Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Suffering


Suffering. It's all around us.  Different degrees of it of course...but it is blanketing humanity right now.   For some, suffering may be having to cut back on the budget, and skip the Starbucks!  For others it may be caring for a family member with terminal cancer.  Either way, it sucks, right?!  Many try to cope with suffering themselves, but succumb to fear and anxiety, and are quickly overwhelmed by the suffering that goes with that in itself. More than ever, people are falling into depression, turning towards addictions (pornography) and vices (heroin, OxyContin, excessive drinking) to try to cope with the world.  

Suffering. We do try to dodge it. We try to use a lot of logic in planning our lives out, so that we avoid a head-on collision with it. We try to build up a large retirement cushion, or a "just in case" pot, just so that we are not without what we have now, or in the future. We  try to exercise, eat healthy, and take supplements, to avoid disease.   God did give us a brain, and so much of this seems logical.  I've even had many people comment on the size of our family, and then go on to tell me that they stopped after two children, because they were both healthy, and they didn't want to push their luck...I'm assuming this has to do with suffering.  I guess we are gamblers!   And all of you sisters out there who have large families of your own, you know that there is much to give up as far as time and resources, when you open yourself up to having a large family.  Throwing a special needs child in the mix, how do we cope?  I like to think it leaves us feeling doubly blessed! Our close  friends just received their foster-to-adopt license in Texas, and they were just informed that there are dozens of newborn babies, sitting in Texas hospitals, waiting for homes. Babies!  Although these babies look healthy and "normal" on the outside, they  were born with drugs in their systems.  With all of the unknowns about the future, families are not willing to take on the so called "burden" of bringing them into their family.  Will these children require more time and have special needs? Quite possibly...and most likely long term. Would taking in one of these babies change the dynamic of your family, change the amount of free time you have, and cause you to sacrifice? Most likely.  There are a lot of unknowns. And this can be scary.  Why would we take this willingly into our home? Suffering? Or why would we not?

In our country, 90% of us are believers.  But we are comfortable, believers.  Some even call the state of the "body" of the church right now, luke-warm...comfortable.  We all know and agree that God sent his own son to suffer for each of us. We know that when he walked on this earth, he did not conform to the world, but took that suffering on, headfirst, willingly.  And we as believers know, that through HIS act of suffering and sacrifice, the gates of eternal life were opened.  We also know that Jesus served as our teacher, mentor, leader, and greatest example of how to live on this earth. Unlike Jesus, we walk in sin.  Yes, he suffered for us for eternal life . . . but what did he teach us about suffering in this temporary life?  Was he ever teaching us to be stagnant, comfortable in our sin, or even comfortable in general?  On the contrary. He never promised that we would not endure suffering here.  He lead by example. He taught us to offer our suffering up for others, and to cling to Him, with an eternal perspective.  He taught us to look through His eyes.  So if we as believers, embrace what He taught, and we as believers want to take His yoke and put it around us for a day, wouldn't we be looking at the world entirely different? Wouldn't we embrace suffering rather then sprint away from it? Would we not open our eyes and witness the good that comes from God's pruning of his branches?  When faced with adversity, do we fall to the ground in fear, or look at it through His eyes, with an eternal perspective?  God allows suffering. And only by carrying His yoke, and walking in His footsteps, can we see the beauty that comes from it.  

I took two of my daughters, and one of my daughters dear friends, on a homeless walk uptown this weekend. There were 14 of us that showed up for the walk, and we all brought different amounts of food and water. We walked for about an hour and a half, handing bags of food to very grateful individuals, who were in need that day.  The walk circled us around to where we had begun. When we got to the very last homeless person, we noticed two things. One, it was a little girl, around the age of six, there with her mom and dad.  And number two, that was the last bag of food that we had amongst us.  During that hour and a half walk, we had handed out exactly as many bags as we all had brought, without keeping track or having any forethought to it.  My Daughter and her friend were very sad to see such a young homeless person, but I reminded them of the gift of being there, to feed her when she was in need. God allows suffering, and when I looked at that particular situation with them with an eternal perspective, we had to give thanks that the Holy Spirit brought us there to meet a need. And we literally had exactly what was needed.  And God may use that little girl, for a very big purpose in the future.  There have been many incredible people that have rose up from nothing, yet God used them to make a very big impact in the world. Sometimes I wonder if we who are surrounded in comfort and abundance, are more deafened and blinded to the needs of others around us.  We don't want to lose "comfortable" if it means suffering.  But I challenge you (and me) to step out of your comfort zone, even for a day.  And then another day, and maybe for a week... I think the beauty in giving of yourself, (whether it be financial, time, or prayers, and service) is being able to witness and receive what you are simultaneously being given from our creator, because you are living in His will in that moment.    Through sacrifice and suffering, with God by your side, you will grow in knowledge, understanding, and love, to a much deeper level, than the superficial level of the world. Agape love. Selfless love. 

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