The Walk – The Suffering

One of the major flaws of the church is its glazing over of that in life which is unpleasant. Life is brutal, cold, confusing and unfair. A sermon will generalize hardship but the full dosage of the savageness of life will be waiting in the parking lot to welcome you back to reality. Unrelenting discomfort that does not line up with that encouraging word that God is going to bless you and everything is going to be alright sermon. I have watched church attendance decreases when life’s problems increases because truth is missing and people no longer are satisfied with whipped cream encouragement.

I tend to draw a line between what people say about the church and what the Christian faith says about itself. Too many times it is too different and people are understandably confused. Top that with a particular cockiness that not uncommon amongst “good Christian folks” you get a recipe for something that is unappealing. As a result, people tend to fall back, fade away or let it go completely and choose approach life with their best effors and best intentions without religious obligations. This us vs them, saint vs sinner, holy vs secular, church vs world mentality has done more to divide than unite and honestly does not serve God’s intended purpose. However, what unites us all is a single, unavoidable word:

Suffering.

Truth be told, some people enter the faith and maintain this unrealistic belief that membership in this club means an exemption from life’s problems, from suffering. Suffering is when pain, injury or setback is experienced. Suffering a loss of a:

Job

Marriage

Family member

Financial stability

Car

The economy affects us all, cancer is a ruthless unbiased plague upon life itself and I have been to more funerals than I care to have come to. Car shops have not gone out of business and in this country, the divorce rate is out of control.

Suffering.

We preach victory and “everything is okay-isms” but women go from the pew to home back into the proximity of a raging, abusive husband.

Suffering.

We get married in churches but people whom you have invited wept a not because of joy for you but because they are reminded once again that they are a divorcee, widow or widower and will have to summon up all the courage to make it through the ceremony.

Suffering.

Church speaks of favor and blessings overflowing but I myself have been on unemployment despite being Master level educated and qualified for positions. Having been marginalized and disrespected at work “my mission field” and unsupported. Left to wonder if I made wrong career choices.

Suffering.

Some people Will NOT SEE THEIR CHILDREN AGAIN after being separated from them by authorities. They left their home in fear and hope, knowing the cost of going would be high but still better than what they risked by staying. Some left knowing they were on a death row in a sense, came illegally, carrying more faith than clothes, hoping for mercy and the end result is some may never know the fate of their children or see them ever again.

Suffering.

At least 246 years of slavery in Americas. At least 8 generations of dehumanizing, emasculating, lobotomizing rape of an entire people group. The effects of which are still being felt today.

Suffering.

The fact is modern religion will tell you that sufferings exist, but they won’t define them nor will they allow them their place. I say respect the times of celebration and the times of pain. Religion will say focus so much on the good things that there is barely time enough to focus on the not so good things. In other words, only work on developing your show muscles, the biceps and pecs and thighs and shoulders. The pretty ones that get all of the compliments and all of the attention. Don’t spend so much time focusing on the functional muscles, the go muscles, the ones you cannot see, the ones that keep you healthy and coordinated and erect and balanced. Do not focus on the pain, focus on the blessings, do not focus on the sufferings that shape you, focus on the triumphs that give you your shape….then again plastic surgery can give you your shape and still leave you unsatisfied within yourself.

Suffering is the indisputable proof that we are not invincible. Cocky Christianity will have someone believe that they are the “head and not the tail”, the “greatest and not the least”, the “blessed and not the cursed” and that somehow we DESERVE these things. Somehow God blessing us with the knowledge of who He is and what He has done for us, blessing us with hearing His voice, His word and giving us the grace to believe it and live it out and that somehow separates us to be better than the next person.

We are taught directly and indirectly that we are somehow exempt from the crap life dumps out on us and if we are the recipient of said crap that we are somehow at fault. That we made a wrong turn in our faith and that God is judging us or that the Devil is attacking us. The average person does not think like this. They look at it as ridiculous that what you do on a Sunday morning makes it so that calamity is not supposed to reach your address, that because I believe in the Christ that it should literally be all good all the time. Last I checked that was Heaven and Eternity after this life is over.

While in this life, we are and will suffer and suffer greatly. The added weight to that suffering is this religious mental conditioning that if we wave our magic Jesus wand that any and all storms in life we dissipate because we are just that dope….umm….I mean we are Christians.

No.

We are going to get our butts kick in creative new ways as we transition in life. Period. As Christians, we do not have an exemption from problems – yes miracles do happen, God makes it rain from a cloudless sky but the teacher will not abort the lesson because it uncomfortably challenging to the students. What we have as Christians is the exemption, by grace, of becoming victims of our problems. That is not to say that people do not triumph, people have lost limbs in accidents and THEN decided to become athletes and run marathons and become Para-Olympians but do they triumph according to God’s will, plan and purpose?

Christians, have the privilege of having a direct access to the Lord Jesus Christ, allowing for communication and exchange in both directions. We can know what God’s purpose for us is on this earth in our time and accomplish it in a way that is beautiful to the Creator. Few things worse than seeing someone being honored for an accomplishment and receiving it in conceit. Being humble allows us to be out of the way so that someone else in their own sufferings can see Christ. We are exempt from being victims of having to maintain our own freedom from suffering as this can produce its own issues. I put down drugs and now I am addicted to working out. Awesome, but not if body image issues come from it. I stopped being a womanizer and now I am a one woman man, great unless you become controlling due to jealous from fear.

In Christ, the root of the problem gets dealt with. An axe to the root(s) of a tree puts it down for good. What we do is landscaping and lawn maintenance and make sure to trim the branches before winter and it looks good until spring when the right conditions expose that which was not properly addressed. This is the purpose of these sufferings. God allowed us free will and that free will has unfortunately resulted in our separation from Him (sin) and reverberates in our everyday life in different decadent ways such as racism, bigotry, greed, envy, lust. Someone’s racism resulted in someone else being lynched. Misogyny results in someone else being raped and abused. Someone’s greed will also produce someone else’s poverty. Someone’s sin will cause someone else’s suffering and simultaneously my own sin will produce my own suffering. So inside and out, coming and going suffering will happen to us all.

It is only God who can take that suffering and present grace enough that you can make the decision to let it serve your betterment or your destruction. I am single (not an example, my experience) I have long thought I would have been married at this point. Instead I have suffered at events, weddings, weekend nights, holidays, birthdays etc. It affects my day to day more than I care to admit, attacks my self-worth and my focus. It causes me to have to make a choice, which not easy, that while I am not now nor will I ever be perfect I can choose to be alone or lonely, I can be about purpose and take advantage of this time or be about emotions and mourn. I can look at this as God’s punishment or God’s preparation. That my eventual marriage will be one of challenges and frustrations because I allowed this time to make me selfish or my marriage will be phenomenal because I allowed this time to let God shape me into being the dopest man and future husband and father possible. I can be given my shape by being rejected and overlooked and see myself as a person who is not worthy or I can be shaped by it and say that God heard my prayers that I wanted a healthy vibrant marriage and family and who I was 5 years ago and 8 years ago and 2 months ago was not prepared to be the man who has to hold the line in order to contribute to that vibrancy.

Christians really do not want problems. We focus our attention and quality of faith too many times on the absence of problems being the presence of God. Sometimes you eat fatty food and don’t get fat. Sometimes the evidence of what is going on isn’t clearly seen. That fatty food is killing you even if your waistline stays the same and having a snatched waist doesn’t mean you are in shape. The optics of a situation carry so much more weight than we should allow it to. We worship our feelings and commit adultery with our emotions. We should be married to God and His purpose and know that literally NOTHING is out of place as long as our hearts remain committed to the Lord. If we never had suffering would we even know the good times? Would we ever become better? Would we ever allow God to become our source?

I am starting to think the answer is no.

2 Comments

  1. This is one of the most accurate topics about suffering! Unfortunately, alot of the times when people are suffering, other friends and family members point the finger and shame them whether self inflicted or not. Some people can deal with certain sufferings better than others. What one person can handle, doesn’t mean the other person “should” be able to handle it too. Lack of understanding and not getting the full picture of one’s suffering makes it harder for the one who is suffering to speak on. However this quote that you posted is what makes it pivotal in a christian life. “Being humble allows us to be out of the way so that someone else in their own sufferings can see Christ. ” What I like about it is, whether christian or not, when the convo is had about the suffering, the one that is suffering learns, how to handle it better. Very rare preachers talks about Paul’s suffering because the church likes to ONLY HEAR about the blessed life. And its your fault you’re not blessed, which is not entirely accurate. Truthfully its irritating to hear because its ignorance at its best. Anyway great post right here Neth!!

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