Partnering in Suffering

  Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

I hung up the phone and cried. I wasn’t guilty of my friend’s accusations, and my heart was broken.

At one time or another, we’ve all been unjustly accused, betrayed, abandoned, blamed, rejected, or used. Sometimes the pain seems unbearable. The world seems unjust. Our suffering seems pointless. and we often feel alone.

At times the world seems unjust

and our suffering seems pointless.

We can’t understand others’ anger because we know our words and actions were motivated by love but somehow met by misinterpretation. The result is agonizing. “What’s the point?” we may think.

God’s word promises a purpose in our suffering: to partner in Jesus’ sufferings. In other words, when we suffer, we are also suffering with Jesus.  “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13 ESV

When we suffer, we are also suffering with Jesus.

Think of it like running a marathon at the side of a friend as an encourager and co-participant. This is one of the greatest purposes of our suffering–standing with Jesus in His suffering. What a privilege!

Jesus experienced pain beyond comprehension and gave His life for me. My perspective as co-sufferer with Jesus changes my attitude when I understand I suffer out of love for and in partnership with Him.

What about you?

Immanuel: The God of Hopes and Fears

2013-01-15_16-55-32_280               Photo Credit: Shelly Beach

For many of us, 2016 was a challenging year. 

Maybe “challenging” is the PC word you’d use if someone at church asked you about the year you had. In the privacy of your self-talk you might choose another word.

Heartbreaking.

Shattering.

Crappy, or other similar adjectives.

You may have lost a loved one. Been blindsided by abandonment. Been kicked to the curb in the face of injustice or self-interest, in spite of your faithful service. Or faced a dreaded diagnosis-yours or a loved one’s.

We look forward to a new year with hope that life will be better. Why?

Our hopes and fears are almost always intertwined. 

My first brain episode almost took my life. Doctors feared they might not be able to turn around the course of my rapid decline. My survival was in question, and it took over sixteen years for doctors to determine a diagnosis. During the first five years following that episode, I feared every symptom that struck my body would return me to a hospital bed and a dreaded diagnosis. I hoped and prayed I would remain healthy and thanked God for the measure of health and strength that returned to me. Many of my hopes and fears were tied to my health for years.

This year as I caught the phrase, “hope and fears of all the years of all the years are met in Thee tonight,” I’ve listened to the words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” with new insight.

The hopes and fears of all humanity throughout history were met in Jesus’ birth. He lived among us, defeated death, and rose again. 

From the moment of His conception, He shared in our human experiences–our pain and suffering, sickness, heartbreak, disappointment, abandonment, hopes, and fears. He took the punishment we deserved to the grave so we could live with hope, free from fear of sin’s punishment and death. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory; we all demand our own way like the selfish rebels we are–yet He loves us so deeply we could never comprehend it.

Because of Jesus, I can look into my future without fear–no matter my diagnosis, income, feelings, or any human circumstances, because He is the source of all hope that has ever or ever will exist and the answer to every fear that has echoed through history.

IMMANUEL–God with us!

 

Observations about the Duggars, Judgment, and Human Nature

WhenAWomanCoverFew people have received more media coverage in the past weeks than Josh Duggar and the Duggar family.

The family became well-known for their television show (Fill in Ascending Large Numbers here) Kids and Counting. Josh is the oldest of the Duggar children and in recent years has become an outspoken political voice among conservatives. (Paint target on his back here from both political liberals and Christians whose feathers are ruffled by girls in dresses and home schooling, among other Duggerish practices.)

I’ve watched the show on and off, which I find preferable to reality choices such as Honey Boo-Boo, Jersey Shore, and The Real Housewives of Places I’m Glad I Don’t Live. I can say that I don’t agree with everything the Duggars are purported to believe about childrearing and theology, but I do find them charming and loveable in many ways.

Josh Duggar was barely 14 when he engaged in irresponsible sexual behavior.

The same age as four people who engaged in similar sexual activities with people in my family. Other children responsible for the same kinds of actions were a few years younger or older than Josh. No one in my family chose to stone these kids, throw them in jail, or demand adult legal action.

I find several things interest about the public’s response to Josh Duggar and his family.

1. We judge those we dislike or don’t agree with more quickly than those we love or see as like ourselves.

Take a real look at your self-talk. Be honest. Many Christians who see themselves as “liberal” are simply “reverse Pharisees,” judging those more conservative in their choices in negatve ways. We see ourselves as liberated and above them, often speaking and acting condescendingly toward Christian brothers and sisters. We judge more harshly. I know few people who would want their fifteen year old child treated as Josh Duggar has been treated.

Who of us has actually has heard the facts firsthand, unfiltered by the media? How would you like your story told by someone who didn’t know you and whose job–at least in some news outlets–was to slant the facts and tell the story in the most sensational way possible in order to engage their readership? Someone who already has drawn a conclusion about your lifestyle and values?

Who of us has or is willing to apply the same standards of judgment to their loved ones and require the same kind of treatment many are demanding of Josh?

 

2. A “killer” lurks inside all our hearts.

The truth of the matter is that we ENJOY seeing the demise of those we dislike or disagree with. Competitive sports and politics are evidence. And if that’s not enough, think back on junior high and high school.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you’re an adult you’ve risen above the killer motives that lurks inside all of us that likes to watch the downfall of those we hate. The creators of reality television understand this principle better than most Christians do. My heart…and yours, is deceitful and desperately wicked…so wicked, in fact, that we don’t even recognize it most of the time. (Jeremiah 17:9)

 

3. As long as Satan can keep our panties in a knot about someone else, we take our eyes off our messed-up selves.

You see, Josh sinned because he’s a sinner, and I’m pretty sure he knows it because he’s admitted it. The people who are busy throwing stones at him are probably not taking the time to see how much they’re like Josh and every other sinner on earth. I, for one, and so messed up that Jesus had to die for me. The good news is that He’s changing me. But we can only be changed when we take the time to focus on our self-talk and movtives as we interact with others in this world.

I’m reminded that Jesus was a friend of sinners. If we’re to be like Him, what should our response be in balancing accountability and love from those who act irresponsibly and hurtfully?

4. We should place focus on the long-term wellbeing of abuse survivors.

Josh’s parents did the responsible thing. His actions were reported to authorities. Law enforcement investigated. The Duggars were public in their dealings. Josh went for counseling. Reports indicate that the Duggar family has been open and forthcoming.

However, survivors of these types of events internalize their experiences differently.

Forgiveness does not replace needed trauma therapy. If the sexual experience took place in an environment of intimidation, fear, threat, etc., the survivors may need ongoing therapy. Other women may need less professional care dealing with the violation that occurred.

But according to Nancy Arnow of Safe Horizon, a New York-based victim services agency, the children who were the objects of Josh’s actions do not match the definition of sexual molestation.

“We have to distinguish between sexualized behavior that might be pretty normal — experimenting, touching each other — versus molesting, subjecting another child to harm.”

Jessa and Jill Duggar have made it clear in media interviews that this incident was forgiven and in their past. If the media and pulic truly cared about so-called “victims,” they should respect their wishes and focus, instead, on the egregious violation of the law in leaking Josh’s juvenile records and publicizing details. 

According to Dawn Scott Jones, award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused, it’s important for true abuse survivors to do a thorough and honest inventory of the losses they sustained because of their experience before trying to move on.

In the media frenzy to destroy Josh Duggar, little has been said about the needed focus on the long-term wellbeing of the survivors.

The media and the public has missed the point. Their goal has been to crucify Josh and his family. No one would want their child’s DHS records unsealed, their past made public, and exploratory behavior common to fourteen year-old boys applied to their family and friends.

And NO, it doesn’t matter if Josh Duggar is a public figure. We all deserve the right to make mistakes as kids and move on. This is what juvenile court is supposed to help accomplish. And this is the core of Christian community. (I can dream, can’t I?).

Let’s at least pretend to be consistent. And let’s pretend to be consistent.

Abuse is not over when it’s over. Forgiveness, while an important step, is just ONE step toward healing. Don’t drag out a child’s past and ask for adult judgment. The true injustice is the victimization of the children and the entire family by the individual that released Josh’s records, the media that published it, and Christians who love to sling mud instead of focusing on their own dirty hands.

 

Your thoughts?

 

Why “Resting” in God Requires Work: The Truth about Trust

GodIsGoodThe last few weeks of my life, my faith has been challenged by the thing docs found snuggled up near my brain stem. They diagnosed it as a glioma (not good) and told me that removing it was too dangerous because of the location.

Pretty stinky news–almost identical to a medical diagnosis I’d been given fifteen years ago.

Fifteen years ago, I freaked out (as spiritually as possible–but it was a freak-out, for sure. I didn’t want to die.

And I still don’t want to die.  But this time, instead of freaking out, I experienced that thing the Bible calls “peace that passes understanding.” I can thank the prayers of thousands of friends and loved ones, in part, for that gift of peace. It wasn’t something I “worked up” on my own.

The peace I experienced was a supernatural gift. But at the same time, I was also given choices every day in how I would respond.

The truth is that “resting” in God requires work on our part. And I went to work, based on what I’ve always staked my life upon: God holds my life in his hands; He is GOOD; the world we live in is sin-cursed, broken, and a dangerous place to live–and God is with us in the sucky parts, bringing about good things beyond what we can imagine.

So what did I do, and what can YOU do to do your part to rest in God when life just plain hurts?

  1. Resting requires you to choose your focus. I choose to minimize circumstances that were out of my control and focus on unshakable, TRUE things: Who God has always proven to be in my life and who he promises to be in his Word: loving, faithful, and trustworthy–a God who knows my suffering and responds to my needs.
  2. Resting means choosing weapons. I chose Scripture-based music (it’s still hard for me to read) filing my thoughts day and night. I chose to FOCUS on things of God a thousand times a day, visualizing Jesus sitting at my side or holding me in his arms, because he is there with me every moment.
  3. Resting means putting your faith in things you cannot see. I am a control freak. My mantra has become, “I can’t control that. Take it, Jesus.” It doesn’t matter if the kitchen floor is gritty (Welcome to Michigan winter) or if I don’t accomplish a list of tasks today. My job is to love God by loving people. No one can block that goal in my life.

So THANK YOU, friends, for your prayers. I have peace. I’m resting. I’m choosing my focus and my weapons and putting my faith in Jesus.

 

What about YOU? Do you struggle with trust and rest? What weapons are you choosing?

The Look of Love

My son Nate and his precious son Gabriel

I’m glad to announce that I can finally claim a new, longed-for title: Grandma.

My son Nate and his wife Allison welcomed their first child, Gabriel Daniel, into their home in June. Can I just say that I adore my precious grandson? And it takes every ounce of self-control not to devote all of my Facebook space to telling the world how beautiful he is.

I can’t help but be reminded that my husband Dan’s and my love for baby Gabe is but a glimmer of God’s great love for us. As Dan and I sit ogling over pictures of our grand baby, looking for opportunities to flash his precious face in front of someone, I know we reflect God’s heart for each of us as His children.

We can’t imagine the love of God the Father as He communicates His affection for us to Jesus, His Son. And I know that God longs for nothing more than to draw us close to Him and have us look into his face with the trust and openness of a father holding his own precious child.

Ponder that today as you think of God’s great and precious and very intimate love for you.