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First Reactions September 1, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Attitude, Belief, Blessings, Nature of God, Trust.
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The other day I met with the two high school girls who I do a biweekly Bible study with. They’re great kids, and we’re making our way through Beth Moore’s Living Free – an excellent short study focusing on breaking free of the strongholds in our lives and learning to know God and believe him.

The chapter we were working was focusing on believing God – and the difference between believing in God (that he exists) and believing God (trusting him and his promises to us). One of the main verses was Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We all were familiar with the verse, but we spent a lot of time discussing what it meant (and the beautiful thing about Scripture is that it rarely just means one thing). There are lots of ways to look at it, the most common being that God is saying “I know what I’m doing and you don’t, so calm down”. Another is “God works in mysterious ways” or “Things that you think are bad God can work for good”. I think those are all very valid and vital interpretations, but we also came one more takeaway message from this verse.

If God’s thoughts are so much higher and better than ours, does that mean we’re always wrong? Not necessarily – everyone gets it right sometimes! But I think what God is trying to get at is that our first reactions are very often the opposite of his. We may eventually come to the right conclusion, for various reasons. But that gut instinct, that spontaneous first response – that’s the essence of “our way” and it’s usually the wrong way to go.

Here’s an example from my week, last week. Our old car broke down, to the point where it was clear that putting more money into it would be foolish. My first reaction was: “This is terrible. It’s so stressful, and now we have to eat into our savings to get another car, and it takes so much time and effort to find something and then take care of all the paperwork. This week sucks.”

That reaction is neither godly nor constructive. The way I should have (and eventually did) respond to the situation was more like “Well, that old car gave us our money’s worth. I’m so grateful that we live close enough to work that being without a car for a few days isn’t a hardship, and I’m so blessed that God immediately provided us with the perfect car that we were able to pay cash for without going into debt. The whole process of purchasing and paperwork went so easily. God is so good to us!”.

It took awhile to get there, but I believe that is the response that is God’s way, as opposed to “my way” which is ungrateful, pessimistic, and kind of bitchy – and completely unproductive since the situation is not going to change no matter how much I whine about it. I need to learn to check my responses when seemingly-not-so-great things happen and see how they line up with what I know of God’s way.

Not that I can know precisely or fully what he’s doing in a situation, but if I can learn to hold up my initial reactions to what I know of the nature of God, I will gain a more Christ-like attitude in my view of life. And the more I know about the nature of God through spending time with him and studying his Word, the more my first reactions to situations will start to mimic his, and the “higher” my thoughts will be.

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Overcoming evil with good. August 31, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Blessings, Evil, Heart Condition, Personal, Struggles.
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I was reading in Romans last night, a bit aimlessly but trying to get back in the habit of making time in the Word a priority. And I stumbled across this little gem of a verse:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:21

It struck me, because I feel like I am constantly overcome. Perhaps evil seems like a strong word for my workplace, or for the general distractions of life that get me down, or even for New Jersey. But at work I feel constantly overwhelmed by the negative atmosphere, toxic people, and the overall distastefulness of the job. I feel powerless at home to do the things I want to do – after things like dinner, laundry, errands, and car maintenance are done I don’t have much energy left to pursue what I really care about. Even just driving around this state I get so frustrated with the traffic and the crowds and the new housing developments where productive farms and forests were.

I am letting myself be overcome. The verse spoke to me because that is how I feel daily. I feel overcome in the face of all the negativity and unhappiness around me, in the distance between what I had dreamed of for my life and where I actually am, and in the hundred ways I daily feel thwarted from living a life of passion, joy, and hope.

But Paul is telling us that it is a choice, not an inevitability. We don’t have to be overcome by evil. We can turn it around – Christ has given us that gift. I love the phrase “overcome evil with good”. It’s such a powerful image of evil being overthrown, overturned, and undone in the face of simple goodness. I just imagine being so filled with God’s goodness that none of the bad things around me, the lies of Satan, the actions of others, can assail me.

I am a long way from that. But I’m starting to realize that by letting all the wrong and injustice and pettiness that’s around me make me angry or frustrated or lose hope, I am letting Satan win a battle that has serious negative consequences for my life and for those around me – particularly though who I should be being a light to and instead am functionally just as lost as they are.

And that’s not what I want. I want to be the force for good that the waves of evil break upon and are shattered and dissolve. But I know that’s not something I can just decide to do on my own. While I do have to make choices to do the right thing and to trust God, I also know that the only way to be filled with that kind of goodness so that it reflects on every one of my actions is to steep myself so thoroughly in the goodness of God that it is all that is capable of coming out of me.

Isaiah 55 August 4, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Blessings, Personal, Promises, Scripture, The Bible.
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I have been experiencing an incredible amount of fatigue this week. My schedule has been a little unusual and I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep, but I feel like the depth of exhaustion I’ve been having is more than can be accounted for by those factors. I don’t know if it’s a physical issue (medication change, insomnia, or vitamin deficiency), a spiritual one (enemy attack or struggling with faith), or an emotional one (stress, depression) – or some combination of all three. But even just staying awake at work has been a struggle. If I don’t feel better after the weekend I may go in for a blood test and/or sleep study to see if there’s a medical reason I’m so out of it.

That said, despite both a long nap this afternoon and some light exercise in an attempt to get a little energy, I am just too tired for a proper post today. But yesterday, I did something I hadn’t done in an embarrassingly long time – sit down and read the Bible. Like actually crack open a physical Bible (my online attention span is too short for anything more than looking up individual passages) and just read it because I wanted to. Without a particular goal or agenda or because I wanted to see what a certain verse said. Just read.

It was so refreshing. I read a good deal of the Gospel of John, Galatians, and part of my favorite portion of Isaiah. I’m not much of an Old Testament girl, but Isaiah 55 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. It’s so full of hope and promise. I love how it starts, because I constantly spend time and money and energy on things that don’t satisfy, that don’t fill me or quench my thirst. I’m at a loss to explain why I do this, but it’s so good to know that God is calling me to true nourishment and refreshment. This is a great passage to use to meditate on so many of his promises to us.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.

Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.

Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”

I’m off to read some more; if my body refuses to be refreshed at least my soul can be. Hopefully I’ll be back on my game tomorrow.

Quote of the Day: August 2nd August 2, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Blessings, Peace, Quote of the Day.
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Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.

Amy Carmichael

Lies I Believe, Part 2: “You’re Too Much” August 1, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Belief, Blessings, Flaws, Holy Spirit, Identity, Lies, Lifescripts, Personal, Trust, Worry.
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Part of two of my series exploring the lies in my life that Satan uses to keep me from being the person God wants me to be, and my attempt to disentangle them from my heart before they do any more damage.

The lie: You’re too much to handle; you always push things too far.

I always feel like I am just always a little bit too something. Too loud. Too aggressive. Too emotional. Too needy. Too intense. I often feel like my friends and others often just tolerate me to be nice but really wish that I would dial it back a little.

After interactions, phone conversations, emails, particularly serious ones, I usually feel uncertain of myself, wondering about what I’ve said and if I went too far.  Did I insult that person by accident? Was that joke too barbed? Was that the wrong thing to say? I know I talked too long, said too much. I could feel them withdrawing from me. I came on too strong, I knew it. I shouldn’t have been so honest, now they aren’t going to want to be around me anymore.

I’m most susceptible to these feelings with people I don’t know very well yet, but am just starting to form a relationship with. But I still experience it even in my closest friendships. And when I start to feel like that, it’s very hard to convince me otherwise, even I know I rationally they probably haven’t given it a second thought. Even if they have given me tangible proof that our relationship is still as good as ever, I still maintain this little doubt in my mind that they see me differently or don’t trust me as much or love me as much.

The result: I withdraw and hide.

I pull back on nascent friendships before they even get started because of imagined coolness on the other person’s part. I bite my tongue and avoid emotional honesty with all but my closest friends. I am circumspect about my true thoughts and beliefs, and end up agreeing with people just so they will like me. With my closest friends I often don’t challenge them like I should when I feel something is wrong, because I’d rather be supportive than risk their anger.

And when I am honest and really open up about what I think or feel, I then waste time and energy worrying over their reactions. I question everything I said and did, I doubt myself. Even when I get positive feedback from the person, I still feel shyer than before about taking that emotional risk and putting my true feelings out there. And when I get no feedback, I am sure that I have offended them.

So I make fewer friends than I want to, and I put up walls with the ones I have. I am not as bold with my thoughts and ideas as I should be, and when I am I usually regret it. I fear that even my truest friends merely put up with me. I avoid leadership because there’s just too many ways to mess that one up. And I waste time and energy on worry and fear, instead of putting my efforts towards more fruitful things, such as strengthening my friendships and loving others. I become self-obsessed and self-involved, and do not live out the freedom Christ has given me. I become a people pleaser and try to just be nice, instead of being a Christ-pleaser and striving for authenticity.

The truth: I am not too much for God, and he made me how I am for a reason.

The trouble with this lie, the reason it works so well, is that like most effective lies it’s partly true. I can be loud and aggressive. I’ve hurt or lost friendships from taking things too far or being really honest. Sometimes I am thoughtless with my words, or get overly passionate about something and push too hard. I sometimes have bad timing with what I say, or say things the wrong way. Sometimes I just plain open my mouth when I shouldn’t

Another reason it works so well is that my mother is very pushy and needy and loud and intrusive and just too much sometimes. I know I am like her in a lot of ways. And while I love my mother very much, there are a lot times when she is acting a certain ways that my feelings towards her are less affectionate than barely tolerant. I don’t want people to think of me that way.

But the real truth is that it doesn’t matter what other people think of me. It only matters what God thinks of me. He made me and the truth is, no matter what I do, I can never be too much for him to handle.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39

Nothing in this earth or heaven or hell can separate me from his love. Certainly nothing I can say or do, however stupid or thoughtless. And he gave me these traits that I so often dislike. He made me exactly the way I am, and has a reason for doing so.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

That doesn’t mean I only do good things and never cross the line, or that I shouldn’t try to be a better listener, or less reactive, or to think before I speak. But it means that there is way that my natural outspokenness and enthusiasm and honesty and passion and humor is meant to be used for his kingdom. And when I try to totally suppress them because I think they just end up causing trouble, I am only cutting myself off from the ways he may want me to use them.

Not everyone will like me. I need to be okay with that. And I will sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I may even ruin friendships by it. But despite that, I still have true, wonderful friends who love me, who God has placed in my life for a purpose and who are incredibly understanding and forgiving. And I don’t need to be afraid of being myself around them.

Most importantly God loves me no matter what. He has saved me and redeemed me and wants me to live that out for everyone to see. He doesn’t want me to live in fear, or to cut myself off from good relationships or ministry because I am afraid of screwing up. He wants me to bold in my life and in my speech, but bold for him and for the pursuit of the hearts of others and not bold out of my own desires or need for recognition.

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.
2 Corinthians 3:12-13

I do not need to be afraid of what God has given me. I will still screw up, because people screw up. But even if I screw up every single of my relationships to the point where literally no one else wants to be around me, I will still have God and he will still love me. That is the most important relationship, and his plan for me is more important than my self-centered fears and insecurities. And I can always go to him, no matter how badly I mess things up.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

How to fight it: Know my identity in Christ; trust God and trust the people he’s put in my life.

Reading God’s Word and keeping a close relationship with him is the only way to fight this one. It accomplishes two things. When I am living in his love there is no room for fear or doubt; he tells me who I am, not Satan, or my mother, or anyone else.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

And when I am filled with the Spirit I will have more wisdom and discernment about what I say, I will be less needy and attention-seeking and not always looking for validation, and I will bear the fruits of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

That doesn’t mean if I live in the Spirit and walk with God that I will never make a mistake in my relationships, but when I stop focusing on myself and my own insecurities and focus on God and on truly loving others for their sakes, not my own, I become less and less likely to act out of selfishness. Traits that seems like curses when applied by my own judgement become gifts when I use them the way God wants me to.

I have to trust him to put me on the right path in my relationships. If I stick close to him and am really living how he wants me to, I won’t be afraid to speak when I feel led because I will know that it’s really him speaking and not just myself. If there is fallout from it, I have to trust that he is in that, too.

And I have to trust the godly people he’s put in my life to love me ; trust that they will not turn away from me because of a misstep or stupid comment, but that they will love me and forgive me because they are living out of God’s love too.

But in the end, I have to accept the fact that only one thing matters: following Christ. Not my fears. Not what others think of me. Not where it might lead me. Because following Christ will at times bring pain, and loss, and even humiliation for his sake. I may speak the truth out of the most righteous of motives and have stones thrown at me. I could be exactly the person God made me to be and still lose friends or status or anything else; in fact he pretty much promises that will happen. If I truly want live like Christ, that is something that I have to embrace.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:3-8

Because in the end, its not about me. The more I worry about myself, the more I make it about me and the less I make it about Christ. But when I give up my own fears and desires, he can do great things with my life and in my relationships.

Running with Gratitude July 28, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Blessings, Gratitude, Struggles.
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Tonight I went jogging. I only recently started and I have a love-hate relationship with running. I love that I run now, I love how I feel afterwards, I even love the occasions when I find a really good pace and it starts to feel natural. But the actual act of getting out there and getting going – still not a fan. I really didn’t feel like going tonight, but as I just signed up for my first 5k in October, I am trying to get on a schedule of 3x per week in hopes of developing some consistency. And as no one else was home, I had no other commitments, and I hadn’t done any exercise today, I had no excuses not to go.

So I was running, but I was running with bad grace. It was hot. It was late in the day. I had a stitch in my side. I was tired of all my music.

And then as I rounded the latter half of my second lap around our apartment complex, I saw a woman walking ahead of me. Well, limping. She was using a cane, and seemed to be wearing leg braces under her clothes. She was an Indian woman (the majority of our town is Southeast Asian), slim, and fairly young – maybe in her early thirties. Every step was clearly painful for her. She would stop every few meters and wipe the sweat from her brow. But she seemed to determined to keep going.

I jogged easily around her, feeling guilty as I passed. I realized that my attitude needed an adjustment, and that I should be thankful that I even have the ability to run. I am not talking about praying that most odious of prayers, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other men.” That’s a whole different essay.

I mean taking the time to genuinely praise God for what I have. Two strong legs to run. Time to do so. A safe place to do so. A truly lovely evening, just sinking into smoky twilight, and music that lifts my soul to the Lord when I hear it. Because all of that could change at any moment – that and more could all be taken from me.

If I can’t appreciate it when I have it, and use it to the full extent of my abilities, what would I do if my circumstances changed? Bad grace in plenty doesn’t bode well for a good attitude in times of trial. If I can barely get it together to overcome essentially non-existent obstacles to do something so simple as running when I am perfectly healthy, what would I do when every movement was a battle?

I have so much. I do so little. So many things come easily for me, and yet I make so little effort. While so many others fight, literally, for every step.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him will be asked all the more.”
Luke 12:48

Quote of the Day: July 26th July 26, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Blessings, Loss, Love, Quote of the Day, Suffering.
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The earth will never be the same again
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in the pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
A Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried
If this small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies would have lied.
How shall we sing our love’s song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
Every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.

Madeleine L’Engle

The Wounded Christian July 22, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Belief, Blessings, Compassion, Death, Pain, Struggles, Suffering, The Bible.
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Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the way that in certain Christian circles admitting sadness, mourning, doubt, or deep emotional pain is almost taboo. Sharing struggles is, of course, encouraged but if you don’t end your story with something on the order of “…but I know God is in control” or “…but  I’m still just really praising God for all He’s done for me” you will get some deeply concerned looks and probably some aggressive encouragement which may or may not be welcome at the moment. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said something, in real life or online that indicated I was going through a bit of a dark patch or having a bad day only to have a well-meaning Christian friend jump in instantly to tell me not to be sad, that God had a plan to work it for good, or that we should just keep thanking God.

And it’s true. God has done so much for us and we should always praise him. He will work it all together for the ultimate good. He is in control. And of course there’s always someone who has it worse than me and I should be thankful for what I have.  The problem is, I may not be there yet. And I don’t think God needs me to be. I’m afraid I am a bit suspicious of relentlessly cheerful Christians – either they really are that unaffected by life’s woes and thus cannot understand what I”m dealing with, or they are in deep denial about their lives. God does not require us to be happy all the time, or instantly be okay when tragedy and pain strikes us. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about sorrow and grief, and almost none of it is that we shouldn’t let ourselves experience it.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

This is not Jesus telling us to “get over it”. For we cannot experience God’s comfort unless we have a need of it. Over and over again, the Bible shows us that God honors our grief, our pain, our suffering. He promises to heal us of it, but we have to admit the pain first, before there can be healing. This is not say that we should seek out pain and hurt, or tell other people how awesome it is that they are suffering. There is enough pain in this world already and plenty of things will wound us without us having to go look for them. And we should do our best to be God’s hands and ease the wounds of others. But we can’t do that by pretending they don’t exist and that they don’t need to time to be felt before they can begin to mend. God never tells us is it wrong to feel a certain way. In fact, he has infinite compassion on those who suffer. He never discounts our experience of pain, whether our problems are objectively large or small, or whether it seems like there are others who are suffering more.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

There are several books in the Bible that are devoted almost entirely to pain, suffering, loss, and grief and they do not shy away from the raw ugliness of human emotions, nor do they provide total answers to the questions we cry out in our difficult times, other than telling us that God IS. That’s all the answer Job really got, in the end. Yes he got back everything he lost and more but that doesn’t negate what he went through. Lamentations is nothing but grief and sorrow, and the author is just as desolate at the end of the book as at the beginning. Ecclesiastes has an author that is overwhelmed by the wickedness of the world and practically suicidal, and although he realizes we receive many good things from God he is still left with more questions than answers.

None of these books tell us we shouldn’t grieve, we shouldn’t hurt, we shouldn’t question. And yet, even in the darkest times the authors still managed to praise God. And I think today, a lot of people confuse praise with happiness. They think that you cannot praise God if you are sad or hurting or even angry at him. But some of the deepest times of praise spring from our deepest wounds, not just after they are healed but while they are still bleeding.

I can go in my darkest hour to God and say through my tears, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” It doesn’t mean I’m over whatever has happened, or that I’m going to be instantly happy and fine from there on in. It just means I am making a choice to worship him in spite of everything else, in spite of the questions or doubts or fears. It’s the first step toward healing, not the last.

Even Jesus felt emotional pain, and felt it deeply. And he knew for a fact how it would work out in the end. He didn’t have some wavering belief or faint hope – He had certain knowledge. But still, he wept for Lazarus even though he knew he could and would raise him from the dead. He wept in the Garden of Gethsemane, grieving more deeply than probably anyone ever has, even though he knew in three days he would rise again and become the salvation of the whole world.

“Then he said to them,
‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow
to the point of death.’ ”
Matthew 26:38

Just because we know things are ultimately going to be all right, just because we are saved and redeemed and know we have a place in heaven, and that one day the whole earth will be made new, doesn’t mean everything is all right now. It doesn’t mean we have to pretend not to feel the wounds that life brings our way. Julian of Norwich said:

“And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well!”

It is a joyful statement, indeed. And a true one. But she is also implicitly recognizing that even though God shall make all things well, they all not well now. This world is fallen, and full of broken people – ourselves especially included. There is cause for grief. There are situations where someone is going to be hurt no matter what choice is made. There is great evil, atrocities, genocides. And there is no escaping the sin in our own lives and the pain it will cause us and others. If we are to love God and love others as he loves them, then we must be willing to accept this and feel it and be changed and purified by it before we can come out the other side.

“Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.”
James 4:9-10

For it is in our pain and mourning that God brings us comfort, it is how he draws us to him. And it is how he transforms us. Without it there is no need of him, and he can give us joy even in our greatest darkness. Joy is not the opposite of sadness, but something that shines through despite it and can exist simultaneously with it . And it is also in our suffering that we can minister to others. Someone who has never known real pain can not touch someone who is going through real pain. And in fact, it may take someone who has been deeply hurt to even recognize suffering in another. God uses our wounds to heal each other, to draw others to him. Someone who is truly suffering cannot abide to hear “Don’t worry, it will be okay, God loves you!” from someone who has not experienced (or acknowledged) pain in their own lives. They need to hear “It hurts. I hurt with you. And our Father hurts with both of us.”

These are the gifts that God gives us in our pain: The gift of himself, and the gift being able to reach out to others who are in the same place and help draw them to him. There is healing, there is joy, there is restoration. That comes differently to different people and we cannot expect everyone to experience it in the same way at the same time. There are times for rejoicing and times for grieving – one of the greatest gifts we can give each other is to allow others to experience the season of life they are in and not to try tell them they shouldn’t be where they are. Telling people they shouldn’t be sad, shouldn’t be hurting, shouldn’t doubt only isolates them further from the community and from God, adding extra guilt for not believing hard enough to whatever they are already going through.

“For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.”
Psalm 22:24

Until Christ returns, until the world is fully redeemed and fully healed there will always be new pains and fresh griefs. To deny that would be foolish. To accept it allows us to experience healing and to be agents of healing in others.

Around the Internet: Links 7/22/10 July 22, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Blessings, Evangelism, Pain, Suffering, Transgender Issues.
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Heart-Wrenching: An incredibly touching essay about responding to suffering and pain when we are in the Valley of the Shadow of Death – and Christ is there with us. From the late Michael Spencer’s blog. (Internet Monk)

Ridiculous: Brother Maynard on receiving an EvangeCube as a present during a hospital stay. Because sometimes the Bible just isn’t good enough for the Gospel. (Subversive Influence)

Possibly Prophetic: Op-Ed on Mel Gibson’s spectacular public self-destruct as a symptom of the slow but immanent death of the hardcore Christian conservatism that has ruled the culture wars for the past couple decades. (New York Times)

Humbling: Learning how to accept words of blessing from others gracefully, and how to bless others with our words. (Paradoxology)

Divisive: Embracing and accepting transgendered people, both within and outside the church. Just because someone’s gender doesn’t fit with our black and white ideas of sex, it doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a place for them (Canyonwalker Connections)