Thursday, August 18, 2016

Suffering, grace & overcoming

I’m not sure I really know what true suffering is. Especially in light of what Christ endured. But we all do, suffer that is.

For some it’s a nagging, persistent pain in the body or in the heart that just won’t go away. Could be a touch of arthritis or the slap of ongoing rejection. Both hurt and make us a bit gimpy in different ways.

Aging brings its myriad afflictions. The aches are new every morning! Is it suffering to endure these injustices of time? These cruel remnants of the Fall?

I have tinnitus. Both ears house a non-stop high-pitched whine. It started in the early 90s on the heels of a particularly bad sinus infection. The doctor said I suffered from a high frequency hearing loss that could have been brought on by exposure to loud or persistent noise. There’s no cure, so I endure it day in and day out. Is this suffering?

A little more than a year ago, my wife and I moved in with her Dad. He’s 86 and was widowed the year before we moved in, which was the motivation to do so. I watch him, bent, hobble around the house as age does its inexorable work in his body. But, if he’s suffering, he doesn’t say. At least not in so many words.

An older, King James sense of the word “suffer” means to “permit.” So, we “suffer” the little children to approach. It’s an interesting twist. Do I permit the ringing in my ears?

Paul claims that suffering builds character. In other words, eventually, it’s all good. As we endure suffering we are made better, more Christ-like. In that case, permitting those things that bring suffering may be the right attitude.

Then there is “suffering” that really isn’t. Having to wait in a long queue is inconvenient but not suffering. Wanting to go to a concert and discovering the tickets are sold out is disappointing but not suffering. Being a fan of a consistently losing sports team is frustrating but not suffering. Discernment and wisdom is called for in this process.

The news is full of sufferable situations. Losing a loved one in a mass shooting. Having a child kidnapped and murdered. Enduring your country being overtaken by violent enemies. Being beaten and robbed on the street. Surviving near-death amidst an extreme natural disaster. Facing decapitation because you refused to deny your faith. These are examples of suffering.

And yet, in these and similar situations, as those affected are interviewed by the Press, so often, while they are clearly grief-stricken, they don’t embrace the descriptor of “one who is suffering.” Rather, they view themselves as overcomers.

So it all comes back to, compared against what Christ endured, what is suffering? In this precious, mostly cushy life we live, we really haven’t suffered much at all even when times were hard. But perhaps we have overcome much as we lose ourselves in Him and the grace gained because of His suffering.

After all, grace wins.


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Have you suffered? Are you suffering? How did or do you deal with it? How do you minister grace to others you know who are suffering? How important is the grace of God in your life? Please feel free to share your insights in the comments!

2 comments:

  1. I have suffered a LOT in my life, but I have chosen to accept this 'suffering' as a blessing. I believe God uses things in our lives to make us turn to him. When I was young, I loved God with all my heart, & gave my life to Jesus. I was raised in church, going every Sunday morning & night, every Wednesday night, Vacation Bible School, GA's, taught children's classes later, played the piano, & sang. This was all as a teen. Little did I know that catastrophe was about to strike! My father tried to abuse me my teen years. I tried to kill myself to escape & turned to smoking pot & drinking. Before then, I had been a top athlete & cheerleader in school. I ended up having about 2 seizures a year from the age 16 until my 40s. I flitted from marriage to marriage. I turned to other religions trying to find answers. I felt God had failed me. He was supposed to protect me! Since, that time, I have come full circle. I married a child-hood man who was very abusive to me. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer a few years into our marriage. I underwent radiation & chemotherapy & ended up with tinnitus. I had chemo brain where I forgot a lot of things. Now I have bone on bone traumatic hip arthritis & am going to have to undergo a hip replacement. Because of my husband's cruelty to me, I sought after God once again. I wondered how is it that all this is happening to me? I choose not to lay down or give up - I never have. I am a fighter. Now I am studying the Bible & trying to understand what everything means. I am on a mission! I want to love God & have Him accept me with all my faults & ask His forgiveness. I truly am thankful that He loves me enough to bring me back to Him. From all this suffering, I have trodden the sinful path & have lived a life that was not righteous. I wish I would have never gone that route, I would rather have remained true through all trials. But as it is, I did experience the sinful life. I have lost all friends I ever had & found myself all alone. I have experienced God's grace to me. I have grown & learned & am still learning. I want to live to 120 years old! Though I realize God may take me sooner, I would really like to live long enough at least to finish reading & studying His word to the fullest, & hopefully I can be the daughter He wants me to be. I want to be a blessing to others in my life.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your struggles and victories. Even when we are the cause for our suffering, we can rejoice that when we -- as did the Prodigal Son -- come to our senses, God is there to forgive and renew our hearts. Your love for God is evident in your willingness to examine yourself and confess your faults to Him. 1 John 1:9 makes it clear that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Be encouraged that He accepts you with all of your faults and honors your confession. And continue living each day, one day at a time, in His grace and mercy.

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