LIFE IS HARD: Thoughts about suffering

Life is hard.
It's true.
If your life isn't hard today, it probably will be tomorrow. Cheerful thought, right? But you know it's true.

So what kind of person are you when life gets hard? What kind of person am I? And where does faith play into it all? Do we even need a faith in something or someone, or is 'survival' enough?
Is faith a method of avoiding questions, or answering them?
Is God a crutch? A lucky charm? A distant creator?
What role does my faith play in the way I engage in the world around me?

My friend Shawn said it like this: "The lens by which we see the world determines how we live in the world." (In fact many of the thoughts in this post were inspired by a message he recently gave.)

And more than anything, since I returned from my trip to Haiti, I am realizing that the Christian life is more than just self-preservation. It's more than hope of heaven, someday in my future. The Christian life is about God's redeeming, transforming work in me and on earth. Through us. Right here. Right now. This is why believers in Haiti can rejoice and love and have hope in the midst of great suffering.
Life is hard.
But our lives are meant to be more than seeking as much safety and comfort and pleasure as possible. And I think our lives are meant to be more than just laying low until God takes us to heaven. I'm not content with a "fire insurance" faith. Because that kind of faith doesn't transform my life. It doesn't change anything, except  maybe my fears about dying. It certainly doesn't change my fears about living.

How we live matters.
How we view God matters.

 "God will never give you more than you can handle" is one of the phrases we throw around that supposedly makes people feel better when they're suffering. There is even a popular Christian song playing on the radio these days that preaches that concept. What a crock.
Anyway, the older I get the less patience I have for religious cliches and empty words that are tossed out in the name of Christianity. We want to say something that will comfort or encourage or inspire, and we end up blurting out sappy blabber that stings wounded hearts. And most of the time there's not an ounce of real truth in it.
The truth is, God heals us and frees us so that we can be a part of his redeeming work in the world. A faith that does not transform your life is a faith that has been hijacked.
If you live in the Rogue Valley, you're probably  familiar with the names Faith and Ethan, two children who are battling cancer. This picture was taken recently when they were in the same hospital.
I have to say that in the past several weeks I have been really proud to be part of this community. Every week there are local fundraisers to help these families. Yellow shirts are everywhere. Their names are heard in conversations in lunch rooms, in prayer vigils in the park, and in the newsfeed on Facebook. If you read comments on their pages, people all over the world are lifting them up in prayer, loving on them and helping out in creative ways. A community engaging in the story of two families who are walking a road that we all fear to walk. This is love in action.
I have no idea why these two precious kids are sick. I could hardly get through Ethan's mom's last post. Watching my child suffer an excruciating death is something I cannot cannot fathom. I don't know if any of us can back up far enough to see how this whole thing fits into the big picture.
But one thing is certain. These families are loved. They are loved so much. They are not alone.
Life is hard.
And if you're reading this today and you feel alone, hear this.
The story God is telling in you and in me is not just a story about rescue and salvation. It's a story about renewal and restoration. It's hope for today, in the midst of suffering. You are loved.
Suffering will not triumph.

Romans 8: 35-39 
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]
 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Comments

  1. Dear, dear Jenna -- your thoughts once again zing the heart and are worded so well. I felt much of the same reflection after Shawn's message. I also loved the saga of the blue belt. Congratulations to Dave for his efforts to trim....not an easy thing to do. You are definitely a "can do" to "make it work" gal and you and Bessie sure managed that ! Perhaps the 'purpose' was your blog providing the rest of us with humor for our day. BTW nice to know your upstairs neighbor has 'regular' personal habits....so funny,but indeed an aspect of apartment living...my daughter has her neighbor's sex activity frequency down pat. Anyway I LOVE your blog and will always retrive wisdom and smiles from your shared thoughts. HUGS my friend !

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