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?

How to Cope When We Feel Ripped Off

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When’s the last time you felt ripped off?

Ten minutes ago? Yesterday? Last week?

Sometimes that surge of frustration comes in small doses. And sometimes feeling ripped off produces a tsunami of emotions that carry the power to decimate everyone in our path.

It may have been as you sat in a miles-long traffic jam on the interstate and cars flew past you so they could cut into the front of the line.

Or it may have been when your kid sat the bench again and wouldn’t see playing time for the seventh consecutive game.

Or was it when your sister who lives out-of-state said your mom certainly didt have dementia so she wasn’t going to waste her money by helping you with expenses for your mother’s caregiving. If you believed Mom had dementia, the cost of paying for her care was your responsibility.

The question is never if we will feel ripped off by life, but how often, how much, and how we cope with the hurt.

It’s normal to feel upset when people act unjustly. It hurts when people take advantage of us, disregard, and disrespect us. But the truth is that everyone lives from a self-centered core. That includes me and you. We choose friends who agree with us and our lifestyle choices. We believe our opinions are right. We spend most of our energy trying to make sure we get our way.

When someone rips us off, treats us unfairly, or acts unjustly, our response is usually a mix of emotions:

  • ANGERWe’ve all felt this familiar rush. I know I did the other day as I waited in line at a medical clinic for more than twenty minutes, leaning heavily on my cane for support as my legs cramped and throbbed. I finally gained the first position in line. My legs were burning, so I slipped into a chair near me to rest for a moment. Moments later the receptionist called “Next!” and the young man who’d been standing behind me raced to the counter. I instantly thought of bopping him over the head with my cane. He’d watched me stand in front of him since he’d walked in the door a few minutes after me. He’d seen me finally  sit down out of weariness and knew I was next in line. He simply didn’t care. And I wanted to smack him for his rudeness. Or at least give him a piece of my mind.
  • SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESSI immediately started an internal monologue about how disrespectfully people can act.   I would certainly never have done such a thing. I pumped up my feelings of righteous superiority, although I was blind to it that just then. I thought I was just observing the truth about someone who needed to learn how to respect others. But I failed to recognize that I was excusing MY disrespectful attitude just because I allowed someone to hurt my feelings.
  • ENTITLEMENT. I felt entitled to feel angry toward someone who treated me rudely. But truth should never be measured by our emotions–especially in moments of anger. Bug when we feel hurt, our default is to tell ourselves we’re entitled to have people treat us well. Jesus tells us to expect to be treated unjustly (Matt. 5:10-12; 2 Cor. 4:7-11; Jn. 15:18-21). As followers of Jesus, we lay down our lives and our rights. “I am crucified with Christ…” (Gal. 2:20).
  • DESIRE FOR REVENGE. I was once with a friend who was searching for a parking spot. After circling the parking lot for twenty minutes, he finally spotted someone pulling out just a few spaces ahead of us. But as the gentleman pulled out, another car driven by a young woman raced into the space behind him. My friend circled the lot one more time as the young lady entered the store. Then he returned to the car and deflated the tires on her car. Certainly not an action I recommend, but one I think we all have related to at one time or another.
  • BITTERNESS. Bitterness is resentment that bears poisonous fruit. (Deut. 29:18) Bitterness comes from walking in the stubbornness of our hearts (Deut. 29:19), refusing to change, or holding on to our anger. “…the one who… blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ In other words, in spite of what the Word of God says, we continue to think, speak, and act in a manner that justifies our anger.
  • VALIDATION. We try to garner support for our position and draw people into our “camp.” If you’ve ever lived through a church split, you’re familiar with this emotion. We long for other to see how right we are (and how wrong they are). We lose sight of the double-love command to love God with our heart, soul, and, mind and to love others the way we want to be loved.

Wow do we cope when we feel ripped off? 

  • Acknowledge emotions. God created us with emotions. It’s healthy to acknowledge them and unhealthy to stuff them. If an employee embezzles from you, it’s natural to feel angry. Acknowledge your anger and deal with it appropriately, but don’t let it rule your life, your tongue, and your choices. We can’t allow anger to take root in our hearts and tend and feed it like a pet petunia.
  • Heighten your awareness of your self-talk. Shut down negative dialogue and replace it with statements of gratitude. “Yes, I lost thousands of dollars, Lord, but I still have my wife and children.” Negative self-talk plays a major role in anger and bitterness, and it’s important for us to take control and stop the cycle.
  • Choose to focus on the positives in your life. If you don’t think there are any, create some. Look for someone who needs a friend. Volunteer at a hospital, school, or nursing home. Tutor. Teach a skill at a homeless shelter. Write letters. Break the cycle of victim thinking.
  • Spend time with GodThe more time we spend with God and the more intimately we know Him, the more our gratitude grows. The more our gratitude grows, the more we love others. The more we love others, the more we’re able to deal with emotions when we’re angry.
  • Pray for a humble heart. We’re all sinners saved by the Grace of God. Self righteousness and pride have no place in a believer’s heart. If you’re looking at people in terms of “them,” something’s wrong.
  • Commit to living an “altared” life. As Jesus disciples and God’s children, we’ve relinquished our rights. We live  to glorify God. Every moment is an act of sacrifice–including our responses to others’ mistreatment.
  • Pray for the other person. Nothing can change our hearts like praying for someone we don’t like. God uses prayer to change our hearts and our perspective, so prepare to be transformed. Ask God to help you see that person’s story, their wounds, their needs, and their heart.
  • Be still. Stop communicating with others about the issue. Be still. Read the Word. Listen to God. Let the Spirit of God work and trust Him to work in ways you cannot see. Then rest in the peace He will give you. We are responsible for bringing justice to every situation in the world. Our attempts often complicate matters further. We can trust a God who always works for our God and who does all things well.

When have you felt ripped off? How did you handle it? What advice would you offer to others?

Four Reasons Why I Don’t Blame God

Dishwasher

Yesterday my dishswasher died.

I wasn’t surprised. As near as I can figure, my ancient Whirlpool was about the same age as Betty White but without the classic good looks. Because we’re frugal (another word for usually broke) my husband Dan and I never buy new appliances until they gasp, writhe, and spill their guts all over some part of our house.

Dan made a valiant attempt to fix our Whirlpool when it stopped whirling and the water only pooled in a murky blue sludge at the bottom of the machine. He ended up with a cut finger that bled through double bandages for three days while I worried that he’d need some new form of tetanus shot.

Long story short, no, his bloody attempt to fix the dishwasher was less than a success.

So we’ve been washing dishes in our household. Dishwashing is a tricky task to try to manage while holding cane and attempting to ignore the cramping in your legs and back.

I’ll admit I was a discouraged when I realized one more thing in our house was broken (not counting my body).

But the feeling passed. I don’t blame God for the demise of my dishwasher, and I haven’t blamed him for my health problems, relationship problems, financial problems, or even the abuse people I love and I have experienced in our past.

Why?

1. God created a perfect world for us, and we messed it up.

God created a perfect world and free access to Himself. Adam and Eve were given freedom of choice and chose sin. They chose to put themselves above God’s interests and best for them, and humanity has followed in their footsteps every day since. We are sinners by birth, choice, and generational curse.

We are responsible for the hurt, abuse, evil, and lack of stewardship of God’s creation that messed up the world.  

So when something breaks, don’t blame God. When someone hurts you, don’t blame God. He gives us the freedom to cooperate with His divine, perfect plans or not.

2. I can’t expect justice or fairness in this world. 

Scripture is clear that since Satan’s instigation of evil on earth, he is the “god” or “ruler” of this earth:  “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 14:30). His limited power is because of God’s permission, and for now Bad often wins over good. But Satan was defeated by Jesus’ victory on the cross. The final victory over sin and evil belongs to Him.

For this reason, I don’t have to fight for my rights here on earth. I don’t have to worry about getting what I think I deserve. Jesus has already won those things for me. I’ll even have the opportunity to crush Satan’s neck beneath our feet one day (Romans 16:20).

3. I must be committed to perspective.

This means, above all, a biblical perspective–aligning my attitude and desires with Scripture. Sure, I want a new dishwasher, and I’d really like one now. I can even conjure up lots of reasons why I deserve one (so-and-so has one, I’ve had a tough year, I have a stinky chronic illness, and media tells me I won’t be happy until I have what I want).

But really people, that’s a load of horse pucky. The truth is, Dan and I live on a budget, what others have has nothing to do with what I need, and I need to be a good steward of my resources.

Needs and desires are two different things. 

My son-in-law spent years as an abandoned child raising himself in a Jamaican jungle. Soon after authorities found him when he was eight, he was struck by a truck and taken to a public hospital where he was left without an advocate in despicable conditions. Yet he grew up to earn multiple degrees and become a caring husband and father.

When asked to go out for an to a movie in the U.S. that will cost $40, not counting gas and dinner, he looks at the expenditure differently than Americans. He recognizes that the cost of a single movie represents many meals to friends and relatives back in Jamaica. Or the price of school uniforms and shoes for children hoping to go to school.

My son-in-law has a different perspective on needs and desires, and his values shape his choices.

4, Our values as Christians must shape our choices. 

  • Gratitude that compels giving
  • Sacrifice that compels service.
  • Love that compels mercy.
  • Grace that compels beauty of spirit.

So today I’ll head to the sink to wash the dishes. I’ll look out the window at the beautiful field behind my house. I’ll listen to a little worship music or maybe pray for some of you. Dishwasher or no dishwasher, it will be a good day.

What about you? What advice can you share with us about not blaming God?