Category Archives: suffering

Jesus’ Suffering Offers Us Hope

I recently wrote about how to return from exile, that is, a time in your life where you got off track and life became very hard and lonely. I mentioned that you can end up in that place for a variety of reasons. It can be because you rejected God, made a bad decision, or had bad luck. But sometimes God actually calls you into exile. Jesus’ suffering informs us here.

Jesus' suffering

Called to Exile

Seasons of Suffering. What I mean is, there are seasons in life that you might be called to sacrifice for the good of others. Parents know about this. I have some friends who are serving their son who is battling cancer. There are men and women called on by their country to go to war. Or someone might be called to forsake a lucrative business career to serve others in a non-profit or ministry.

All of these people may find themselves in a place of “exile”: a place where they feel disconnected from the life they thought they would live and going without something or someone dear to them. Exile is a painful time that makes you want to give up on life.

Jesus is a perfect example of this kind of calling. He was called to suffer and die for the good of others. It’s interesting to see his reaction to his calling. It’s not what you might expect. Two of his followers recorded a time when he was overcome by the stress of his exile. One said that he was deeply grieved and overwhelmed to the point of death. The other one said that the stress caused him to sweat drops of blood.

Jesus’ Suffering Offers us Hope

I see three things about Jesus’ suffering that might help you through your time of suffering:

  1. Jesus’ suffering validates your suffering. When we suffer we often think that it’s wrong. Only bad people suffer or weak people suffer. We look around at other people and assume that something must be wrong with us. Suffering is for losers. I’m suffering. I must be a loser. But Jesus suffered. Not only did Jesus suffer, he struggled with it. He wanted to give up but he prayed for strength to continue. If you suffer or feel like giving up, you aren’t a loser. You are human. Jesus’ experience tells us that.
  2. Jesus’ suffering shows us that suffering has a purpose. One of Jesus’ followers wrote that his sacrifice made us perfect in God’s sight (Hebrews 10:14). The word “perfect” here means that we lack nothing in God’s eyes. When Jesus died, we were set right with God. We can quit working so hard to please God, and we can quit worrying that we aren’t good enough because we’ve been made perfect. 
  3. Jesus’ suffering tells us that good can come from exile. God took one of the worst experiences (death on a cross) and used it to restore humanity to God. God brought hope from fear, life from death, and restoration from devastation. He can do the same in your life.

    God brought hope from fear, life from death, and restoration from devastation. He can do the same in your life.

When Jesus prayed for strength, God immediately gave him what he needed to continue. I hope you will also ask God for the strength you need to continue and look for his comfort to see you through.

Question: have you ever seen good come from a time of suffering in your life?

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Hard Times Reveal Strength or Weakness

You never know how prepared you are until you hit hard times. Andy Stanley makes this point in his book, The Principle of the Path. This is part three in a series on the book.

Hard Times Don’t Cause Problems. Hard Times Reveal Problems.

It’s true isn’t it? Hard times are revealing. Andy says that economic downturns don’t cause problems as much as they reveal them. When you are flush with income, it doesn’t really matter how well you save or invest. You can afford to run up some debt because you always have enough to make the next payment. No one really knows if you are financially responsible or not because there is always enough money to go around.

But turn off the cash flow and it’s amazing what you find.  Some people are able to whether the storm because they’ve developed a cash reserve. They aren’t overextended on credit so they don’t have many bills to pay. Others aren’t so lucky. When the money dries up they are in crisis. No reserves and heavily leveraged.

Warren Buffet said you never know who is skinny dipping until the tide goes out. Exactly. Hard times are revealing.

Death and Sickness Reveal Your Relational Path

I’m currently involved in a funeral preparation for a family in my church.  As I drove away from the hospital on the night of the death I was impressed with the level of support that immediately surrounded the family of the deceased.  I have another church member suffering a significant, life-threatening disease. They too have been pleasantly surprised at the depth of support they have received during this time. As hard as these two situations are, they both revealed something very positive.  Through the years they walked a path that cultivated strong relationships with quality people.

What Path Are You Following?

But not everyone is so lucky. The Principle of the Path is a warning that we are all on a path somewhere.  You might think life is good and you are headed in the right direction until you hit hard times. You might not have the money you thought you had. You might not have the friends you thought you had. You might not have the connection with God that you wished you had.

The Principle of the Path asks, if you hit hard times today, are you deep enough financially, relationaly, spiritually, etc. to not just survive but overcome?  Answer that question and then make the corrections necessary to get on the path that will help you thrive, even in the face of hard times.

Question: What have hard times revealed in your life? Leave your comment below.

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The Weakness of God and Newtown, Connecticut

In the wake of the Newtown, CT massacre, people are asking an obvious question: Where was God? Christians talk about an all loving, all-powerful God. So where was he?  Doesn’t something like this undermine the Christian message? How can you believe in God when he doesn’t show up? This continues my meditation on the weakness of God.weakness of god

People have asked these questions for centuries. They’re fair questions.  If God exists and God is all-powerful, then logic tells us that bad things shouldn’t happen, right?

The weakness of God

When God doesn’t show up in the way we want him to, that’s what I call the weakness of God. Is God weak? No. But if we are honest, that’s how we feel.

This is what we need to know: God often comes in what seems like weakness. But he never ends in weakness. He comes in humility, but ends in greatness.

The value of weakness

The apostle Paul makes a radical statement in the Bible: “…power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Power is somehow brought to its full expression in weakness. This seems contradictory. It doesn’t make sense. What does power have to do with weakness? But Paul came to appreciate weakness. He wasn’t ashamed of it. It didn’t embarrass him.  In fact he said…

Most gladly… I will …boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9,10

Paul had his share of trouble: persecution, shipwrecks, prison, left for dead. But he didn’t accuse God of abandoning him or of being weak. He came to appreciate that weakness provided an opportunity for God to show up in his life in unique ways. Maybe not the ways he always wanted, but present nonetheless.

Disillusioned with God

Many people turn to God because they are promised that God will solve all their problems.  These people tend to be the ones that are offended when God doesn’t “show up.”  No one ever told them that God allows suffering so they feel like the victim of “bait and switch”…they came to God thinking that God was a problem solver and now they are disillusioned. That is also why – when they read about 27 people being shot – they don’t have a theology that allows for that.

God with us

But the Bible doesn’t promise that God will only come in strength. Think about the first Christmas. It’s not a pretty story. There is oppression, poverty, and the slaughter of innocent children. When Jesus showed up, he didn’t solve any of that. He came in weakness: just a child.  The Christmas story doesn’t tell us that God rescues us from problems. It tells us that God is with us in our problems.

Overcoming evil

Last Friday, evil shocked us. But let’s not run from it or accuse God of being weak. Let’s look to God to reveal himself in our suffering. God is a master at making good out of evil. The resurrection is the obvious example.  Some people probably accused God of abandoning them the day after Jesus was crucified. But their doubt and questions were answered on Sunday.

The Gift of Pain – Helping Others from Our Hurt

The Gift of Pain

The Gift of Pain

I just finished a three-part series called Walking with God in the Desert at my church. It seemed to impact a number of people in a good way. My goal was to help us develop “desert eyes”, that is, to see what good might come from hard times. I called it the gift of pain.

I mentioned that we need to develop three kinds of “desert eyes”; eyes to see our dark side and deal with it. Second,  eyes to see the small kindnesses that God brings our way. And last, we need eyes to see the gifts that come from our pain that help others through their desert times, or, the gift of pain.  

Following is an excerpt where I talked about the ” gift of pain “.  

The Gift of Pain

The easy teaching about the desert is that God wants to comfort you. That’s absolutely true. But if all I did was tell you stories of comfort then I would really be doing you a disservice because God’s comfort is only half the story in the desert.

God comforts us for two main reasons. One, he loves us. He wants to help us. The second reason is so we can turn around and comfort others. Your desert experience is a training ground to learn how to help someone else in the desert. The apostle Paul understood this. He wrote this to a church in Greece…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Then Paul applies this directly to his situation…

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort… 1 Corinthians 1:3-6

That’s like a friend of yours feeling sorry for your situation and you say…oh. Yes…I suppose it’s bad news for me but it’s good news for you. And they ask, What do you mean? And you say…because of my distress I’ll be able to comfort you better when you go through hard times.

That’s what I mean by the gift of pain. Paul used his desert experience to help others. When you go through hard times you learn things like humility and empathy and compassion. You learn what it means to be intimate with God. You can’t go to college to get these things, right?

These gifts only come one way…through pain. But once you have them then you have something to share that you never would have had to share before. God wants to work something deep into you so that he can pull it out of you to benefit someone else. It’s the gift of pain.

Question: Have you been given a gift of pain? How has your past pain prepared you to help others going through a similar trial? Please leave a comment below and “share the knowledge” by clicking the links. Thanks.

Jill Kinmont Boothe – The Gift of Pain

Jill Kinmont Boothe

Jill Kinmont Boothe

I just completed a three-week series at my church called “Walking With God in the Desert”. Today I finished the series by talking about “The Gift of Pain”.   My point in this message is that we all suffer with something…some more than others. Pain teaches us things nothing else can. The lessons we learn are “gifts” to share with others in pain. This story about Jill Kinmont Boothe is a good example of someone who did just that.

Jill Kinmont Boothe

Time magazine has an obituary section where they mention famous people who died recently.  It’s interesting to read because I’ve never heard about most of the people they mention since they were famous 40 or 50 years ago.

Last month a woman died whom I had never heard of before. Her name was Jill Kinmont Boothe.  She was the national slalom skiing champion back in 1955. She went to the Olympics and was featured on the front page of Sports Illustrated that year. But during one of her pre-Olympic races she lost control, struck a spectator and crashed into a tree.  Another article by the LA Times gave more detail. It said…

When she finally came to a stop, she couldn’t feel anything. This must be death, she later recalled thinking. Her neck broken, she was paralyzed below her shoulders, her promising career as a skier over at 18. Los Angeles Times

Jill was determined to walk and ski again. But she never did. Jill spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. But that never stopped her. She went on to get two degrees and a teaching certificate although no one would hire her. Finally a school district in Beverly Hills hired her where she taught remedial reading for a several years.

If that wasn’t enough heart-break for one person, Jill had a number of other losses in her life.  Her teenage boyfriend was killed in an avalanche. A second love died when his small plane crashed in Donner Lake. And a UCLA friend who mentored her succumbed to an undiagnosed disease. When asked how she dealt with so much loss she said…

“To get mad, to scream and holler, to tell the world — that doesn’t get you anywhere,”   “You sort of look for what’s good that’s left, I guess.”

Her husband commented about her saying…

“I think the thing that impressed me most the first time I met her was that after a few minutes you forgot all about her being in a wheelchair,” “She obviously isn’t preoccupied by it and pretty soon you’re not either.”

I’m so impressed with her resilience…her ability to bounce back from a series of tragedies and overcome them. Not only did she survive but she gave her life to help others.  As noted in the LAObserved link below it tells us that…

They know her well in the Eastern Sierra communities along U.S. highway 395. She was a public school teacher for 32 years, including 21 years with special ed kids at Bishop Union Elementary School. When a new high school opened in Bishop, the students voted to name it the Jill Kinmont Boothe School. She oversaw the Indian Education Fund, which provides scholarships to local Native American youth, and had a local following as a painter. “My way of wanting to do all this stuff probably stems a lot from my competitive endeavors because I like to focus on something,” Jill Kinmont Boothe told Jerry Crowe of the LA Times last year. “I’m sort of determined.”

She was “sort of” determined. I don’t know where she was at spiritually but I believe that God has hardwired resilience into us.  Whether we choose to recognize him or not, we have the ability to bounce back against incredible odds. It takes people like Jill to show us our potential.

Sadly, many of us never tap into the potential that is ours…not just to rebound but to use our hardship to help others. That’s what I mean by the “Gift of Pain”. There are things that we learn only through pain. But once we learn them we become a wealth of wisdom for others.

As you look at the pain of your past you have two choices; one, to lament the tragedy and limp through life as a victim. The other choice is to work through these natural feelings and then use the pain to help others. That’s what Jill Kinmont Boothe did. I hope you’ll find the courage to do the same.

Join me for part two as I reflect in more detail about the “Gift of Pain”.