Tag Archives: Doubt

A Thought on Suffering

I often share things I come across in my reading, and see on other people’s blogs that I find noteworthy and that touch me.  It’s one way in which I share my heart, and what I feel that the Lord is revealing to me.  Now for confession time.  Sometimes I share what others do because I have a hard time sharing me.  It’s hard to look at myself honestly, to see myself in the light of truth; so often because what I see looking back at me I don’t like.  After 49 years, you’d think I’d be more comfortable with who I am, but I still struggle with looking at that person in the mirror and liking what I see there.  It’s always been far easier for me to love other people  than it has been to love myself.  I can give to other people, but allowing other people to give to me is terribly hard.

It’s a hard thing to admit.  Can I tell you it’s hard for me to imagine that anyone could love me, even God, and I have a hard time dealing with it.  Allowing myself to receive love has been a life-long process.  I tend to try to hide in plain sight.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is if you try to hide by hiding someone always finds you, but if you just stand in the middle of the room and smile more often than not people do seldom more than show a polite interest in you then leave you alone.  From that I’ve learned something else.  You can never really tell who’s suffering.  You can tell when someone is in physical pain, but you can’t always see suffering.

Having experienced both, I can say that the physical pain is often easier to bear, and easier to deal with in some ways.  You can take drugs legal and otherwise to lessen pain-the physical kind anyway-but suffering isn’t always that easy to alleviate.  It might help to just go ahead and define “suffering” for the sake of this writing as in the emotional sense because that’s what I’m talking about.  Emotional pain.  In this regard, I know I’m just one of many, and in a lot of ways I don’t feel that my, quote “suffering” in any way compares to that of some other people I’ve seen and known.  Not that we’re comparing because in truth “suffering”  is “suffering” no matter who does it, or what the cause of it may be.  I’ve known people who make a game of it.  Who try to manipulate it, and use it for their own gain, but nobody has a monopoly on it, and those who think they do often don’t even really know the first thing about it.  If you’ve ever heard the term, “suffering in silence” you know it didn’t come about from talking about it.

It’s a fact that no one of us ever escapes this life unscathed.  We all have our scars.  The worst ones are the ones nobody sees, and often they hurt the worst.  Often the people who carry such scars are the ones we don’t see.  It’s not the drunk, the drug addict, the welfare recipient, that are the ones truly carrying the invisible scars-though they may be-but rather it’s the middle or high school student found hanging or over-dosed that nobody saw coming, the young wife and mother found lying in her bed with a bottle of pills beside her, or the senior husband in the smoke-filled car.  Too often it’s the ones we didn’t see coming that suffered the most.

It says something about our world and the people that live in it that we’re so quick to judge them.  You and I have both heard the varied explanations and terms used in referring to those who have chosen to end their suffering themselves, and maybe even used those explanations and terms ourselves.  How callous and ignorant are we to think that they’re condemned for all eternity because of a bad decision.  It’s that kind of thinking and response on the part of people that gave rise to “suffering in silence” in the first place.

Some of us have had the misfortune of having some really bad, ugly, awful things happen to us in our lives, and we’ve suffered because of them, but there’s a truth that most of us don’t realize, and spend the better part of our lives trying to ignore, and it’s the fact that this is a world of suffering.  None of us escape it, are immune from it, and the harsh reality is that we’ve all taken our turn at the wheel at both ends of the car.

I’ve said all the above to say this, that there is an answer to suffering, but it lies in understanding what suffering is and it’s role in the world we live in.  We spend our lives listening to a world that says that there is no sense, no rhyme or reason, to why there’s suffering.  That there can be no God or a God not worth loving and serving who allows suffering.  Nothing is more untrue and false than this, and is the ultimate deception of the devil.  Who of us, myself, included, would be who I am, and who I am, becoming without having suffered? To feel unloved, to experience pain, to doubt oneself, to question one’s role and relationship to the world and the people in one’s life, are these not all experiences that set us in search of truth, of love?  And if we take our search seriously, if we look for it with all our hearts, is there any doubt to it’s destination.  We don’t travel the path of life (and suffer along the way) to come to a what….but rather to who….  You can take it from here….

A Thought on my Christian walk and pain

     I had disk removal and spinal fusion surgery on Jan. 23 of this year, and have been out of work since Aug. 22 of last year.  I can tell you that life has not been easy here lately.  Of course, life is never easy, anyway, and all of us have known and experienced times in our lives when we were hard pressed to see how we were going to make it through, or even make it through the day.  I know I’m not the only one who has ever suffered, or experienced pain, but I can say that I’m the only one who’s suffered in my own individual way.  How unique we humans are to see our suffering in the light of our own selfishness.  When we’re going through intense pain I suppose it’s natural to think that we’re the only ones experiencing it, and wishing most fervently that it would go away and never come back.  I don’t know perhaps it’s natural to question why I had to go through it, and am still going through it, and whether or not God loves me.  For me it was.  I don’t know if you’ve ever endured intense, chronic pain over a span of years or not.  I pray not.  If you have then you know how it drains you; how it saps you of all life and energy; how it robs you of dignity and self-respect.  I can’t begin to tell you the number of days when it took everything I had just to keep from killing myself.  Sad but true.  It’s not something I’m proud to admit. 

     As a Christian, the last thing you want anyone to know is how weak your faith is and how you’ve lost hope.  Talk about guilt.  You have the strength of God living inside you after all.  How odd, at least for me, that as someone who believes so strongly in Christ, I could not bear to see myself as weak, as someone who was in desperate need, as someone who had to depend on others.  I know better of course.  Jesus came not to save the strong, but the weak.  I was the very person He came to save, and yet there was that part of me that absolutely hated being that person.  I don’t know if this makes any sense but that’s how it was.  I thought I must have done something terribly wrong in my life, and that God was punishing me.  It’s strange the thoughts that come into your head when you’re in so much pain.  You try to find some way to rationalize or justify it.  Anything to make it bearable.  You have two options, at least that’s what I thought, and how I viewed it.  Either it was my fault, or God’s fault.  Looking at it either way only adds to the pain. 

     Life is in many ways about perspective; how we look at things, the lens through which we view the events that comprise our existence.  That’s why for one something might be a total tragedy, while for another it’s nothing more than a slight disturbance, something to be taken in stride.  For me, the last ten months have been very revealing.  I’ve learned a lot about who I am, but even more about who God is, and more importantly who He isn’t. 

     Have you ever read the first chapter of Malachi?  God opens with the statement to His people, “I have loved you.”  Notice how they respond.  They say, “how have you loved us?”  I’m ashamed to say it, but I was one of the people asking that question.  I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was for me to believe that God could really love me and allow me to go through such agonizing pain on a daily basis.  It comes back to the age old question of why does a loving God allow people to suffer, or to put it another way, why do bad things happen to good people?  I think the first thing to do is to take a long hard look at the questions.  Ever given any thought as to how asking certain questions lead to certain answers.  Isn’t it funny how so often we go in search of something and find exactly what we went in search of.   Did you know that taking someone right where they want to go is one of Satan’s greatest plays. 

     There are two great motivating forces in life, and they are “love” and “pain.”  Love gets all the praise while pain gets all the credit.  We like to think of it like that, but it’s really not that simple.  We like to simplify them, don’t we?  Put each of them into their own neat little box, and keep them separate from each other, but as we all know, you can’t and won’t experience one without the other in this life.  It’s amazing to me how short my memory can be, how my expectations can be skewed so easily, how easily I can forget and fail to remember just how much God loves me.  When I look back over the last ten months it saddens me that I got off track so easily.  Here I thought my faith was so strong, and then the surgery, and the pain.  I thought I could handle pain.  I knew about pain.  After all I had lived with it, worked with it, for over twenty years.   But, this pain was like nothing I had ever dealt with before, being unable to move, being unable to even breathe without breaking into a sweat.  I learned very quickly that I couldn’t handle it. 

     It’s when you’re at your weakest point that Satan attacks.  Remember that.  It’s when you’re at your weakest that you learn just where you stand in your relationship with God.  You learn about yourself.  You learn about God.  You learn where you stand in connection with Him.  For God our trust and our faith, our unwavering belief in His love, mercy, faithfulness, justice, and holiness in all their purity and perfection is the highest plane of worship that we can aspire to give.  God loves us and understands us in ways that are beyond are comprehension.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  How naive and arrogant we are to think that He is in any way like us.

     What have I learned?  What are the conclusions I’ve drawn from this experience?  Let’s see.  I’ve learned that God is indeed love.  Oh how He loves us.  If only we could truly understand how much He loves us.  I’ve learned that prayer is the most precious gift, and not one to be taken lightly or carelessly. I’ve learned that you can’t treat God like He’s a checkbook.  I’ve learned that nothing pleases God more than a heart that is open to love and willing to serve.  I’ve learned that daily reliance on God is more than a hearty good morning prayer, and a quick good night.  It’s a minute by minute, step by step, walk in which I honor God with my every word and action by allowing His spirit to lead me and following wherever He may go.  These are just a few of the things I’ve learned.

     I don’t pretend to know everything about God, and I’m not capable of answering the deep theological and philosophical questions that are sometimes discussed in relationship to Him, but I can tell you this.  My question, “Does God love me?” has been answered.  Yes, He loves me.  Do I know this just because of His deep, tender, providential care for me over the last ten months?  No.  I know this because He sent His son to die for me on a cross. 

     So, in the future, when the thought that maybe God doesn’t love you crosses your mind.  Look to the cross, and keep your eyes focused there.