Suffering

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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This Is a Good Time to Bolster Your Theology of Suffering, Part 2

We humans have a hard time dealing with uncertainty. When too much change is happening too fast, the temptations to choose certainty over truth and comfort over honest struggle are greatly intensified.

We want it all to make sense. We want it to be simple. We want someone or some group to be clearly to blame—maybe because that’s easier than seeing the difficulty as a mess too complex to understand. A villain provides certainty and feels like a measure of control.

It’s a very human thing to do, but it’s not a very Christian thing to do. We’re called to prize truth and face it, even when the truth to be faced is, “I don’t how this happened or what’s coming next … and it could be really bad.”

The Christian way is to face disaster with all it’s complexities and uncertainties, but—in our hearts and minds—anchor it all to rock-solid, unchanging, big-picture realities. Because these realities are revealed to us by God in Scripture, we properly call this anchoring faith.

In part 1, we pondered two of seven certainties regarding suffering: our suffering is never meaningless and our suffering is never solitary. These certainties, and others, are pillars in our theology of suffering. Here we consider two more.

3. Our suffering is never payback.

“So much is going wrong in my life! Is God punishing me?”

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This Is a Good Time to Bolster Your Theology of Suffering

If you’ve been reading the economic news, you’ve been seeing the same things I have. Much of the forecasting is dire, and the numbers right now are beyond disturbing.1  There’s a wide range of predictions, and even the best-case scenarios aren’t fun to think about.

Like many of you, I’m more afraid of poverty than I am of COVID-19. This could be temporary. Nobody close to me has developed the disease. People close to me have lost their jobs.

This fear doesn’t make me less supportive of government rules aimed at slowing the disease, though. I don’t believe there ever was a non-catastrophic path through this. It was going to be a disaster, no matter what, and better decisions here and there would only have made it a slightly smaller disaster.2

So we have entered a time of suffering, and it might get a lot worse before it gets better. What that means for me is that I need to stir myself up by way of reminder (2 Pet. 1:13, 3:1). Maybe some of you will find these meditations helpful too.

Uncertainties and certainties

The platitude says fear of the unknown is the worst fear. I’m not so sure. Some things I fear only because they are known. I’ve experienced them before and dread going there again. Being unemployed is one of them.

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