Suffering

Responding to Ongoing Trials

Reposted from Rooted Thinking. By Forrest McPhail.

The Struggle Is Real

Today is one of my “dark days.” Pain has been relentless for a couple of days, restricting my life and ministry. What I do on such days requires much mental discipline.

For the past thirteen years I have been battling what was first diagnosed as post-viral syndrome following a bout with a debilitating virus. After years of investigation and treatments, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Various symptoms have come and gone at various levels of intensity: headache and sinus pain, painful sensitivity to sound and touch, nerve and joint pain, lack of concentration, fatigue, bouts with discouragement, burning and swelling sensations, etc. These things are now being attributed to my brain signals misfiring and misinterpreting pain. Otherwise I am very healthy!

It has been tough at times. My greatest personal trials during this have to do with how the pain hinders me from doing so much of what I want to do with my family and ministry. To endure pain and suffering on the physical level is one thing. But when the suffering hinder me from doing what I want to do for the Lord, I struggle.

Lessons Learned

Here are some lessons in grace I continue to learn through this:

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Trusting God When Your Pain Seems Pointless

"Last spring, my youngest found me lying in bed when she arrived home from her soccer game: 'Does your head still hurt really bad, Mom? It’s okay that you missed my game; I have more coming up. Maybe you can come to one of those games.' My oldest daughter asked me, 'Mom, someday if you don’t have a migraine, can you take me to the store to pick up some new art supplies?' I constantly feel like a disappointment." - TGC

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Have We Forgotten the Curse?

Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (Genesis 3:17b-18, ESV)

Whether we think about a fatal car accident, a struggle with sexual identity, a major handicap, or a host of natural disasters, this world is filled with hardships, injustices, and burdens.

“Why would a good God allow some particular tragedy to happen?” “Why did God make me this way with these defects?” “Why didn’t God make me that way?”

Often missing in these questions—which are more often objections rather than queries—is a central tenet of the Christian faith. The universe is under a Curse. The Curse is not only important theology, it is impossible to understand life (from a Christian viewpoint) without it.

The Curse affects all aspects of our lives, not just our physical well being. It affects our ability to reason, our relationships, and the condition of our souls.

I can understand when people who claim ignorance of the Christian faith are also ignorant of the Fall and the Curse. Sadly, many individuals who have at one time or another been taught about the Curse seem to forget it. This is true even among faithful church members.

For some, the Curse is like an old commercial jingle—it is lodged somewhere down deep in the memory but rarely brought to mind.  It is buried and all but forgotten.

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This Is a Good Time to Bolster Your Theology of Suffering, Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Mark Twain never wrote, and almost certainly never said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” But, Twaininess aside, there’s an underlying truth. When confronted with a severely negative turn of events, it’s human nature to reject it. “No way! … this is not happening!”

It’s just as natural to scale it down to a size we feel better equipped to handle, “That’s not what’s happening. This is what’s happening…” followed by a simplified, more understandable, less frightening version of things.

But a Christian is called to think differently about everything, including calamities and disasters. He is to “speak truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:2) as well as “with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). In the case of disasters, this means facing the full reality of a mess out of our control, recognizing that what is, is.

This honesty has consequences. Because “the prudent sees danger and hides himself” (Prov. 22:3), facing a time of suffering with eyes wide open and lights on allows us to act wisely in response. “The simple go on and suffer for it” (Prov. 22:3b).

Because the times seem to call for it, I’ve been shoring up my practical theology of suffering by pondering seven certainties. These are the final three.

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Curbing Our Complaints: Lessons for the Church in the Desert

"Because the water was bitter, everything was viewed through the spectacles of bitterness.... Pessimism is where one takes the worst perspective on a situation and then from that perspective extrapolates out their entire disposition, their worldview, and even their understanding of God. For Israel, bitterness not only defines the water or the region, it defines them." - Ref21

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