if it was on an evening ride home that I noticed that she was missing both of her hands. Instead, she had metal prosthetic hooks that would help her grasp things of daily necessity. The prosthetics were a shock, not only because of the obvious handicap, but because they contrasted so greatly with her beauty.
This lady has been on my mind a lot lately, even though we rode together 20 years ago. To me, she is the picture of suffering. I never asked why she had the prosthetics. But, my mind can imagine several scenarios’. Disease, spousal abuse, punishment from her country of origin? Whatever the circumstances were, you can be sure that there was pain, loss and distress involved. And then, there is the life after- that is forever changed.
Last Sunday I was among a great group of faithful, growing, loving believers as we talked about the Peace of Advent season. While I love these people, I am very aware that in many of these people’s lives there has never been the experience of irretrievable loss. There were words of reassurance that Peace equates to “everything turning out fine.” And well… yes and no. We know that Jesus will return in the end, and there will be “no more suffering”, but in the meantime: some things really will not turn out fine. There is too much injustice in the world as evidence of that to say otherwise.
I don’t know why some people’s lives (though not perfect) come out intact, joyful and overflowing in abundance; while other people’s lives seem to be filled with struggle. And before anyone feels comfortable pointing the finger at the sin that must be present in that unfortunate person’s life let us remember that “God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45 ) We cannot measure our righteousness (His, really) by how comfortable our lives are.
According to one bible dictionary Suffering is:
- To feel or bear what is painful, disagreeable or distressing, either to the body or mind;
- To undergo.
- To endure; to support; to sustain; not to sink under.
- (This one, I love…) To allow; to permit; not to forbid or hinder.
- To be affected by. Substances suffer an entire change by the action of fire, or by entering into new combinations.
- To sustain; to be affected by; as, to suffer loss or damage.
Those definitions say so much of what suffering is, and what God intends with it.
In Gods business of changing broken humans, some suffering is going to occur. There will be loss of what of “what was” in order to grasp “what is.”
Suffering is not punishment from God. In fact as a Christian, we are called to suffer.
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
1 Peter 4:1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
Anxiety could be a symptom of refusal to suffer. We fear the possibility of suffering, so create our own in the form of anxiety. We don’t want to lose, we don’t want to endure, we don’t want shame (something commonly associated with suffering). We want victory, we want to win and be winners, we want “the good life” and spend a lot of our time and energy on creating ways to achieve and then protect that. This to me seems like we are running after the wrong thing.
What failure and suffering has done for me…
I didn’t mention that I never spoke to the woman on the transit. In fact, I couldn’t look at her straight in the eye. I was afraid of her. She was like another woman that I remember a few years back. I saw her using a computer at a public library (probably because she didn’t have one of her own). Her clothes were old, she smelled of smoke and she was obviously looking for a job on that computer. I could hardly look at her, either. In all honesty, it was because I didn’t want to be like her. But like it or not, I am like her. I am a broken human being who needs help and who has made bad choices. The outcomes may look different, but the Truth is the Truth.
It wasn’t until I bore the weight of suffering and was changed by it, that I could look on someone who also suffered with something more than pity at best, or fear at worst. It wasn’t until I accepted the weight of suffering that I could truly have love for the human being next to me.
And THAT is part of the Glory that will be revealed.