Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Suffering Myths 2--Exemptions...

Jeremiah, by Rembrant
Myth 2:  Committed Christians don't really suffer.  God either organizes their circumstances for the best or miraculously lifts them up so they can walk above it.


First, if God organizes our circumstances for our best then that will include growth opportunities, which will, by definition, include growing pains.  Childbirth hurts (believe me, my son PJ can tell you I know that all too well: he gets reminders often that he was worth all 32 hours)--and those are just the good things that hurt.  Pain is a gift that teaches us how not to injure ourselves or others.  That's why leprosy causes such devastation--leprosy deadens pain nerves and the patient destroys their own body without knowing it.  If you're alive, you're going to have pain. 

As for living above our circumstances, that's only partly true.  He does promise He will never leave or forsake us--that He will be with us, even to the end of the earth.  There was a time when I was really angry at God because I could feel how close He was to me, but I remained in debilitating pain and agonizing depression.  His love was just as real as my pain.  David, Jeremiah, Paul, and many others often cried out in tremendous pain--we know because their cries are critical passages within the Bible.  David often models the furious dance that acknowledges both extreme pain and God's glorious presence.  Jesus himself wept many times and was identified as a "man of sorrows, aquainted with grief."  Would God lift us above the pain from which He did not protect Himself? 

To the contrary, Jesus says:  "33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”--John 16:33. 

A corrolary to this myth is that pain and suffering happens because of sin in our lives--also frequently malarky.  There are times when sin brings about painful consequences for us and those around us.  There are times we are blameless and suffering is just a result of the fallen world we live in.  There are times when, like Job, we suffer as a part of the spiritual battles that rage unseen around us.  There are times when God directly sends suffering into our paths as a tool to refine and change us. 

In the end, the question of "Why?" is less important than the question: "To what end?".  When we begin to try to partner with God through the pain, He redeems it as only He can--and the results can be so beautiful that it looks like God intended it, even when it's just His work-around.  In this way, every pain, every sorrow, every bit of suffering becomes an opportunity to display the glory of a God who can spin worthless, scratchy straw into gold. 

If you are still alive, you will have suffering.  Don't waste it. 

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