Satan’s Scourge


 

 

Crafty demon you are,

picking on God’s

children like a

schoolyard

Bully.

Tear sinew,

rip flesh from

bone.

Break my bones

if their crack

brings delight to

your fallen

Spirit.

Sear my flesh,

Oh, Beautiful One,

if my cries lighten

your burden.

 

Let your scourge

test my resolve.

Loose your

wickedness

upon this

broken

shell.

 

For, your realm

is in decay.

Hell’s

foundations are

crumbling.

You are

in

your

final

death

Throes.

 

So, break this

body if you must.

Brand my flesh, rob

me of all Earthly

Beauty, for

your end

is

Near.

 

I

Stand against

you

with God’s

Army Angels

standing as a fortress

in front,

at both flanks

and legions after

legions bringing up the

rear.

 

Take this useless frame,

twist it,

turn it,

burn it

but you will

never lay claim

to

my

Soul.

 

“Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

Revelations 22:20

Advertisements

Healing or Strength…for which should we Diligently Pray?


 

 

I listen to the scriptures everyday as I do other daily tasks. I read the scriptures as well but I have found that I can listen to scripture for eight hours a day plus when I do other activities so the time is well used. I also make certain to use various translations so as not miss something. Today as I was listening to the people clamoring to touch Jesus so they could be healed of their infirmity a new pattern of thought began weaving itself through my consciousness. The desperation and hopelessness these folks experienced, especially in that era, is well appreciated.              I, myself, spent much of my life begging God to take away my ailments and hardships so I definitely get the desperation to be healed. However, I had a thought today as I listened to these stories for the 1000th time that struck me deeply. The afflicted flocked to Jesus and in his love; he healed them at their requests. No one wants suffering and pain unless they are a masochist or flagellant. Yet, I know suffering has purpose beyond that which can be seen or experienced by the one who is doing the suffering.

Okay, so this is the thought, what if the people who begged to be healed and were then healed inadvertently diminished their earthly impact because their ailment was removed? To be sure, if the healed remained in Christ/God after being healed then they would still have an Earthly impact because God will bless their efforts. However, if like the nine lepers who never looked back after being healed, could we diminish our earthly impact by taking our own path?

I know in all certainty that if God had chosen to heal me decades ago then I would learn to lean upon my own strength and cleverness.  If I had been permitted to pursue my own life plans in a body without blemish then would I have grown in faith and wisdom? Would I have had the tools to help others as they struggled through their journey? If I had gone on to live a healthy, “normal” life with the ability to achieve praiseworthy human accomplishments then what impact would I have been able to have? I do not know the answers to these questions but I am thinking my impact would have been far less because I would not have learned how to depend upon the Lord. My relationship with my creator would have been shallow and empty because I would have depended upon my own strength and cleverness. My plans for my life were thwarted. My ailments could have been a permanent roadblock, and they nearly were, but once I understood each had the potential to reach large groups of lost and hurting people then I began to understand it wasn’t about me at all. My ailments were not curses or punishments; instead, they were keys to open the hearts and minds of the lost children who were flailing in agonizing fear. I am able to reach through the brick wall of fear, anger, and agony many surround themselves with because I have been on that side of empty desperation. I can reach them because of the hardships, heartaches, and pain I endured.

Each hardship and ailment that constructs the person I am only has purpose when I give them to God to use for good. Regardless of the depth of agony of any hardship, each has a boundless wealth of possible good. I sit here and reflect because I know that I would never have met half the people I have, nor would I have been useful for the Kingdom if I had depended upon myself all these years. Sure, pain, agony and frustration are not enjoyable but the diamond he is creating us to be takes a bit of pressure.

So, does that mean we shouldn’t pray to be healed or work toward healing? Absolutely not! We must always petition our Lord for healing and if he sees that it will benefit it us AND those around us for his Kingdom then he may grant our request for healing. However, he tells us time and again that he works best through the broken. If you look throughout history, the figures that strike us as the most impactful were the ones who overcame great anguish in some manner. Sure, there have been some pretty infamous individuals who impacted the world and that will always occur but looking at just one scenario, the holocaust…How many iron clad stories of faith and survival came from that horrific event? No, I do not believe God sent that upon the people but when they chose to allow God to use their pain for good then we reap the benefits within our own souls decades later. Our faith in enriched because of the thousands of who stood steadfast and true in the face of pure evil.

In our own lives, in our heartache, pain and fear we become angry and confused feeling abandoned by our creator. I feel this in earnest when the pain becomes mind numbing and soul crushing but that is only Satan trying to tear us away from our Father, which is why the pain is so great. I believe there comes a point in one’s life where you must decide that the answer to your plea may be no or not until you reach glory. We obsess in our Christian culture to bring healing to all if we can only have enough faith then it will be so. I think that borders more on the line of the ill advised friends of  Job’s, who had the nerve to believe they knew what God was doing in that situation. They did far more harm to Job than any of the ailments or tragedies that struck him.

Regardless of whether we pray for healing or not we should always pray for strength and wisdom. We should always ask God to squeeze all the possible good from the suffering we must endure or else it is wasted. Who wants to hurt for nothing? I have learned much through the years and I can see clearly where I have wasted my suffering and where I allowed others to remain lost because I was too caught up in my own suffering and anger. I did not care if they were lost, I did not care if they were hurting, I was angry and hateful to everyone especially God. I was so caught up in the fact that my mother was not healed and I was not healed that I could not and would not see beyond the pain. I wanted it gone regardless of the cost. Now, I see how tragic that would have been. My faith and wisdom would not be strong but worse yet; many who I have been able to reach may have been lost or become a bitter tool for Satan. Suffering can only be understood by suffering, which is why our Christ suffered so much for us. An alcoholic is not going to listen to anyone who has never even taken a drink! Just the same, someone in physical agony is not going to be comforted by someone who can only boast surviving a head cold. Suffering is a universal language but it can only be understood through suffering.

Back to the original thought, was the glory of God lessened because these thousands of people were healed upon their requests? Now, understand that this is not a blanket assumption because Christ himself told his disciples that the blind man was born blind so that his healing from Christ would bring glory to God’s holy kingdom. We, in our human understanding, cannot know the purpose of every ailment of every person out there. We cannot explain the heartache that suddenly takes a child from its mother and father. We do not know the reasons for all suffering but we should at least accept that the impact of suffering could be positive or negative depending upon whether we give it to God or hold onto it like a precious treasure.

Be certain to understand, I am not speaking of suffering caused by our own hands. God will certainly use it for good if we allow it but we must take ownership of that suffering because it came through our own conscious choice. For example, I was once over 500 pounds and I was miserable, in pain, sick, and angry. I blamed God for all of it but it was not God shoving food down my throat. It wasn’t God preventing me from making healthy decisions. It wasn’t God increasing the rate of deterioration of my arthritic joints. It was me, my poor choices, my decisions, and my plan for my life. I reap the harvest of those bad choices but the key to my suffering now is to allow him to use it all and work hard to do my part to bring my plans into perfect sync with my Creators. Yeah, if you have read my blog then you know and understand that my suffering and challenges have come in many venues and most of them not through my own hand; however, suffering needs healing. Sometimes the only healing our suffering has upon this earth is through the spirit. We accept the cross we have been asked to carry, get rid of the crosses we were never meant to pick up and continue to follow the savior giving him our all in every way. If we have ailments that were woven into our being in the womb then we need to not only overcome them but also squeeze every bit of good that can be pressed from them. If we are suffering through our own hands then we need to stop and rid ourselves of a burden that was not meant for us and help others avoid the pit into which we ourselves fell. If we cannot help them avoid it then we should help them find their own way out, for they will not take a proffered hand out of the pit.  Supply the instructions, the support, the encouragement and the ever-watchful eye towards Christ and they may chose to find their way back to the path the Lord plowed for them.

Now I pray the prayers of Christ in the garden and of Paul who both asked three times of the Lord that the cup of suffering be taken from them but also acknowledging that their prayer only be fulfilled if it served the will of God. Otherwise, we accept that the grace God provides is sufficient and pray in earnest for strength.

 

 

 

 

In Christ and in never ending pursuit of understanding,

 

Tina

 

Walking in Faith…not for the faint of heart.


 

 

“Even if all fall away, I will Not!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “Today-yes, tonight-before the Rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And ALL the others said the same (Mark 14: 29-31 NIV).

            Jesus had warned Peter that Satan had requested to test them all (Luke 22:31-32) and told Peter to pray for strength of Faith. He even told Peter the result by telling him what to do after he turned back to Him. Jesus instructed him to ‘strengthen your brothers’ when he turned back. Peter could not fathom he would ever abandon his Savior. He strongly protested his loyalty and devotion to follow Christ to prison or even death. Peter’s epic faith failure would be infamously recorded for all time. Even if Peter was not branded with a catchy handle like, “Doubting Thomas”, it has not diminished the bumper crop of criticism his behavior has harvested throughout the ages.    Humans tend to humanize everything including our understanding of Scripture even when denied huge swaths of the storyline. Although the crucifixion of our Savior is well documented in the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and through the multitude of Old Testament prophet preludes, we are still required to seek the truth.

Before I begin getting complaints that this is all Easter stuff requiring me to field questions as to why am I dragging it up at Christmas, please afford me a small back step. The Advent season is largely restricted to Christmas and the crucifixion event is relegated to Easter alone. I would argue that folks who see the two events as separate are missing the point of Christmas. The gift of Christmas is our salvation. It is not a beautiful story of  angels singing on high, shepherds being amazed, wise men visiting, or even a cute little baby being born in a humble livestock cave and being place in a feed trough. I love everything about the Christmas story but to see it as a singularity robs Christ of the gift he brought for you. If you do not think of your personal salvation at Christmas then you have missed the boat of understanding. The human mind and heart tends to want to separate the “happy event” from the “sad event”, which is wrong on too many levels to keep this paragraph brief. It is the guilt we all feel at the need for Christ to bear our sins that tends to make us recoil from “remembering” Easter at Christmas. Insisting on the strict separation of the two holidays blinds you to the blessings. When you understand the integral connection but deny yourself the contemplation of that connection then you, too, are secularizing and falling for the commercialization of Christmas. A Christian celebration of Christmas MUST look and feel different to participants and onlookers alike. If it does not then you may want to review how you are conducting your celebration. A more prudent move may be an in-depth review of your Faith Walk.  Hey, I get it there are many stressful things that compete to veil the joy to be had. After all, even Jesus’ mom stirred the pot of family-get-together irritation when she asked him to do something about the wine situation at a wedding. So, if you think Christ cannot understand how irritating the eclectic pool of variously gifted relatives who grace your home once/twice a year then you would be very wrong. The “know-it-all”, “moral crusader”, “shady character”, “sponger”, “political activist” “the nutrition Nazi”, “Woe is me Molly” or the one who is especially good at making the highest “mountains from molehills” are all small potatoes compared to all of us because we are his family and he gets all of us every single moment of every single day and night. There is nothing you can endure that God does not understand. Now, back to Peter.

Wave after wave of criticism has submerged Biblical figures like Peter, Thomas and Judas for eons but how valid is that criticism and who, exactly, is qualified to levy such criticism? As many of you know, one of my pet peeves is folks who are ignorant of the facts but still feel justified in voicing an opinion. First and foremost, learn the historical context in which the story took place. Become a super sleuth, pursue your God and He promises to be found. Don’t depend on others to tell you a truth you say you base your Faith Walk upon. What if they are lying? What if they are ignorant? What if they are only trying to manipulate you to believe how they believe? Try to put at least as much time into your pursuit of God as you do your favorite TV program, book series, video game, etcetera.

Did Peter fail in this test of Faith? Yes…yes he did. Jesus knew he would. Jesus told him that he would. Jesus told him he would come back around to be the rock all his brothers in faith would desperately need him to be. Jesus did not condemn Peter for what he knew would happen, for he understood that Satan was going to be suppressing his beloved disciples with overwhelming fear. I wrote about Jesus’ fear in my last post; therefore, we already know that fear is not only permissible but expected. Nevertheless, fear cannot become a roadblock preventing you or him from fulfilling God’s purpose. Courage is not the absence of fear but continuing forward in spite of it.

In all of my humanness, I gauge the absolute worst part of Peter’s experience occurred when that cock crowed and he lifted his head only to see the broken hearted Jesus looking directly at him. An immediate, overwhelming, soul-wrenching sorrow overtook Peter. The weight of his failure at that moment cannot be equaled and it must have been truly devastating to him. Every gospel records the event but only Luke includes this very important detail. Imagine the exact moment in time when you see the hurt in Christ’s expression knowing that it wasn’t the insults, abuse or even false accusations of the accusers that had put that pain in his expression. Nope, his eyes filled with tears because of you.  The pain for both of them had to be indescribable. Scripture tells us that Peter went outside and wept bitterly. That tells me that a lot of body shuddering sobbing was going on here. You know, the really ugly crying event that makes you look as if you went ten rounds with three prizefighters the night before. Yet, this event is not over yet. This is only the beginning of a night and day of horror for our Savior and all who loved him. For Peter and his fellow disciples it was going to get much darker as their friend, brother, teacher, and master would be torn apart on every human level. Also, if you noticed, Peter was not alone in his rapid flight from Christ. ALL of his flock would scatter when the shepherd (Jesus) was struck.

So why is Peter’s story of fear and failure highlighted? Why doesn’t God tell us of all the other disciples who ditched Jesus that night? Simply, it was not necessary because Peter’s account was enough for us to be able to identify with him. We are Peter. How often have you thought, “I would never abandon Christ?”I would stand with him till the end! I would surely die for him if that were what is asked of me! I would never, ever, ever hurt Christ that way!”

I would respond as lovingly as I could by saying, “Oh Really?” Then let us consider a few facts that may help you level out that ‘hero complex’ to a human reality. First and foremost, your sins and my sins put him in that situation. He was betrayed, mocked, hit, ridiculed, humiliated, spat upon and then had his flesh torn from his bones as he was flogged. Each lash should have been delivered upon your back, upon my back, for our sins put him there. All past, present and future sins of humanity were borne by Christ and he did nothing to deserve it…nothing. You may say, yeah, I heard that one before, what else you got?

First of all, that attitude got to go but I do have more. When is the last time you complained of an ailment, an economic hardship, being attacked for a belief, being subjected to false accusations, betrayal, being used, abandonment, and/or any combination thereof? To be certain, complaining and asking ‘Why?’ is not a sin unless it serves to drive you, yourself and others away from Christ. Then it becomes a handy tool of Satan that is very apt at destroying you and those who love you. The rub is that those who have been rooting for you to fail are also harmed when you behave this way because they just “knew” you were ‘full of it’ with this Christian crap.

Suffering is a guarantee, not just a possibility, if you choose to follow Christ. Plain and simple, Jesus tells us that we will face many of these things if we strive to walk in the Faith we claim to have.  Our proud boasts and claims of sticking by Christ, “no matter what” often do not stand the test. When hardships and sickness hit we begin the self-defeating mantra of, “Why Me?” Again, asking God, ‘why’, is not a sin but staying stuck because you are not looking for the answers; thereby, refusing to fulfill your purpose may be something you will have to explain to your creator one day.

As some of my readers may remember, the story of Job, was a huge stumbling block for me as there are so many things in that book that I do not understand and no human can explain to me. Still, it continues to surprise me how many people claim to have the life of Job while making the indignant claim, ‘My life just isn’t fair!’ If you are claiming such a boast then I expect you to be pretty darn righteous. God judged Job to be a righteous man in all ways. Your Faith Walk better be able to rival those of Peter, Paul, Noah, Reverend Graham or Mother Teresa’s just to name a few. Not that any of these folks were perfect but their Faith walk was pretty solid by the time they began becoming effective for God’s kingdom. No, they were not born that way; instead, many Faith failures tempered the genuineness of that faith. Suffering hones the strength of our faith or adds to the level of bitter anger we tend to nurse. It is your choice. Another feature of a Job claim-to-be, EVERYTHING is a huge deal as there is no rational perspective of suffering. God is picking on you, right? You do not care or want to understand someone else’s suffering. You just want your suffering to stop. I get that, I have been there too. There have been moments in my existence where I have actually told God, “I don’t care if they are hurting. I do not care if he or she needs me. I do not care if this experience will make me better or more able to understand the pain of others. I just want it to stop. Yeah, I am not too big a fan of the honing part of this Faith building journey. It hurts. Pain perspective cannot be learned from a book, it is earned through experience. It matters not what type of pain the sufferer is enduring because it can all be destructive if not handled properly.

“Can it possibly get any worse?”. This question is either asked by someone who is ignorant or just plain foolish. The answer is, YES, YES, YES, it can always be worse, always. I used to bemoan my challenges all the time and would snap at those trying to counsel me saying, “You do it then…you walk in my shoes then offer me the same useless advice!” I have I ever encountered a person with the same volume of simultaneous challenges with which they must cope as I work through every day. I am NOT saying that I have it the worst of all humanity, nor am I comparing my pain and suffering to anyone else’s. Numerically speaking, the volume of simultaneous problems occurring within a finite time frame has been daunting and served as an effective stumbling block upon my journey. Suffice it to say, .it can and usually does become worse before it begins to get better. The impetus of change is usually you, your choices, your decisions…period.

For instance, you go to the doc because you are having a hard time catching your breath. She tells you that you have case of COPD in the initial stages but that you could slow its progression and improve your short and long-term quality of life by making some lifestyle changes. Stop smoking, lose some weight, stay away from concentrated second-hand smoke, watch your alcohol intake and get involved in some cardiovascular exercises at least three times a week. The problem has been identified and you go home and do what? Decide on a plan of action so that you can drop some weight, quit smoking and get some more exercise? Perhaps you will alter your social hangouts so that you can stall the disease effectively affording you a couple more decades of a higher quality of living.

Unfortunately, a very small percentage of us react in such a proactive manner. Rather, we begin binging on all the stuff that must now be restricted or eliminate and that is just at the mere thought of giving any of it up. We feel sorry for ourselves and begin imagining the worst-case scenario and in that active imagining we become our own self-fulfilling prophecy. We either ignore or refuse to participate in the possible solution. We actively sabotage our future by living, in this case, as if we have stage four lung cancer. We effectively take ourselves out of the land of the living long before that ever happens. I have known people who are figuratively standing in their grave, shoveling dirt upon themselves while yelling at those trying to dig them out. What are they yelling at the potential rescuers? “No one understands, no one feels what I am feeling, No one will help me! I am worthless, useless and a burden. I don’t need anyone to help me. God is persecuting me, God has abandoned me or ‘I have the life of Job, woe is me!” Of course, their actual verbiage may take on a more colorful tone. How does this relate to Peter’s faith failure? When we do these things, we are failing in our faith walk. We allow fear to control us. We allow Satan into our minds and let him run amok until he has convinced us that we are all alone, God is unjust, and that no one cares or understands what we are going through.

Granted, it is the normal human reaction to ‘wig out’ when faced with such life altering news.  However, if you are a Christian then you must get beyond the initial reaction and concentrate on finding the purpose in the pain. We all have faith failures throughout our lives and sometimes those failures are spurred by agony that cannot be verbalized. Pain, so intense and pervasive that can be felt by others due to the constant pulsating ache emanating from the person upon everyone around him or her. This is true regardless of whether it is being felt by us or by another depending on how empathetic you are and/or how close the person experiencing the suffering is linked to you.

Every time we ‘stay stuck’; we are abandoning Christ just as his disciples did after that night in the garden. Every time we dwell on the negativity surrounding the problem we are laying down our crown of thorns and allowing our cross to shudder as it bounces off the hardened ground. We look at Christ as he looks right back at us and we drop the crown saying, “I am sorry but I cannot follow you to the end. I am too afraid, it hurts too much. I am sorry Jesus, I thought I would never abandon you but I was wrong.” Then we weep bitterly, for we have broken our promise to be there for our savior. We are certain we could fulfill our promises to follow him no matter the cost. Yeah but, you didn’t understand just how high that cost was going to be and how many were going to try to stop you. “Sorry dude, you are on your own Jesus and please do not give me the “Jesus eyes” of total love and total forgiveness. That is like a knife in my heart.”

Peter could have chosen to fold in on himself in pity, shame, and sorrow effectively removing himself from the critical role Christ had called him to fulfill. He could have run and hid after his friend and savior looked straight into his soul. On the other hand, he could have chosen the easy way out like Judas had by killing himself. Dying is much easier than choosing to live and face your mistakes atop all the challenges ahead.  Satan knocked Peter to the dust but he did not choose to stay there; instead, he eventually got up and took the hardest step…the one leading forward.

I used a large life-changing example to illustrate the point but every time we hear another take the Lord’s name in vain and stay silent, it is a brutal lash across our Savior’s back. When we see a neighbor or stranger hungry, cold, or lonely and remain invisible to them, it is a hard blow to his Face. You and I are no better than Peter, for we are all perfectly imperfect. Peter spent the rest of his life trying to make good his promise to his Christ and friend. Peter never abandoned Christ again but that does not mean he did not fail. We chronically give up on Jesus and all it takes is a few problems hitting us at the same time. Car breaks down, deep freeze thaws unexpectedly and now on top of everything you are nursing the flu. You begin bemoaning your life, your home, your situation—Christ’s cross appears to be too heavy for you to bear so you put it down. You see in his face that you are breaking his heart…again.

Walking steadily in one’s faith is not easy and everyone will falter now and again but the key is to have others walking a similar path as you so that you can catch either other when you stumble. Satan is not going to stop trying to destroy you but Jesus will never abandon you even if you come to the conclusion that you cannot follow him everywhere he must go. He will never stop you from stepping off the path…pesky ‘free will’. His heart will break as your eyes meet one another’s countenance as you stray.

We are Peter; we are worse than Peter as he failed a couple millennia ago but we are failing every day, knowingly. A FaithWalk never ends, the hardships do not get simpler but our ability to handle the hardships and pain grows exponentially. Jesus never asked us to traverse this Faith Walk alone; conversely, he provides helpers for us at every turn if only we will open our eyes. We must climb out of our premature grave and practice perspective; stop comparing our lives/ailments/sorrows to all around us. God asks each of his children to carry a unique burden, for which he has woven into our being the skill, talent, or gift to overcome the hardship. He promises that the cost of following him will pale in the brilliance of the reward. Do not see Peter as a long dead man who has no relevance to your life. Peter did not have super powers, he was not divine but his faith failure launched his resulting level of new faith into an epic foundation.

Before sharpening your sword of judgment, hammer of woe-is-me, and dust out your pit of despair…pray for strength, wisdom, direction and healing. Pursue your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Look towards Peter’s incredible strength of Faith when he decided to get up and take that next step toward the Kingdom of God. He could have wallowed in his failure, pain, and heartache but he did not. He remembered Jesus’ instructions for him turned back to the path that led him to Christ…strengthen his brothers in the faith.

I understand that your suffering may be so dire and so prolonged that it has been allowed to create a guarded heart in you. A heart and mind filled with fear, anger, cynicism and judgment upon all others is one that is cold…one that is dying. Our lives are perishable, our bodies have an expiration date, people we love are going to get sick or get in an accident and we are going to lose those we cannot think we can live without. There is going to be pain. Do not waste your suffering and do not stay stuck.

I pray God blesses each of you with the strength and overwhelming desire to pursue him whole-heartedly.

 

 

“Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sebachthani?”


“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me?”, Jesus cried in his final moments on the cross. Although beyond our mind’s comprehension, it was not the physical suffering our Christ was lamenting. To be certain, he suffered greatly but that was nothing in comparison to the moment his Father had to turn away from him. It was the moment that Christ bore all past, present, and future sins of humanity…alone. The absolute agony of being separated from God is unbearable, soul-devouring, spirit crushing, horror.

He begged his Father three times (Mark 14:36) to take this burden from him telling his friends to keep watch as he prayed saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, “ (Mark 14:34). He wasn’t distressed about the physical trial to come even though he knew it would be brutal beyond compare. No, it was his spiritual separation from the Father that filled him with revulsion and terror. He chose to obey, he chose to suffer, he chose to become separated from his Father. Why would he do this? He did this for you.

You may argue that he was fully God  and could endure much more suffering than a human ever could. You may argue that he only suffered for three hours on the cross and you have suffered all your life with this or that. You may argue that he could have stopped it all and destroyed evil then and there. Your arguments are permissible, but not valid, because as you just read, Christ asked his Father the soul wrenching-question that can be so destructive, WHY. Doubt is not a sin, it is an expectation just as is the drive to find the answers. God tells us to seek him, pursue him, love him with all our heart, mind and soul. Why would we have to pursue a God we believe in? Isn’t that an endeavor for the unbeliever? Oh no, not at all. Once you believe you have a Father who created you for a purpose and  who sent his son to pay for your sins then that is when the pursuit of our Creator truly begins.

As unbelievers, we are in stark rebellion just floundering like a fish out of water but once we chose to follow Christ then that is when the journey becomes difficult. Hence, it is not a sin to ask our Father why something has happened or is happening. Understand, you may never get an answer to your specific question until you breathe your last but if you pursue the answer then you will learn much along the way depending upon who you allow to steer your rudder. If you allow Satan to embitter you then your search will end in depression, self-loathing, self-pity,  rage and a flaccid faith. You will get stuck at that moment of suffering neither going forward nor backward. If you allow Christ to lead you then you will likely still experience all these things but you will not get stuck in that place because he gives us the strength to move beyond the pain and suffering of the current life crisis. Just an added thought I cannot let hang open, Christ was also fully human too so he experienced everything throughout his life just as we would have.

Strength and Suffering

Do you consider yourself a person of great strength? What do you consider to be strength? Are you physically fit and strong? Are you financially strong and secure? Do you have a strong moral code or belief system? Do you have a strong intellect? How about a strong faith?  We humans measure and define strength using variable measuring sticks according to what we value in life; therefore, your answer may be far different than another’s. Nevertheless, how you define strength becomes very important when you are faced with losing it. I argue that you cannot lose your strength entirely if you allow it to transform into another and likely more durable manifestation of our surrendered weakness.  If you consider yourself a to be a weak, helpless person then that is another issue, or set of issues, entirely that must be saved for another day. This writing is about the burden of strength and the blessing that can be experienced within it.

Burden of strength? How could strength be a burden? Most consider being strong a great asset but there are different aspects and perceptions of strength that can become a stumbling block or an unsung badge of survival. When you meet a person of great emotional and more so, spiritual strength then you are also meeting a person who has endured great and overwhelming suffering. Those people are the closest to understanding how Christ felt when he uttered his words of agony, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” It is that moment of Christ’s agony, which none can offer comparison is where the remainder of this writing will focus.

Physical, financial, social and intellectual strengths are all illusions of strength because they are insecure. All of them can be lost suddenly or through a lifelong deterioration and each of them can serve as a major stumbling block to our relationship with others and with God.  Christ warned against relying upon our own strength when he said that it was “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10:25). Many point this verse in scripture to condemn the wealthy but Christ was talking about anyone who depends upon their own strength to traverse life because they think it is their own skills, talents or attributes that have gained all they have in life. These types of folks never acknowledge that it was and is God who has supplied them with those gifts that they have used to exploit their time on this planet. Some give lip service to God but when a crisis hits or when their strength begins to ebb then that is where their convictions are truly revealed. Now, everyone is going to endure a grieving period when their strength is lessening because it challenges their core beliefs, who they thought they were, where they thought their life was heading, what they thought God’s plan for their life was going to be. The common denominator here, our thoughts, our perceptions, our ability to reason things out and that is where we stumble.

Encountering people of faith and those who reject God as they struggle in this life reveals many things. Admitting weakness is almost insufferable to both populations. We do not like to appear weak or concede that we cannot handle or deal with anything that is thrown at us. The largest obstacle to anyone walking this planet is not their upbringing, their poverty/wealth level, their intellectual capability, their lack of opportunity, or their health status. What then?

You are your biggest obstacle. ‘But…but…but I have played by all the rules, I have done everything I was supposed to, I am a good person so how could I be my own biggest obstacle?’, you might query. You trust in yourself, which is akin to trusting the strength of a water balloon constructed of tissue paper. There is a big difference between being confident in the gifts and talents God has woven into your being and relying upon them as if they were your gods. Nothing you have and nothing you can do is sustainable by your own efforts including your very next breath. This is highly evidenced in multiple instances of situational irony played out in the real world like the health fanatic who believes he/she is doing great then suddenly drops over of a heart attack while a man who has drank and smoked heavily is still living strong at 92.  Neither person in this example is being put forth as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, only examples in real life judged by human criteria of “living good” and “living hard”. You are not in control of tomorrow regardless of your physical, financial, intellectual, or spiritual ability.

So does that mean we just throw our hands up and say,” chaos rules,” and we are not able to control anything? Of course not, God is a God of order and purpose but he is also the person who gave us Free Will. Our choices are often the road that brings suffering to our lives but not always. However, our own sin nature is not the only force we have against us but it is the one that invites the destructive forces in. Satan is very real and very active in creation. His rage and jealousy against humanity is documented in scripture as is his desire to destroy God’s beloved children. Therefore, when Christ told his apostles to expect hardship, pain and suffering  he was trying to support the men who he called friend and brother as he knew what they would face on account of him. Be assured, anyone who chooses to follow Christ is going to suffer because we are fighting our own sinful nature atop the world that revels in sin and Satan.  The odds are not in our favor and it is an impossible task unless we admit our weakness, our lack of strength, our inability to be victorious if we depend on our own skills, talents, gifts (strength) alone. It is not achievable unless you give it all to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work through you. Allow Him to use your pain, tears, heartache, confusion, righteous anger and weakness to lead you and others toward a closer relationship with Him.

Our human mind rebels against this idea and we fight it, actively fight it because we believe if we surrender whatever is causing us misery then we will be weak. However, the longer we hold onto something we were not meant to carry alone in the first place then the more suffering we will endure. Not that God is causing it or “turning up the fire”  but because we are trying to solve our problem with a small percentage of the full picture. When we try to stand alone, we are at our weakest and we will fail. Yet, what few recognize or understand is that our choices directly or indirectly affect all whom we love. Some of the connections are blatantly obvious but others are masked by the perception of strength. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this concept.

Sofia, a single mom of two, is holding everything together. She has a job, is going to school, raising her children in the Lord and doing her best to provide for all their needs. She is perceived by the world as being a strong woman, a functional citizen and a good mom. However, Sofia is barely holding on emotionally, spiritually, financially, and even physically. She refuses to let anyone help, she would never ask for help and she is very private about her feelings. She will not shed tears in front of her kids or anyone else for that matter because she does not want anyone to think she is weak or cannot take care of her kids. She feels to do so would invite criticism of her ability to parent. Yet, she feels as if she is being eaten from the inside out. She has a luke warm relationship with Christ. She is devoted to teaching her children about Christ and makes certain they all attend church every Sunday but she feels dead inside. Her fears of criticism are valid but her healing will not begin until she surrenders her pain to Christ. He knows exactly what she is going through and He never intended for her to traverse her journey alone. Satan continues to whisper her worthlessness in her ear and the feeling that the world and, more specifically, her children would be better off if she were dead.

But it is not that easy, you say. People cannot be trusted . People are going to hurt you. You are going to be betrayed, used, rejected. Yes…yes, these things will happen to you and each time you are hurt you will need to make a choice, several choices actually. Some will bring you closer to understanding, healing and  to God; others will pull you toward the Prince of deceit and you will become his tool. Understand this firmly, God is NOT the one doing the moving in this equation. God does not vacillate, for He is our rock and anchor.

Ted is entering his 40’s and has enjoyed great health, physical and intellectual strength throughout his career and personal life. His spiritual life centers upon what he was brought up with in the Christian faith; therefore, he considers himself a ‘good’ Christian. He feels he is a strong Christian and tends to criticize those who “whine” about their lives. One day  Ted wakes up a little more achy than is usual after a prior day of hard work. As we humans often do, he brushes it off and continues on his way. Then a pattern begins to emerge causing him to begin to think something might be wrong so he over rules his own objections and goes to the doctor.  As you can guess, the doctors inform him that he has developed a chronic ailment that is going to cause pain and deterioration for the remainder of his life. Ahhh, but this is only the beginning of Ted’s nightmare because other related health issues begin to rear their ugly heads spiraling Ted into deep depression, anger, frustration, and serious faith wavering. He has always been the provider, he has always been the one others look toward for help, he has always counted on his own strength and wits to solve any problem he encountered. The disease is stealing his strength, destroying his strong body, robbing him of his independent lifestyle and clouding his thoughts. Worst of all, his fragile faith must now bear a full onslaught of fear, doubt, confusion and anger. Earlier in his life, as he was building his career and family he had no motivation to pursue God, wholeheartedly, because he had everything well in hand. His relationship with his Creator and others was guarded at best as he could never relinquish the control of his life by realizing he was not strong enough to endure the suffering alone. Yet, this is truly the first time suffering on the deep core level had ever been experienced. It’s not the physical pain, as that was just the match, it is the soul-wrenching pain of loss.

Here is a another kicker for you, his mindset, weak faith and self-perception is not entirely his fault. In American society, we put unrealistic goals upon our men and women. Somehow we have come to believe that every man must be a hero and every woman must be ‘mother of the year’ with the added feminist demands of being “more”. We cannot attain that status and God knows this; however, he is always there waiting to catch us when we finally understand that we can do nothing without him. Does understanding this truth make the suffering easier? Eh, not right away but eventually it brings even deeper understanding and focus to the purpose your life experiences have prepared you to fulfill.

What about the kid with cancer, the one who gets raped and killed by a psychopath or parent? What about all the disease, famine, warfare, and natural disasters? Are you going to look into a father’s eyes as he holds his dying child and try to explain that sin has caused the poisoning of creation so everything, even our cells have been tainted by its affects giving reason for his child’s cancer? Of course not, you are going to be silent but present. Allow God to do the talking as only he can, for words mean nothing in moments like that because the suffering is so profound, unjust, unthinkable, and soul crushing.

That holds true when anyone is suffering because to the one who is doing the suffering your platitudes of “everything is going to be alright.”, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, God never gives us more than we can handle,” etcetera are like hot daggers being thrust into their hearts and souls.  Let God work, admit your weakness, confess that you have no idea why their suffering is occurring ( if there is no apparent reason such as lung cancer following years of smoking). Even if the reason for their suffering is blatantly obvious, YOU ARE NOT THEIR JUDGE. They are likely well on their way to meeting their judge and then explaining to their creator why they chose to destroy the body He created for them so they do not need you to start harping on them ahead of time.

We all make life choices that will bring betterment or hardship to our existence so we have no room to judge another. On that same token, those who make life choices that create health, financial, social, emotional, psychological problems bringing pain, suffering, and loss have to refrain from blaming God and start taking responsibility for their own actions. God is a god of second chances, unending second chances so there is a future beyond the one you planned IF you allow it to be brought to fruition.

Do NOT depend upon humanity’s interpretation of who God is and what God’s plans are for your life. Pursue Him with every fiber of your being and I promise that what you find will bring change to your life. Change can be painful but it is very necessary for anything to become what it was borne to become. If you are a strong person then you know that the journey is painful, suffering is your bedfellow, for without these faith is hollow. Having a strong faith in Christ is the most difficult thing to earn because it is earned through tears and sorrow. Trusting God when all is well is easy and empty but trusting him as you are sending your child through the operating doors or sitting him in the car of an abusive parent due to a court order is faith and acute and unimaginable suffering.  Standing over a loved one’s grave with a pain that is tearing you apart but trusting that God will bring you through it is faith. Picking one of two devils to be President of the United States and believing God’s plans will come to fruition is faith.

Faith is not a noun but a verb. Faith is a breathing entity that must be fed, must be worked, must be tested because it is a powerful tool to the one who is strong enough to wield it. Christ is our teacher, he is the only one who can show us how we are to approach suffering and not only survive it but how to become something better on the other side. We can fight only what we can see but there is a battle of epic proportions going on all around us and we contribute to the evil or to the good every moment of everyday. Hence, you must examine your own life and decide if your suffering can support the claim that God has forsaken you (He will never leave you nor forsake you [Deut. 31;8]) or that you could equate your suffering to Job (which none of us know enough about to even offer an inkling into what was going on there, for there are too many missing pieces to the story) or justify anger towards God (even though he can take whatever we can dish out).

If you have been following my blog from its inception then you know these words of mine are not empty. I am not boasting when I say I am a woman of great faith in Christ, because I do not consider it a badge of honor but rather a sign of great suffering. I do possess a strong faith and for that I am grateful and humbled knowing he grasped me ever more tightly each time I let go. Without Christ, without understanding the epitome of suffering that is to be separated from God for the merest of moments is to only be brushed by the backside of suffering’s fury and  left with the deluge of pain. In my arrogant youth, I used to use “Eloi, Eloi Lema Sabachthani?” as my mantra feeding my rage and hopelessness but I did not truly understand the depth of their meaning until I came to the point in my life where I thought God had turned his back on me. That is the moment of zero hope and utter, desperate agony when I decided I did not want to live any longer. I only thought God had abandoned me and the pain was more than I could bear; therefore, imagine our Savior’s agony when he bore this reality for you and me. My previous posts expound upon these topics further so I will not reiterate them here.

You cannot look through the lens of human understanding to form your idea of God’s thoughts, ways, and love. How could a finite being such as you and I possibly presume we could understand the infinite. You are so important to your Creator, he loves you beyond any type of human love that can be experienced. However, love is not always kisses and cuddles and your Father in heaven knows what he has created you to be and he will push you toward completion of that goal. He does this not for his sake but for your sake. His plans are to prosper you as he clearly says in Jeremiah 29:11, yet he still provides you the choice. Are you forsaken? Can you boast about your strength in weakness? Can you wear Christ’s crown? Can you carry Christ’s cross?

My love and prayers go out to all my readers. May you each feel the depth of love Christ brought to us in that tiny manger so very long ago.

The Unwelcome Guest


 First rays of the summer sun

 race to illuminate the small

grove. Its inhabitants awake

without complaint.

The grove was abundant in food

peace and safety. The only

other occupant was

an old country church patiently

awaiting its fold.

Blue birds filled the air

with

songs of praise.

A sound so pure and clear,

a melody worthy of the Creator’s ear.

The sun climbed ever higher

casting a shadow upon

 the man turning the key

opening the large doors of

the chapel.

He always arrived an hour

or two before any other filled

a pew.

Time to reflect, time

 to pray, time to ask

for wisdom, patience, and

feet of clay.

“Lord Jesus, lend me

your eyes that I might

see this flock as you do.

Give me your heart to

love all whom you send

my way and a discerning

mind that wisdom would flow, Amen.”

Standing and grasping his Bible

he started toward the sanctuary

as muffled voices and distant

car doors announced the

arrival of the congregation.

The Pastor knew he would

be here and there was nothing

he could do because the

unwelcomed guest

always received an

invitation from me

and from you.

He would sit in the

very front row knowing

every word of scripture

but not letting it show.

He wasn’t there to learn,

fellowship, or become

more like the Savior. No,

none of those things is

what he did savor.

The Pastor sighed deeply

upon stepping to the pulpit

as he recognized their guest

was already working the room.

The people were settled into their

familiar clicks. The poor sat in the far rear

while the affluent took the lead.

 But none sat next to the family

 who lived without running water,

Their respectable senses

were aghast.

Tongue clicks and whispers veiled under breath

spread disdain and disgust in the

presence of such an obvious

disgrace.

Over there perched the family of judges,

who would snicker and point with their eyes

to alert one another that there was laughter to be had

or condemnation to be made of those just entering

the sanctuary.

The Bennet family, fragile as can be,

sat holding one another in their

fear and in their grief. They had lost a son

in Iraq last summer and now their little one

is fighting cancer. Their faith is stretched thin but

they have not given up hope. Our Guest is

trying his best to destroy them but he is failing.

Then you have those who feel it

their duty to reveal your sin, criticize

your worship or prayer life, and condemn

those who are struggling.

 In their reason,

 one is sick, barren, in

financial woe or experiencing

heart ache due to some unconfessed

sin.

 “Get right with God and your

hardship will be delivered.” is the chant

they cry in disapproving condemnation.

Driving divisions among God’s people

is his favorite activity and we are

so willing to play.

Yes, he is here and they invited him

as they do regardless of the warnings.

He knows the Bible better than most

Christians but he does not see its truth.

His hardened heart does not feel

the forgiving love of Christ.

Instead, it angers him and

he takes his fury out upon

the flock.

“They have more than us. She is far prettier or talented

than I. I heard…cheated on his wife. God cannot

love or forgive you since you did that horrible

thing in your past. You are not good enough to succeed. Your

beliefs are childish superstitions. You will fail.”

Lies, his favorite lies, he uses against

the flock.

He has enjoyed great success in

invading the church and scattering the flock.

His minions carry out his orders sewing

discord, jealousy, bigotry, hatred, and

cynicism where ever they go.

Church after church has fallen to his

attacks.

He is becoming angrier

and fiercer as he

sees his time ebbing away.

He tortures any who work

to follow the Savior’s path.

Yes, Satan is the first one in church

and the last one to leave because turning

one Christian to sin bringing him to ruin

will convince 1000 more souls to reject

Jesus because of his sinful people.

Satan loves to use fallen Christians because

it hurts the Father deeply when his children stray.

He will never give up, never stop, and never

show mercy.

Children of God, take warning and

be on guard so you do not

become one of Satan’s favorite tools.

In a world of pain and destruction,

be determined not to add to the

brokenness of Creation.

Instead, build…repair…create

and healing will be had in your church,

home, work place, social group, neighborhood

and maybe, just maybe, it will keep going and

heal our lands.

 

 

“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray then I shall hear from heaven and heal their lands.” God

Here I am Lord…Send Me


by
Tina Blackledge
2-28-15

Isaiah 6:8
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Song with Lyrics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LoMboxzm0U

As I was growing up, this became one of my favorite hymns to sing in church. Experience, understanding, hardship and struggle brought a deeper meaning to the lyrics and emotions attached. Even though I have sung this song many times during worship over the years it still manages to bring a tear to my eye. Of course, as I matured the meaning of the words held increasing gravity. Accepting that the Lord creates each of us with a very specific role in this creation and that he, himself, took the time to “knit me together in my mother’s womb” began a search for that role.
As a child, I could not wait to grow up and become an adult. I hated being a child and I would never go back to those days even if it were possible. Consequently, I was greatly relieved when I finally reached adulthood even though it came with its own challenges it was a different level of hell and I had a marginal say and choice in the path I should take. My faith walk has not always been steadfast and I confess to struggling deeply with my relationship with God throughout my early adulthood. I always believed God was there but there were times I did not feel that he was there for me or that he even cared. There are so many erroneous messages with cultural and societal norms attached to them that faith has become mechanical and regimented. This has been the case since the early church was formed. There have always been those attached to ceremony, routine, and legalistic interpretation of the Scriptures ignoring that a personal relationship with Christ was and is necessary. Each of us must search for our savior and discover what we were put on this Earth to accomplish.
This sounds as if it would be an easy task if we identify our skill set, passion, and talents then the result should be fairly simple, right? Well, it would be nice if it worked that way but once again, human kind, get in the way. Whether it be that the person gets in their own way by making selfishly poor life choices or the society one grows up in refuses to allow that person a level of human respect and equality of opportunity. The social norms and mores of each society are different as is the value system. Of course, each society puts it’s “brand” out there (it’s ideal of how life should be lived) but has institutionalized division within society. Some societies publicly advertise that there exist “natural” and strict divisions within their society enforced by legal/religious codes. In the United States, we did this with most obvious disgrace when we subjugated African-Americans but that is far from the only example. The longest running lie in America is that of the attainability of the “American Dream”. Now there are many faults in this ideology with the most obvious being its materialistic foundation. However, I do not want this post to turn into a political debate because my intent is to discuss something far more important. Something every single human being hungers for throughout their life. Each of us needs to have a purpose. We all need our individual lives to have meaning in some way.
As we grow, mature, learn, and experience life our assessment of success and fulfillment changes over time. If it doesn’t then we surely have missed our purpose because we were far too busy chasing after self-fulfillment, self-pleasure, buying into what the world was screaming and celebrating as success. One thing is certain; if you are pleasing the world then you are doing something wrong. Regardless of whether you “buy into religion” or not, you make choices every day that either help or harm the world or at least your little corner of it. In the U.S. we have a large societal problem, okay many large societal problems, but one that has become cancerous is the belief of entitlement just because one is born. This problem has become wide-spread being fed by massive inequities, corrupt authority figures, and evil growing deep roots within ALL religions.
The hymn, “Here I am Lord, send me” is the forerunner to what we Christians call the ‘Great Commission’ given by Christ himself to go out and share his love with everyone. The song was based from the Book of Isaiah chapter 6 beginning with verse 8. The summation, although I strongly encourage you to investigate it yourself and not take my word for it, reveals a discussion between God and a man named Isaiah. God is asking Isaiah who he should send to teach others about him and his love. Now, understand this is a parent asking his child a question to which he already knows the answer. This is a famous technique used by many parents to try to help their child discern where the truth or value of the truth really lies. God knew that he would send Isaiah and that Isaiah would eagerly accept this task but he still posed it to Isaiah as a question, for Isaiah still had a choice here. This interaction has created a limitation in some people’s minds as to the fulfillment or importance of the task/calling/career/job/vocation for which God has created them. Most folks read this story and believe that serving God or fulfilling your life’s purpose means that a geographic relocation is necessary. Some fail to realize that his or her purpose may have nothing to do with ‘going out into the world’; instead, it may mean that God will ask you to take a detour on your own life path and it may be a one that is not very desirable. It may be downright terrifying. In fact, most of the time it is interpreted as a punishment from God or a direct result of a specific sin committed. We do not see it as calling. We do not interpret it as a request from God to our hearts to travel a path that is filled with danger, pain, and/or suffering. The situation is exacerbated by those around us who reinforce those negative interpretations. Now, understand, I am not saying that humans do not create their own problems at times and then suffer the consequences because that would be ludicrous. Anytime we make a decision based solely on selfish indulgence then there will consequences for which we and maybe others must pay. There is a natural system of consequences to our decisions whether they are good or bad. Every single choice you make has a fallout to it and again it could be positive or negative. It will have a ripple effect throughout humanity and all of creation. This idea is represented in all cultures in one form or another. In China, Confucius presented this concept as ‘Chain reasoning’ and it is just as applicable today as it was so long ago.
When you, as a Christian, ask the Lord to show you what he needs you to do, what purpose your life is to fulfill because you are eager to get started and make a difference then you must open your heart to any and all possibilities. God may ask us to step off the path we thought we were supposed to take, and in fact, that may have been our primary path but now he is asking us to take a bit of detour that may change our direction while maintaining the destination.
Consider for a moment the possibility that the things we consider to be bad/terrible/life altering events in our lives may indeed lead us to a road that we do not want to traverse. A few examples to consider, a period of financial ruin, serious illness, homelessness, hunger, persecution, a career bombing out, entering a drug/alcohol rehab program clearly illustrate there are paths where we, ourselves, began the journey through our own selfish desires. Other examples may be the direct or indirect result of a selfish decisions made by another that has had a trickle down effect causing you suffering. It is not that God has caused this suffering but he will use what mankind meant to hurt you to bring you where he needs you to be. There may be someone else along that path that may not make it if you do not travel down that path because you might be the only person to offer him/her a glimpse of the hope and love God has to offer them.
You may not have a choice to suffer or not but there are thousands of choices you make along that journey that will define it. Truthfully, it may be the last leg of your journey before you are called home but that fact does not absolve you from your duty. Understand, I am not saying that you have to have a stupid, silly smile on your face as if you have just suddenly lost your wits while enduring hellish suffering or torment but the manner in which you travel the path, the way you communicate your faith, the attitude you present throughout the hardship and suffering are all examples of how you live your faith or fail to live your faith. All of us were created for a purpose and the path we are asked to traverse is not a single road that leads from point A to point B; instead, it is a path filled with detours, off ramps, and on ramps, massive periods of construction and points of massive disaster. If it were to be drawn out it would look like a multilevel super highway structure with thousands of possible entry and exit points but all roads would lead to the same destination. The choices we make along the way will define the journey. Our actions and inactions will have consequences. Our words will either draw people toward the love of Christ or they will push them away. So when you are looking for purpose and meaning to your life, when you ask God to “send you” understand the fact that it may not mean packing a bag and jumping on an airplane. Sometimes it is jumping on a hospital bed to shine for a person who is lost in the dark. To help a person hold on when the last thread to which they are clinging is fraying. Sometimes struggles, hardships, or suffering has nothing to do with you directly (only that it is your body, mind, soul, or heart doing the suffering) only that you had to traverse this path in order to be there for someone who is lost. You will be truly amazed what God can do through us when we get out of his way and accept the journey one step at a time. An added bonus that is a direct result of hardships, suffering, struggles and pain is the massive opportunity to gain a wealth of wisdom, compassion, love, faith and understanding.

“Whom shall I send?” asks the Lord. “Send me Lord.” I answer

Soaring upon Broken Wings; Becoming Whole


A slight tingling began atop her toes traveling through her limbs, sinews, until each cell was humming with life. The faint sound of clear water dancing happily over and under rocks, limbs, and around bends tickled her ears tempting her to open her eyes. Automatically, her body took a long deep breath filling her lungs with a lightly sweet, clear breath embracing her taste buds with a delectable blend of honey and roses. A sigh releases the air she had claimed as her own.

Willing her eyelids to lift seemed to be a herculean effort causing confusion and a host of inner questions. Her first attempt was met with brilliance so overwhelming she closed her eyes tighter than before. She decided to allow her other senses to communicate to her instead. Beneath her she felt a sun-warmed, soft bed of what her nose identified as tender new grass shoots. Outstretching her arms upon the surface, she concluded she must be lying in a field and not just a bed made from fresh grass. As she slowly caressed the immediate landscape she observed the absence of pebbles, roots, insects or other debris that might have marred her rest area.

A warm honeysuckle breeze danced over her frame causing a slight shiver. It was not cold but the wind skipped atop her skin as if it were trying to encourage her to proceed ever further in her exploration. Softly, slowly the sunbeams kissed her skin bringing color to her cheeks. The rapid beat of hummingbird wings combined with song birds, chirping chipmunks, and the splash of jumping fish soothed her ears. She wanted this moment to last forever as she had never felt such sensations in all her lived long life.

Raising her hand to her eyes she made a second attempt to view the world around her. Gradually her vision began to adjust to the brilliance. It was not a moment too soon as her curiosity had worked itself into a frenzy. At first, the light was so bright that she considered for a moment that the space she occupied was devoid of all color and definition. The adjustment was agonizingly slow but shapes and colors eventually began to come into focus. She was indeed in a field of new grass hemmed in by large evergreens creating an alcove of sorts. Flowers, animals, song birds, and large colorful butterflies among other creatures shared the pristine patch of creation with her. They seemed to be absent of all fear of her and of each other.

Although she considered herself well-versed, the awe inspiring beauty in which she found herself defied description. Still in a reclined position, she found herself looking up into the large brown eyes of a new fawn. A broad smile graced her countenance while the joy she felt bubbled out in the form of a giggle. The fawn cocked his head in wonder at the strange creature that had suddenly arrived in this blessed habitat. Long graceful lashes batted toward her as if the small creature were encouraging her to move. She slowly pushed herself up into a sitting position then froze as if struck by lightning. Two bright blue butterflies with yellow spots were performing a clumsy but intricate ballet within her field of vision but her mind was racing with another thought so overwhelming that she was not able to fully appreciate the pair.

What just happened? Her mind demanded. She returned to a laying position and searched the sky for familiar markers but all she could see was light. No sun, no clouds, no horizon only light. Her breathing became rapid now as she repeated the action of sitting up and lying down in quick succession. Each time she accomplished the task her smile became ever broader until she was squealing with delight. With her last sit-up she followed through to a standing position. It happened with such ease that she was certain this all must be a glorious dream and began thanking her Father for this precious gift.

Looking down for the first time, she noticed she was adorned with a light flowing shift made of the softest gossamer that just tickled the top of her feet. When her inspection reached her hands she took a sharp breath. They were not swollen, red, or disfigured. She flexed them with ease and tears began to accumulate as her bodily survey continued. Nothing was swollen, no sores, and her skin was perfect! None of her digits were bent askew making them unusable; no pain raced throughout her body…no pain. Her hands flew to her head where she found a full head of hair flowing down her back. Her hands lingered in her locks as the welled tears flowed freely from their pools. Without hesitation she ran to the creek, knelt down, and peered into the crystal water. Her thick wavy hair tumbled forward framing her face. The reflection revealed a beautiful woman without blemish. So foreign was this reflection that she turned around quickly to see who was standing over her but the space was occupied by family of rabbits happily munching on clover.

Almost afraid to look upon the reflection again for fear it would be different, she hesitated to return her gaze back toward the glassy pool of water. She chided herself for wasting time in this wonderful dream and returned her attention to a reflection she had to admit to be her own. None of the scars the disease had created were there, no, her skin was so smooth and soft that it felt as if it were a newborn’s skin. Her tongue raced back and forth across her teeth making her smile ever greater. They were all there, perfect, white and shining back through her tear glazed eyes. While growing up she only allowed herself to believe that she had three features that she could consider beautiful, her hair, her eyes, and her teeth. When the ailments and medications attacked them, distorted them and caused their eventual loss, she felt truly hideous in the eyes of mankind. Of course, the skin ulcerations completed the package of ‘monster’ in her eyes. Not only did she not think of herself as a real woman any longer but she barely felt human.

But this…this was not possible…this was amazing, for she was beautiful, she was whole, without blemish. Could this be how she would have existed if creation had not been broken by sin? Could this vision before her be who God sees when he looks upon her?

While these realizations filled her with the utmost joy and thanksgiving her second conclusion blew her away.

“There is no pain…, no…pain but how can this be?”

she marveled as she recounted all the movements she had just performed without giving any of them a second thought. She just thought about them and did it without hesitation or a “game plan” to complete them as per her usual routine.

“No pain? No Pain? No Pain! No Pain!” She cried aloud while jumping up and down in sheer and utter delight.

Born with a chronic pain-filled progressive disease, the woman had never known a single moment where pain had not accompanied her upon her journey. Is this really how other people wake up every day? This is amazing, stupendous, miraculous…yes…it …is….miraculous! Yet, it went far beyond the absence of physical pain. Her heart that had been bruised, crushed, destroyed and reconstructed on multiple occasions did not hurt. There was an absence of sadness. In fact, the very concept of pain was beginning to fade from her recollection as her being absorbed the reality of the world around her.

“Please, Lord, let this be more than a dream. I am sorry to be greedy and ask this of you after you have gifted me such a glorious dream but this is too wonderful from which to awake!” She cried in earnest to her Heavenly Father.

The breeze stilled and the creatures silenced their musings as she felt a presence there with her. It was not menacing but it was quite powerful. Trembling a bit, she slowly turned instantly recognizing the lamb standing before her. She fell to her knees and worshiped him and thanking him for this glorious gift. His hand encompassed hers bringing her to a standing position.

“My child, you are home. Your work is complete and now you are finally home. Your body is perfect, without illness, without pain, without a single symptom of a creation broken. This is not a dream child. This, my dear daughter, is eternity and it is with a glad heart that I welcome you to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
_____________________________________________________________________________________

To all my friends and family who are broken in some manner,

Remember, this is not your home. You were put here to do a job and when that job is complete, the Father will bring you home so do not despair in the pain and sorrow of today. Do not overly grieve for loved ones who have gone home, for they have earned their reward and are enjoying eternity. After all, it is not good-bye, not really because we will be reunited. Pain is the weapon of Satan because he knows if he weakens us then buries us with troubles our spirits will weaken and our faith may die. Nothing would please him more.
However, have fair warning, if you choose not to follow God’s plan for your life and never start or complete the job he created you for that will not preclude you from death. It will only mean that you wasted your life delaying the healing of creation, for the Father will create another to do the job you were supposed to do.

A Christmas Wish


Although we do not all celebrate Christmas and fewer still understand the meaning behind all the glitz and commercialism, the feeling and spirit embedded within the holiday is what all of us are capable of feeling. Holiday traditions, celebrations with family and friends, and those special moments that create memories whose purpose is to carry us through the hard times ahead are the things that stay with us forever.
However, I am a follower of Christ; therefore, I will be speaking of my beliefs, traditions, and memories that make this time of year an extraordinary time for my loved ones and me. To me, Christmas is all about the celebration of the Savior’s birth who came to save all sinners. Everything else is human bling and commercialism. Nevertheless, family traditions and community celebrations have the potential to provide and spread the original gift Christ gave to all of us who are willing to accept it, love, mercy, forgiveness, sacrifice. The spirit of Christmas lives within us every day but we usually suppress its urgings out of fear of judgment or rejection. That little nagging voice we have that urges us to check in on a neighbor, send a card to someone, visit a person who we know is lonely, or to just shovel the snow from a neighbor’s walk. If we allow ourselves to be led by the spirit then love, joy and peace will be the result. Some cannot hear that little urging at all because they are too consumed with selfish desires or their lives have become so hectic they have become deaf to it altogether. These folks look at that world and blame it for its commercially centered focus. A resounding declaration shouting that they are not going to buy into any of it. In fact, they refuse to get sucked into the melee surrounding Christmas. Of course, this is a major cop-out deflecting the fact they have hardened their own hearts to the point that they cannot see beyond the layers of glitz.
These folks contribute to the very problem they condemn. Instead of adding to the negativity, get out and make a difference, get out there and be an example of the true meaning of Christmas. Disdain and criticism for what we humans have made of our holidays is ludicrous because we have created the situation; hence, we have the power to change it. Peel off the layers of profiteering, economic gain, surplus of unwanted or unneeded gifts, and the over indulgence that marks the season. However, the way in which we downsize our holiday makes a huge difference because we should not make others feel poorly about themselves. After all, being a self-righteous objector only brings scorn and disgust toward you. No one likes to have a mirror held up to illustrate his or her faults. Alternatively, protest the commercialism by providing a quiet example of what the season is really all about. Leave a generous tip to a service provider, hand out a few pairs of warm gloves, hats, or coats to homeless individuals, make and deliver some holiday treats to an elderly neighbor or someone who is all alone. Invite someone you know who has no one to a nice, quiet dinner that doesn’t not have to be the holiday meal. During Christmas and New Years, both depression and suicide rates are extremely high because people feel alone in all the world. Imagine, in a world of 6 billion people there are thousands who have no one to care about them, no one to believe in them, no one to love them.

You and I have the power to make a difference throughout this holiday season and all the year through so please do not sit there in your easy chair and complain about how bad the world has become. Do not shout your protests about the commercialism of the holidays. Instead, act and do something that proves humanity has not lost its soul. I pray each and every one of you have a deeply profound and blessed holiday season. If you believe in the Christ in Christmas then make certain no one can ever question your ability or willingness to live a life that proves it every single day. Of course, we will fail every now and again as we are only human but it is the pursuit that is important, for when we stop trying then Christmas is meaningless and the celebration of the New Year is pointless.
God bless you all richly throughout this season and may he provide his protection and guidance all the year through.

The Vessel


Through wonderful conversations with my fellow WP peeps about my “Birthday Musings”, I have come to understand a greater reality about death, love, loss, and new beginnings. In, “Birthday Musings”, I wrote that when we loose a loved one, a void, or hole is left within us that scars the soul and makes it quite difficult to cope. However, I have amended such thoughts after much contemplation to see that the people we encounter in life, especially those who are truly beloved, do not leave us empty at their departure. No, instead, from the very first person who shares their heart with us, be it a parent, family member, friend or a soul mate, their love begins the construction within our beings of a vessel. This vessel is precious indeed, for it is constructed of every kind act, word, or feeling our loved ones have shared with us. These beautiful contributions of love are interwoven forming a strong, impermeable vessel to hold, nurture, and prosper all future love. This vessel is constructed by the most steadfast and unbreakable bonds of love. Christ’s Sacrificial love allows us to retain the lessons of kindness, generosity, forgiveness, compassion, wisdom, and unending unconditional love. The vessel is a living breathing entity that welcomes the love of another to fill it up when one of its carpenters have left the reality we live in on a daily basis. There is no greater treasure that we can own and it was gifted to us, constructed by others but demanding ownership from us.
The very strongest threads are woven when someone enters or leaves our lives. Think of the feeling you get when holding a brand new baby whether it is your own or that of a loved one. Instantly, a new thread of love is woven into the vessel as we meet the next contributor to this life affirming vessel. So too, when a loved one passes beyond our reach, all of the memories, feelings of love and appreciation become tangible creating a multi-layered thread that becomes essential for all others to be woven from, around, in, and through. It truly is a miraculous blessing to have so many contribute to this vessel over our lifetimes. The ones we love and who love us are with us throughout all of eternity because they are literally part of who we are and who we will become; hence, we do not say good-bye to anyone only, “see you later.” They have begun the next leg of their journey and we must celebrate their victory and be happy for them as they enjoy paradise. We take and use everything they have taught and given us to become better human beings and make certain that our actions change the world in a positive direction. We may not be able to change the entire world but we owe it to all those who loved us, who created this precious vessel, to use what they gave so freely and change our little corner of the world.
Each person we encounter is not a mistaken fluke of chance. Even those who choose to do harm instead of good are meant to teach us something, If we can carry the lesson from the depths of the pain. However, those rare and special people who freely choose to love us are the greatest gifts we can ever receive. When love is true and pure and not corrupted by selfish desires then it is the most powerful thing in our arsenal against hate, ignorance, and greed.
On this day of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for each friend and family member who has contributed to the making of the vessel that holds and empowers the love within me. My fellow writers on WordPress.com have opened an entirely new store of resources to fill my vessel to overflowing through their kindness and friendship! I am amazed, awed, and thrilled with the gifts God has given me. Circumstances of life whether it be health, finances, or romance can try to convince us that love is a farce and that friendships are only forged for greed but that is not true. Do these things exist? Certainly they do but you make the choice to use or be used by another. True, some horrible things happen through no fault of our own and some are born with severe challenges that would crush the most stalwart man’s heart and good cheer, yet there is still choice. What do we do in the aftermath of tragedy or with the burden of health problem to which some are born into? What choices do we make after the tears have been spent? Do we become bitter or do we become better? Do we allow others to weave their threads into this glorious vessel or do we allow it grow cold and dark forbidding further access to all and to ourselves?
Allow the love that built you into the person you are today or the person you are striving to become to burn brightly with the love and passion the carpenter’s intended for you. Allow it to pulsate with the power of its contributors! Above all else, make certain Christ is the foreman throughout the construction, for his sacrificial love is the one we must model all others after. Thank you all for helping me recognize the existence of this treasure I have carried all along and for contributing to it all the time. It is never empty, there is no void and the pain we feel at the loss of a loved one is just the thick thread of their life’s love being woven into our vessel. Welcome the pain, for it means they have become part of you forevermore.

“Everything will be okay…”


“Everything will be okay…”

 

                How many times have you heard this phrase uttered by someone who is trying to offer hope or support? Regardless of whether your pain emanates from a broken heart, mind, spirit, or body makes little difference. We tell others, “It is going to be okay. I know it is hard now but you are going to be okay.”  This may offer solace in the moment but the harm it can do when circumstances never become, “okay”, can be severe. Worse yet is when these misguided comforters bring God in to reinforce their statements. A person enduring severe suffering hasn’t the strength or the ability to see a distant light at the end of a proverbial tunnel; therefore, our words must be chosen with care. At times, silence is better than anything we can offer except a soft and strong shoulder to cry upon.  Words have immense power to create great good or great evil so we must be wise when we use them.

             This seemingly innocuous statement holds hidden harm because many situations in life can never be made, Okay. Things do not turn out alright every time and the good guy doesn’t always win. Sadly, when God is attached to the ‘Okay’ thinking it sends the message that God promises to make everything turn out positively, the way we want them to turn out. This false reality is one in which those who have enough faith are healed, the poor are blessed richly, and disease and pestilence are eradicated. As I have stated in previous posts, the strength of one’s faith does not equate to God giving us whatever we want. He is not a genie in a bottle and our faith should not depend upon whether or not we are happy in life.   Pain, of any kind, is a game changer and is the reason we question our faith.

              Acknowledging that God will heal His creation does not mean that every crisis in our lives will turn out ‘Okay‘. The truth is much more difficult to accept; therefore, believers alter it so that they can cope with pain and crisis compounding their own and other’s suffering. God promises us many things in scripture and some of those things are wonderful and easy to accept while others are not so easy. God tells us that if we follow Him then our lives will be difficult (Luke 21:17; Mt 24:9; Gal 3:4; Rom 8:18, etc.). He is not the cause of our suffering, for His perfect plan for our lives and creation is for our good, to build us up and not to tear us down (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants us to prosper but above all, He wants us to love one another as purely as He loves us.

             Just imagine what the world would be like if we would just try to treat others as if everyone we met mattered…because they do matter… an awful lot. We meet so many people while trying to live our lives and this has never been truer than in modernity. In this age, we have the possibility of interacting or affecting millions of people. Time and distance are no longer the barriers they once were. We have the power, through our choices, to impact the walk of another.

            The people we meet are as varied as the fish in the sea or the flowers in the field.  There are people who know pain and are either surviving it or have survived it. These are the folks who keep getting knocked off the path, by Satan, but choose to claw their way back up time and again. Then there are those who were on the path the Lord wanted them to be on but when they got knocked off they could not find the strength to climb back. Next are those who never got on the path because no one told them it was there and they ignored the evidence of God all around them. Finally, there will be those we meet that actively and viciously fight the truth and cling onto worldly things in order not to be swayed. These people know the path exists but make choices that actively take them further and further away from it. They are concerned about their own pleasure and prosperity.

            Each and every person we come into contact with will impact us and we them. Regardless of the degree of impact, we need to remember that what we do, say, read, write, or create has an outcome, good or bad.  No matter how infinitesimal you believe it to be, your choices have a ripple effect throughout all of creation.  God uses everything that He has created, including you, to bring about the fulfillment of His plans. You needn’t acknowledge Him or cooperate with Him but he will use your choices to bring about the good of all of creation. That does not mean that He approves of the choices that his children make. It only means that He will use anything and everything to bring about his plan to destroy all pain and suffering (2 Thess. 1:5).

            If God is all powerful and all knowing then why is there so much suffering and heartache? Indeed, He has the power to stop your suffering and bring justice to those who caused it whether it is another human or the result of a broken creation. Why then doesn’t he just stop it all right now? Why doesn’t He make things ‘okay’ for His hurting children? Is He deaf to our pain? Of course not, He hears us and feels our struggle as His own, His heart aches for his children, all of his children. None of us were ever meant to suffer. This was never part of His plan but we were given choice and that changed everything. We may not like or accept the answers we seek because they may be difficult for us to hear; however, if you want to get beyond the pre-packaged one-liners then you must investigate and delve deeper. In doing so, you will likely find more questions than answers because our finite minds and limited perspective can only take us so far into understanding.  

            The reason He does not stop the pain and suffering this instant is because He is merciful and patient. You may feel this to be a ludicrous statement but He tells generation after generation who have been persecuted and had injustices thrust upon them that He not only hears our suffering but he mourns for it too.  Yes, He could come back while you sit here reading this post, eradicating all evil and pain from the lives of all his children. He does promise that He will destroy all evil in His creation, He will rescue the children that have chosen Him but it will be in His time.  He will create a new heaven and a new earth and all who have chosen him will live in a world so pure that our minds cannot fathom it. No pain, of any kind ever again! He will reward his faithful children by living among them and eliminating all brokenness. This is not only a promise made to us but it is a warning to all who have rejected Him. There will come a day when His patience and mercy will end and He will judge all. It will be a fierce day of many losses and God’s anger against those who have rejected him and persecuted all of us who have held unto him will be unmatched in all of human history. No one knows when this day will come but it will be a day when God says, enough. The cost to all those who do not know him or actively oppose him will be so great that it will be incomprehensible. If he would act now many of his children would be lost for all eternity. He holds back his hand of judgment in order to allow non-believers, his lost children, every opportunity to come home before they are weeded out (Mt 3:12 NLT).  

            Knowing this, we must be patient as well and I am saying this from a position of chronic pain and disability; therefore, my words are not uttered lightly. We are not the first to suffer greatly throughout our lives, although it may feel like it at times. We are not the first to feel heartache so deep that it threatens to cease our breath altogether.

             When you become a flickering light within the vast empty darkness, Satan will do whatever it takes to snuff you out. This does not mean that he will kill you. Nope, all he has to do is kill your faith. You get to keep suffering and he has stopped you from reaching out to the creator for help. He wins this battle then will move onto the next person.  He actively attempts to destroy God’s followers every moment of every day regardless of how you pray or the strength of your faith. In fact, if you have strong faith then Satan will try that much harder to destroy you because he knows if he is able to make you to give up then he has won a victory over his creator. Imagine the ripple effect it would have upon all humans if a person, who has been a champion for Christ, begins to succumb to Satan’s tricks. Of course, you do not have to use too much of your imagination because one viewing of the nightly news will provide several examples of “godly” people who have committed horrible atrocities and in doing so soiled the name of God.

              As illustration, if your pastor/priest were suddenly accused of adultery, molestation, murder, or some other crime/sin, how would you react? How many would fall with him or her? How many unbelievers would use the failures of these “pillars of the community” as reason to flee Christ or blame God for their troubles? When things do not turn out ‘okay‘ then both the misguided comforter and the person in crisis will have their faith shook to its core. Their pain may turn to poison and serve to kindle anger against God and everyone else. In our limited understanding, we believe what others have told us (instead of investigating it ourselves) and then blame God for our disease, heartache, poverty, persecution, etcetera but all of these things are a direct result of evil’s reign upon the Earth. Collectively, human sins have not only opened the door wide to evil but we have taken the door off its hinges allowing an acrid sea of evil to invade our lives. Nothing has been untouched, nothing.  No, I am not saying that we cause our own suffering, although that is true in specific incidences. No, the problem runs much deeper than the suffering specific to our life at this moment in time.

            Suffering is caused by a shockwave from each sin committed by every human being that has ever breathed life on this planet. This wave of evil permeates every molecule in creation; therefore, all of creation is broken. We are living within the shockwave of sin the generations that came before committed. Plus, the sins we commit ourselves will strengthen that shockwave laying waste to future generations. None of us are sinless; therefore, none of us are blameless. We invite evil into our world and its only purpose is to destroy us and all we love for only through our pain can it thrive. Obviously, you have the choice to dismiss all of this as spiritual mumbo jumbo and that is your God-given right but its truth is not dependent upon your belief.

             Here are some examples that illustrate the ripple effect of sin throughout creation.  If a land developer decides to decimate thousands of acres of untouched land for the purpose of building a shopping mall and in doing so inadvertently destroys an insect or plant that held the cure to cancer? Has not his sin of greed affected us all? If one child takes the life of another because he/she wanted something the other had, are we not all the cause and the victims of this deadly transaction?  “I do not want my kids to grow up the way I did so….I will give him or her everything I never had.”  Advertisers use psychologists to feed the idea that to be a good parent is to give everything to your children. They deliberately try to make us think we need what they are selling! Our entire “free-market” society is based on the premise of greed and over consumption.  Hence, should we not hold ourselves, as part of the human race, culpable?

            A few more examples: You are the best friend of a woman who has just found out that her husband has been sexually abusing her daughter and son who are now 8 and 4 respectively. Her husband purports to be a Christian and has twisted God’s truths to reconcile hurting his children, his wife, his community, his church, and all Christians everywhere. What do you say to your friend, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright…”? This is never going to be okay, this has caused a wound in creation that will swallow both the faithful and faithless alike because it is evil. No matter how much time passes, this will never be okay for any of them. Will God make good from the evil that was clearly intended and perpetrated by Satan? Absolutely He will! However, there is a catch of sorts. God gave each of us free will or choice because he loved us. It is the choices made by the abusive father that brought another wound upon God’s creation. It will be the choices of the mother and other relatives that will affect how the children heal. And it is the choices of the children themselves that have the potential to bring about God’s will or to perpetrate further evil. God allows us to choose to follow Him and do good to bring His plan to fruition or to become embittered and then toxic to others. Will God’s plan come to fruition if you choose not to follow Him? Yes, He will work through another, who has chosen to work through the pain that is certain, to bring about healing in His Creation.

             Consider this one; you are sitting with a husband and wife who have just been told by the doctors that their child can look forward to a life filled with unimaginable pain and mobility problems. There is no cure but there are medications that can be taken to manage the disease but they will cause all sorts of nasty secondary health issues the longer the child takes them. What do you say to them? Their hopes and dreams for their child have just shattered into a million pieces. However, God will use this child to fulfill His will for good if the child chooses to follow Him. Regardless of whether you were born with a debilitating disease or have one diagnosed later in life, it will never be okay. Yet, good can come from it.

             The disease itself will bring no good to anyone BUT our reactions to knowing someone who has chronic sickness or our reactions while enduring it ourselves has the greatest potential for good or evil. Does that mean we are supposed to be smiling all the time and be a joyful sufferer?  No. That is not humanly possible and anyone who appears to be “joyful” in their suffering is faking it, which will later lead to resentment and anger toward God and others. However, chronic suffering does not give you license to be angry and bitter toward everyone. You can be joy-filled because joy comes from God but no one can sustain happiness all the time. If you truly want to see someone’s character or whether they live what they believe, watch them during times of suffering because anyone can be a good Christian or just a good person, in general, in times that are happy. Remember, only under great pressure can a lump of coal shine like a diamond; therefore, your thoughts and words will shine brightly when they are born in hardship if tempered with love and faith.

            As you read this post you have probably thought of at least ten sins/crimes committed by those you know or know of  and can see how much damage their sin has done, but have you dared look inward and identify the sins you have perpetrated? Evil is very real and our sin allows it to corrode us from the inside out.  So much harm is caused in our world by those who ardently call and fight for justice but refuse to stop and look at what they, themselves are doing to perpetuate the crime, violence, and brokenness of this world. None of us are innocent. Our ideas and words have power regardless of whether we think anyone is listening. The ideas we purport to the next generation either deepen or help heal the brokenness.           

             The idea that “everything will be okay, if you just hold onto your faith”, is a lie and telling it to someone who is suffering may set them on the road to faithlessness or self-destruction. In the end of time, yes, God promises to eradicate evil but many lifetimes have come and gone in which people wasted their entire lives waiting for God to reward their faith by taking whatever hardship they were enduring and making it, Okay. Some things can NEVER be made okay and instead of accepting that and working hard to make our little corner of creation better; some of us fall into angry, destructive bitterness. If we provide false hope to a suffering person/family it would be as if we added gasoline to a smoldering fire.

            Understand this, Satan’s days are numbered and he knows it! His reign over the earth is coming to an end and he wants to cause as much pain to God as possible in the time he has left.  How then can a parent’s heart be shattered? Yes, by attacking his children (John 10:10).  How does this equate in real life? Pain, lots and lots of pain for all humankind but those who have Christ in their hearts will have hope; whereas, unbelievers face the same evils devoid of all hope. (Luke 21:17; Mt 24:9). God promises to give us strength through His grace to survive these attacks. He will use our weaknesses because in them there is strength (2 cor.12:7-10). It will not be easy but with God all things are possible, if your will and God’s will are aligned (Philippians 4:13). Yet, you must be careful in how you interpret this statement as well. Just because we have this “great idea or notion” does not mean that God promises that it will be fulfilled. It may be a fantastic idea and glorifying to God but you may not be the one he needs to do it or it may not be the right timing. Recall the story of David, Solomon and the building of the Lord’s temple as an Old Testament example. Our thinking is finite, constricted to the problems we see or experience in the now but we need to widen our scope if we hope to understand what God wants of us and how our particular suffering plays into His plan. No, he hasn’t caused our suffering but it is through the most broken that he brings healing to his creation. If we choose to follow him then our suffering will have purpose and positive things can be born of it instead of it leading to destruction.

            I know that I am headed for excruciating levels of pain that no medication will touch along with being bed-ridden some day but knowing the end does not exclude or excuse me from the good I can and will do. There is purpose in my suffering but it will be the choices I make that determine whether that purpose is going to heal creation or tear it further apart. Do I give in to my desire for self-pity and woefulness? Yep, I have been known to throw week-long pity-parties but then I get back up and step back on the path and keep climbing.           

            What should we do to offer help and hope to others? Should we even try to offer hope to someone suffering? Absolutely, just remember that God never created us to suffer. That was not in the original plans; therefore, any suffering we or others undergo is from Satan not God.  We must offer hope but do not make it false hope because that is a faith-killer. In an attempt to soothe the wounds of another, you may drive them away from God all together by misinterpreting scriptures or simply delivering trite statements to those in pain. Scripture must be felt within one’s soul in order to be useful; otherwise, they are only empty words. Scriptures like, “What Satan meant for Evil will be used by God, for Good (2 Thessalonians 1:5),”  “All things are used for the Glory of God so that his will may be served”. These phrases are rarely understood in full by the user but are commonly offered for counsel or support during a crisis.            Understand, both of these statements are true; however, when and how they are used is crucial. The bearer of the pain hears, “God wants me to suffer this horrible _________ to give Himself glory”!? “I have lost my child because it was God’s will?!” or “God gave me this debilitating disease in order to glorify himself? Why does my suffering bring him pleasure?” These thoughts are knee-jerk reactions to the pain and our minds need to hold someone accountable for our suffering. When no human can be blamed or justice is denied then we blame God for the agony that threatens to swallow us. When consumed by the apex of pain, nothing else can be seen or heard. You are raw and every fiber of your being throbs with an inhumane intensity regardless of the type of pain (Physical, psychological, spiritual, emotional, etc.).  It is better to say, “God will provide you the strength to bear this and he weeps with you as you mourn.”, rather than ‘everything will be okay’. This is a true statement that can offer hope after the person/people have come down from the crisis period. Your words must have fertile soil to grow and nothing will get past the intense pain of the apex. 

            We live within the New Testament era where Christ has paid for all of our sins; therefore, the pain we live in now is a direct result of the sins committed before us, the sins committed now, and our own life mistakes. Again, here is another chance to misunderstand what is being stated here. I do not mean that the sins you committed this day have caused your direct suffering; although, that can and does happen frequently. Sometimes A + B = C, meaning if we choose to rob a bank, are caught, tried, convicted, and then we experience abuse in prison making our existence a living hell, who is to blame? Is God to blame for this consequence or are we ourselves responsible for that suffering? If you abuse alcohol and are later diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver who then holds the blame? If you smoke like a chimney and are diagnosed with lung cancer, again, who is to blame? I understand all of these examples have exceptions and there exist many details that make each one unique, which is why I stated that Sometimes A +B=C.

            However, suffering does not only hit those who have made poor life choices. This is where it gets sticky.  If we concentrate on the immediate ramifications then we will miss the big picture. The first sin committed started a ripple effect throughout every molecule of all of creation. In the instant evil entered creation, everything changed. Nothing was untouched, nothing. The brokenness spread like a voracious poison. Pain, shame, anger, envy, jealousy, and bitterness made their entry into creation. God never intended for any of us to suffer. He never wanted us to suffer sickness, bitterness, depression, desperation, hopelessness, or fear but these are natural consequences of human choice. We were given choice and we blew it and we keep blowing it making that ripple effect of pain spread throughout all the future generations.

            I struggled a long time with the scripture stating, ‘children will suffer due to the sins of their fathers’ because I thought it was saying that God would punish and afflict the children of a sinful parent but I have come to understand that this is not the meaning at all. I believe this is what it is really saying; if the father/mother commits sins then the consequences will be felt by the successive generations not as a punishment from God but as a natural consequence of sin. Again, the ripple effect of sin is fearfully awesome in its devastation. Consequently, sin has both immediate and long-term negative ramifications. And lest we become self-righteous and blame those who came before we must stop and think of how many sins we have committed this single day. All sin allows evil into the creation bringing with it pain and suffering; therefore, we must guard against it so that we are not inadvertently hurting our loved ones or those who must bear the weight of our sin in generations to come.  Things may never be okay but you will be given the strength and endurance to create something good from the ashes of suffering, IF you choose that path. 

2 Cor.12:7-10: 7.though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  10. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NLT)