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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On Suffering

And what of my suffering? Where does it come from? Is it simply the consequence of my own sin - or my own poor choices? Is it my pathetic perspective to a normal life - which wouldn't pain others nearly so much?

Is my suffering a case of Satan trying his level best to keep a good man down? I suppose it also could be God Himself testing me - or even punishing me for my sins or the sins of my ancestors. (Really now!)

Perhaps the cause of my suffering in life is my pride. It makes me want to seize the explanation that Satan just wants to keep me from being the man God calls me to be. That'd be an excellent explanation, wouldn't it? It would certainly keep me from having to take any personal responsibility. I could just claim the victim card, and wave it in front of my suffering!

There is this dynamic about suffering. Most of us want to know why. Would knowing why really change anything? I doubt it. Our reaction to suffering could be the same whether we know why or not. Said differently, it would seem that I can take the same actions without knowing why I suffer as I could or would take with knowledge that explains my suffering.

Can I lay aside the question? Can I just look at suffering as something "is what it is" and move through it? Is that what the good Lord would have me do with suffering?

I'd like to say that I'm an expert on suffering - because I've done so much of it. But I'm sure there are many other people who could easily top my level of suffering in so many ways. They would be the experts.

The thing is, I am becoming more convinced the older I get that being an expert at suffering doesn't get you any brownie points. The answer is never to just be a better sufferer!

So perhaps a Christ-follower needs a paradigm shift when it comes to suffering. Perhaps we're asking the wrong questions about suffering. Most likely we have the wrong attitude about suffering. Curiously, human beings have always had the attitude that the suffering needs to end. And yet, across thousands of years ... God has never, ever agreed with us to end it. Why is that? What is it that God knows about suffering that we are missing?

Maybe the questions we need to ask about suffering should be different than the ones we've been asking for centuries. Instead of asking how we can end the suffering or why the suffering exists, for example, we could ask whether Jesus is really enough for the suffering. Are His arms wide enough? Are His shoulders big enough? Is His love powerful enough ... for my suffering?

If I get to the place where my answers to such questions are positives, it strikes me that suffering loses much of its power. And suddenly, I become a much better steward of my suffering. And God is glorified.

Father in heaven, let us look upon suffering with your eyes. Let us consider it with your mind. Let us not be intimidated or controlled by it. Help us to put it into its place. And strengthen us to walk through it with Jesus' heart.

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