Three Wrong Ways To Respond To Suffering

Job’s comforters are busy these days. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Somewhere in your Facebook feed, on the “interwebs” or on TV, they are working overtime, delivering, with a smile, their consolation laced with condemnation to those in the midst of tragedy.

The story of Job tells us of a man who suffered unimaginable pain and loss. He went from great wealth to the depths of sickness, poverty and despair. Through all this, his three ‘friends’ insisted that his misfortunes were God’s punishment for his sins, something he had done wrong. But Job persisted in his belief that misfortune comes to both the godly and the wicked. He was convinced of the goodness, mystery and wonder of God, even in the midst of his pain.

The dictionary describes a Job’s comforter as someone whounwittingly or maliciously depresses or discourages someone while attempting to be consoling.”

You know, that person who seems to be saying the right thing, the spiritual thing, even the true thing, all while making you, or those they’re meant to comfort, feel worse.

Job Rebuked by His Friends – William Blake (1757–1827)

 

Instead of mending wounds, Job’s comforters poke their fingers deep into those wounds, inflicting pain instead of bringing healing.

We must NOT use times of tragedy to make a theological point.

We should never use someone else’s pain as a battering ram for our beliefs.

  • While it is certainly a fact that a house can be rebuilt, it is too soon to utter those words to someone standing in the rubble.
  • It is true that the sun will rise tomorrow, but for the one caught in a desperate midnight of the soul, that fact brings little comfort.
  • Perhaps time does heal all wounds, but spouting slogans to someone in pain, only serves to delay the healing.
  • Maybe those parents, grieving the loss of a child do have other children remaining but offering such trite comfort only reinforces the fact that we have grossly miscalculated the depth of their loss.
  • God can and does heal, but for the person trapped in a broken body or consumed with chronic pain, these words may sound more cruel than hopeful.

So how should we respond?

Number 1 – don’t ignore the suffering of others. When we are suffering and the world spins around us with no acknowledgment of our pain, the loneliness is soul-crushing. Let the suffering know they are seen.

Number 2 – don’t glorify pain. Yes, God can use our pain for a greater purpose – in our lives and the lives of others. But remember how Jesus responded when he heard his friend Lazarus had died? He simply wept. We should do the same when faced with pain, grief and loss.

Number 3 – don’t weaponize someone’s grief against them. For the love of God, don’t imagine you know whether or not they should be grieving, whether or not their level of grief is appropriate, whether or not they have unconfessed sin in their life. Unless you’re God, or their therapist, it’s not your place to figure that out.

Let’s save our theological debates for the classroom, the discussion group, the one-on-one conversations. They are not welcome, helpful or kind during a time of tragedy.

So, what can we do in response to suffering? It’s so simple, it’s almost ridiculous.

 

Weep with those who weep.

Lament with those who lament.

Scream with those who must scream.

Walk with those who are restless.

Eat with those who need food.

Pray with those who desire comfort.

Touch those who need to connect.

 

Be still with those who are silent.

Offer the simple, powerful gift of your presence and God’s presence in you, to bring healing and hope to a broken and wounded world.

 

 

Hey, I would love to have you join my private Facebook group “Pain-A Conversation.” Beginning September 25, 2017, I will be sharing a daily video conversation on the subject of pain, with my good friend Sanejo Leonard. We would love to have you join the conversation. Click here to join.

Thank you to Kelly M. Kapic for his insightful and compassionate book “Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering

Does Jesus Love You? A Quiz

Here we are at the end of another exhausting week. I don’t know about you but I feel depleted. I don’t know if it’s the cold I’m fighting or the worry that’s nagging, or the world that seems to have gone to the other side of crazy, but I’m plum wore out.

When I feel this way, there’s no amount of self-motivational chatter or mindless eating or brisk walks or any THING that can pull me out of the funk.

Except.  Jesus.

I sat down this morning and opened up my Bible, lapping up the Scriptures like a sun-baked hound dog. I flipped through the pages and underlined verses, allowing them to soak into my parched, thirsty soul. But still, the day beat me down.

I realized this afternoon that my frantic searching through Scriptures was still ME – doing, striving, working.

It’s true that I need God’s Word but without ‘the Word made flesh’ it’s not enough.

I need Jesus.

This made me think of you, my sweet friend. How was your week? Are you feeling depleted and worn-out? Do you feel like a hamster on the wheel, spinning around and around and getting nowhere?

Maybe you read my words above and think “Yeah, me too. I need Jesus.” Maybe you read them and thought, “Jesus? I’m fine, thanks.” or maybe you read them and thought, “Jesus. I don’t know if I need Him and even more, I don’t know if He would want me.”  Whatever your response, I have a few questions for you. Answer them honestly if you want to know if Jesus’ love is for you.

Would you describe yourself as an optimist, a realist or a pessimist?

Jesus loves you.

Is your bank account fat or are you dirt poor and sinking in debt?  

Jesus loves you.

Are you a pastor? Are you a porn addict? Are you both?  

Jesus loves you.

Are you straight? Are you gay? Are you trans? Do you not know how to answer?  

Jesus loves you.

Did you spend your day in the service of others? Did you waste your day in front of the TV?  

Jesus loves you.

Are you enveloped in the love of friends and family? Are you desperately lonely and hopelessly friendless?  

Jesus loves you.

Did you encourage your children with words of affirmation and love today or did you scream uncontrollably at the people you claim to love? 

Jesus loves you.

Are you fit? Are you fat? 

Jesus loves you.

Are you conservative, liberal or ‘over it’? 

Jesus loves you.

Is your business successful and flourishing? Are you a complete and utter failure? 

Jesus loves you.

Have you spent your life in the pews of a church or have you determined to never darken the door of a house of worship? 

Jesus loves you.

Are you a believer, a doubter or a cynic? 

Jesus loves you.

Are you a teetotaler, a social drinker or a raging alcoholic?

Jesus loves you.

Have you been betrayed? Are you a betrayer?

Jesus loves you.

Do you have a genius IQ or is your mind broken in ways you can’t express? 

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

There is nothing you can DO to deserve His love more. There is nothing you have done that will make Him love you less. Isaiah 49:16 says that God loves you so much that He tattooed your name on the palm of His hand. That’s some hard-core serious love! Psalm 56:8 says that He loves you so much that He saves your tears in a bottle. He sees you. He hears you. He loves you.

Jesus loves you so much that He gave His life for you. He suffered a brutal, painful death for you.
He longs to be in relationship with you – to know you and to be known by you, to bind up your wounds, to bring peace and love and strength to your weary, worn-out soul.

If you want this love – this tattooed-on-the-palm-of-His-hand, tear-saving-in-a-bottle, dying-on-the-cross-for-you love, all you have to do is ask. Admit that you’re a sinner (welcome to the club!) and ask Jesus to take up residence in your heart. Trust me, a relationship with Jesus is the greatest love affair you could ever imagine. A love without restraint, without limit and without end.

A Valentine’s Day Gift for the Unloved and the Unlovely

Our picture of love is warped.

On the one hand, we have a Hallmark-created, Disney-distorted image of love that bears little or no resemblance to the gritty, daily reality of true, enduring love. It’s an un-obtainable, romantic fantasy.

On the other hand, there is a dramatic counterpoint to these saccharin-sweet sentiments – a dark and distorted view of ‘love’. Pornography and the storylines of many popular books and movies portrays a perverse picture of love as domineering and abusive or submissive and abused. It presents love as unbridled passion, power and lust – a commodity with a price tag.

True love is radically different and so much more. Sure, true love is sometimes expressed through marriage and sex and roses and chocolates. But it’s also beautifully demonstrated in friendship and family, through community and acts of charity and sacrifice. It’s complicated and difficult. It ebbs and flows. True love forgives and believes, hopes and endures, clings to what is good and denies itself retribution.

But what about the times when love seems unobtainable? When betrayals and our very humanness seem to banish love from our lives? For those of you who are struggling to give love or to accept love on this Valentine’s Day, may I remind you of the gifts that your Heavenly Father offers.

 

 

To the ugly and the scarred – Through His scars, you are healed – Isaiah 53:5

To the ones who lust and hunger but are never satisfied – He offers the bread of life – John 6:35

To the fatherless – He wants you to know that you’re His precious, beloved child  – Psalm 68:5

To the rejected and discarded – The rejected One has redeemed you – Isaiah 53:3

To the ones who run away and to the ones who long to be found – He is waiting for you, with a robe and a ring – Luke 15:11-22

To the doubters and the seekers – Seek Him. He will be found  – Proverbs 2:1-6 Luke 11:9-10

To the weary and the weak – He will bring you rest – Matthew 11:28

To the grieving and the hopeless – He will carry your sorrow – Isaiah 53:4

To the broken and bruised – He was broken and bruised for you – Isaiah 53:5

To the lost and the wandering – He is relentlessly looking to find you – Matthew 18:12-14

To the whores and the harlots – He waits by the well, with water to quench your thirst – John 4:7-26

To the unloved and the unlovely – the Bridegroom is entranced by your beauty – Song of Solomon 4:1-3

 

Whether you feel cherished or neglected, valued or worthless, I pray that today you would receive God’s gift of love – a love that is boundless in mercy and available to all. It is a love that is true, a love that endures and a love that never fails.