A Different Perspective on Pain and Suffering

by BY RICHARD E. SIMMONS III | December 22, 2020

“Troubled times can awaken people out of the belief that they are sufficient without God. This often leads people into a serious search of the divine.” – Tim Keller | Photo courtesy of richardesimmons3.com

As the year 2020 comes to a close, most people are ready for this year to end and hoping the new year will bring less pain and suffering. But will that be the case?

Modern people seem to struggle with the issue of pain and suffering more than anyone else in history. For those of us in the Western world, we live in such prosperity yet struggle much more with affliction than people in other parts of the world. Author Philip Yancey says in his book Where is God When It Hurts:

“Books on the problem of pain divide neatly into two groupings. The older ones, by people like Aquinas, Bunyan, Donne, Luther, Calvin, and Augustine, ungrudgingly accept pain and suffering as God’s usual agents. These authors do not question God’s actions. They merely try to ‘justify the ways of God to man.’ The authors wrote with confidence, as if the sheer force of their reasoning could calm emotional responses to suffering.

Modern books on pain make a sharp contrast. Their authors assume that the amount of evil and suffering in the world cannot be matched with the traditional view of a good and loving God. God is thus bumped from a ‘friend of the court’ position to the box reserved for the defendant. ‘How can you possibly justify yourself, God?’ these angry moderns seem to say. Many of them adjust their notion of God, either by redefining His love or by questioning His power to control evil.

When you read the two categories of books side by side, the change in tone is quite striking. It’s as if we in modern times think we have a corner on the suffering market. Do we forget that Luther and Calvin lived in a world without ether and penicillin, when life expectancy averaged thirty years, and that Bunyan and Donne wrote their greatest works, respectively, in a jail and a plague quarantine room? Ironically, the modern authors—who live in princely comfort, toil in climate-controlled offices, and hoard elixirs in their medicine cabinets—are the ones smoldering with rage.”

Author Tim Keller encounters many religious skeptics in Manhattan where he works, and so many of them are skeptics because of the pain and suffering they see in life. How could a good God, a just God, a loving God allow such misery, pain, and anguish to exist?

However, Keller points out on the flip side that he has seen many people find God and transformation in the midst of pain and suffering. Adversity moves them toward God instead of away from Him. He says troubled times awakens people out of the belief that they are sufficient without God. This often leads people into a serious search of the divine.

C.S. Lewis seemed to have a good grasp on this. In his book The Problem of Pain, he says:

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasure…but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

He goes on to say:

“No doubt pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”

Political commentator Dinesh D’Souza speaks of Bart Ehrman, an author, scripture scholar, and former Christian who abandoned his faith because of unspeakable suffering he saw out in the world. He said, “I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life.” What is interesting is that Ehrman acknowledges that he personally has never experienced any real suffering in his own life. What troubles him most is the suffering of people in Asia, Africa, and South America. Yet, ironically this is where Christianity is flourishing in the places where the suffering is the greatest.

Historian Philip Jenkins says that in third world countries, suffering turns people toward God. He says,

“Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and persecuted, while it atrophies among the rich and secure.”

I love the story that a woman named Andrea Dilley tells about her life. She was raised by medical missionaries in Kenya and was exposed to a great deal of suffering and death. As a teenager, she began to question her faith and the goodness of God. When she reached her twenties she completely rejected God and Jesus. What drove her away was her anger at God over the suffering and injustice in the world.

Dilley shares how one evening she got into a philosophical discussion with a young man who, like her, did not believe in God, but also did not believe in an absolute moral law. She found herself in a real argument with him, saying, “If morality is subjective, you cannot say Hitler was wrong. You can’t condemn evil.” It then powerfully struck her that she was arguing with him from a theistic perspective. She said:

“When people ask me, what drove me out the doors of the church and then what brought me back, my answer to both questions is the same. I left the church in part because I was mad at God about human suffering and injustice. And I came back to church because of that same struggle. I realized that I couldn’t even talk about justice without standing inside of a theistic framework. In a naturalistic worldview, a parentless orphan in the slums of Nairobi can only be explained in terms of survival of the fittest. We’re all just animals slumming it in a godless world, fighting for space and resources. The idea of justice doesn’t really mean anything. To talk about justice, you have to talk about objective morality, and to talk about objective morality, you have to talk about God.”

She logically concluded that without God and an absolute moral law, justice is a meaningless word.

What I like about Andrea Dilley is her integrity. She rejected a belief in God because of the pain and suffering that she saw out in the world. She did not realize how her new belief in atheism contradicted her everyday life experience. Her belief in the value of human life and justice came very natural to her. She recognized it to be true. She did not see the contradiction in her life until she got into a discussion with a young man who did not live with that same contradiction. He was an atheist and recognized in his worldview, morality is subjective and therefore you cannot say Hitler’s actions were evil.

To Dilley’s credit, she recognized this massive contradiction and was not willing to live with it. She knew in her heart that human beings are of great value and need to be treated with dignity and respect. So, Andrea Dilley changed her mind and embraced the Christian worldview because it was consistent with the real world in which she lives.

So how should we view pain and suffering in our life? CP Voices Contributor Anthony Costello recently wrote that “…suffering is not random, and while undesired it is yet purposeful. Within the context of God’s ultimate plans, suffering is by design. Tears exist within the broader context of God’s providence, which is the entire redemption of the world. This is our starting place as Jesus people, lest suffering appear pointless and begin to overwhelm our souls.”

Who are you clinging to in the storms of life? Where are you taking your pain? I encourage you to bring your suffering to Jesus, and let Him rescue you.

I would like to close this in prayer:

Father, we are truly thankful that You give us light to live by, though we feel like we’re sometimes out in the dark. We know that You give us light, and understanding, and truth, and I pray, Father, that You would use these words to encourage us and that You truly would help us to build our lives on a strong foundation so that we can weather the storms when they do come. We do thank You for Your goodness and mercy. We thank You that we know that You love us even as we look around this world and see all the pain and suffering and evil. We thank You that You have not abandoned us. We pray these things in Christ’s name, Amen.

Get your copy of Richard’s newest book Reflections on the Existence of God on
Amazon or at existenceofgodbook.com

Richard E. Simmons III is a Christian author, speaker, and the Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership, a non-profit, faith-based ministry in Birmingham, Alabama. His best-selling titles include The True Measure of a Man, The Power of a Humble Life, Wisdom: Life’s Great Treasure, and his newest book, Reflections on the Existence of God. Follow Richard on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @thecenterbham. Tune in to Richard’s Reliable Truth Podcast on your favorite podcast app.

https://www.christianpost.com/sponsored/a-different-perspective-on-pain-and-suffering.html

How can I heal from the pain of betrayal?

There is perhaps no greater insult to relationship than betrayal. Betrayal robs us of a sense of security. Someone close to us has proven untrustworthy. Most of us have felt the sting of betrayal; likely most of us have even inflicted it. So what do we do about it?

There are obvious dangers in not overcoming the pain betrayal causes—losing the ability to trust, becoming a betrayer in retaliation or self-defense, not acknowledging the betrayal and thereby exposing ourselves to further hurt, emotional numbing to avoid the pain (which will eventually lead to an inability to experience joy as well). We work through the pain so that we might trust again, so that we might find the true foundation of our security.

Jesus was not immune to betrayal. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, a friend whom Jesus trusted with the group’s finances, turned Him in to be crucified. What is perhaps worse is that Judas accepted thirty pieces of silver in exchange for the life of his friend (Matthew 26:14-16). He betrayed Jesus with a kiss of greeting (Matthew 26:49). Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, yet He chose to bring the man into His inner fellowship. Jesus called Judas “friend,” even after the kiss that would lead to Jesus’ arrest.

On a smaller scale, Peter betrayed Jesus. The disciple who vowed to follow Jesus to death (Matthew 26:33-35), three times denied even knowing Jesus. After His resurrection, Jesus restored Peter, giving the man three opportunities to affirm his love for Jesus and confirming His trust in the disciple (John 21:15-19).

David, too, experienced the sting of betrayal. In Psalm 55:12-15 he writes, “For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.” David was no stranger to the torment of enemies, but even that seemed less painful than betrayal from a friend. Let’s look at David’s response.

But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah, because they do not change and do not fear God. (Psalm 55:16-19)

David’s first response was to experience the pain of betrayal. He did not minimize his sense of hurt. He poured it out to God. We, too, must acknowledge when we have been hurt. And then we need to share that hurt with someone who understands. God understands. Not only was Jesus betrayed in His time on earth. God has been, in a sense, betrayed by His creation. He created us that we might glorify Him and enjoy Him. Instead of fellowshipping with Him, we sinned against Him, and He had to redeem us. Because God so easily relates with our pain, we can pour out our hurt to Him in prayer. When the betrayal is deep, it can be helpful to talk with a trusted friend or counselor as well. Be wise to refrain from gossip in doing this.

Next, David realized his behaviors needed to be altered. He recognized that he could not trust his friend in the same way. Psalm 55:20-21 says, “My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” David understood his friend’s true heart.

It needs to be said that not all betrayers commit their act intentionally. Judas and David’s friend certainly did. Peter did not. Sometimes friends betray us simply because they are sinful human beings (just like us). It is still wise to recognize that these people may not be as trustworthy as we once believed. However, it would be unwise to paint them with a broad brush, declaring them evil and unworthy of reconciliation.

The final step in overcoming the pain of betrayal is that of forgiveness. When we forgive someone, we are really giving ourselves a gift. Especially when people intentionally inflict pain on us, our withholding of forgiveness hurts us more than it does them. To forgive someone is to give up our right to vengeance. We acknowledge that their act was wrong, we might be more careful in trusting them with certain issues, but we do not attempt to get back at them. We don’t betray someone who betrayed us. Instead, like David did, we leave it in God’s hands. David concludes his Psalm this way: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you” (Psalm 55:22-23). God will take care of evildoers. And He will take care of us.

Betrayal is a robbing of security through a breaking of trust. We overcome the heartache it causes by giving our pain to God. We call the betrayal for what it is, reconsider our personal boundaries, and recognize that only God is truly trustworthy. We tell Him our pain and allow Him to handle those who would hurt us.

https://www.compellingtruth.org/pain-of-betrayal.html

VIDEO Freed From Pain and Fear

Robert Hull – 700 Club Producer

“It was always fear in the house,” says Claudette. “Hiding in the closets, it’s just that we had a man that was very dark for me and my brothers and my mother.” The pain and fear she suffered when she was young at the hand of her stepfather still brings up strong emotions for Claudette. “He was a very strong alcoholic. My mom took the bulk of the beatings. And I would always run and hide in a closet. After all that torment and trauma, and you’re hearing your mother being beat down like a dog, and then she comes to the closet and she’s like ‘come out of here, everything is okay.’ You know, and I grew up thinking that that was okay.” She says.
 
The physical and mental abuse shaped her view of herself and of the world says Claudette, “My life wasn’t worth anything. And I thought the whole world was closed off from love even though I had this love in my heart for people.”

In her teens and 20s she clung to her boyfriend who convinced her they could make good money by selling drugs, Claudette remembers, “I guess because I loved him so much, I was going to accept—I accepted it. And it went from that to using and drinking. And the house turned into a party house. No sleep and it was a nightmare.” The relationship eventually ended but her addiction to drugs and alcohol continued. She now had three daughters that she dearly loved but knew she couldn’t take care of. She says, “I would cry and pray out to God and beg Him to help me, to help us, to stop this and to the point that I took my three daughters to my mother. And I told her that I couldn’t take care of them anymore.”

Years of alcoholism, abusive relationships and drug abuse left Claudette homeless and desperate. As she begged for money at a gas station a stranger offered to help. He asked her to follow him to a nearby house. She had no idea what would happen there. She says, “Something inside of me wanted out so bad. I wanted out and I had no idea what was here waiting for me.” 

He took her to his Pastor’s house where they were having a small group Bible study. Dave and Treva Thompson welcomed her. Dave remembers, “We wanted to do our best to make her feel at home in our home. She was at a really low point and and just grasping for air, so to speak, and in need of what only God could do for her. And so we just did our best to put our arms around her and let her know that she’s in a safe place. She didn’t have to worry. Nobody wants anything from her.”

Treva says, “She didn’t have any money or anything to eat. She began to share with us that she struggled with addiction. And we began to share with her how much that Jesus loved her.”

“I don’t know all these people and they’re packing me up food and all this and she comes out of the room with $20 and she said ‘they said you needed something,’” Claudette remembers.

“It wasn’t long until she understood what we were trying to do for her was just what God had done for her on the cross,” says Dave.

Treva says, “She finally I think saw a love that she had not seen at any other time in her life. Not our love – she saw the love of Christ.”

They began to meet regularly. Claudette soon prayed to become a Christian and asked God to set her free from what she thought was a hopeless alcohol addiction. “I started crying and I was begging the Lord, begging him. I said, ‘Why won’t you deliver me? I’ve seen you deliver other people. Why won’t you deliver me Lord?’ and a voice said, ‘Walk in it!’ like somebody was standing over my shoulder and bent down and said ‘Walk in it!’ It was like something supernatural took over and I said, ‘I’ve been delivered all this time. I just wasn’t walking in it.’ He already delivered me,” she says.

From that moment, Claudette was completely set free from drugs and alcohol. She has been sober for over thirteen years. She says, “I am so grateful. I’m a changed person. God is great. I thought I was going to die that way. I thought that was it for me. That there was no other way out. There was no other option but to live my life like that.” She says.

“When she finally realized that the power of Christ could deliver her from this; oh the joy’s just unbelievable. Unbelievable. To see that realization in someone’s life,” says Treva.

Claudette reconciled with her daughters and says she finally found the love she always longed for in Jesus. “It was the love that I’ve been looking for all my life. It was real love, true love, God’s love. And there’s no greater love than that in this world and that’s the love that I was looking for. That’s the love that I was looking for. And I’m going to walk the life of God for the rest of my life. Yes, Amen.”

https://www1.cbn.com/freed-pain-and-fear

VIDEO Fasting For Spiritual Breakthrough in 2021

December 26, 2020  by Shane Idleman

You choose: Will it be the pain of discipline or the pain of regret? One yields a sense of extreme fulfillment; the other, a lingering sense of defeat. Ironically, we pray for God to heal when we should also pray for the self-discipline to change harmful habits. Fasting is hard because self-denial is hard (discipline), and overindulging is not rewarding (regret). It becomes a never-ending cycle of defeat unless we break the cycle by choosing discipline over regret as we seek the will of God.

God teaches us through discipline because He loves us. We are also encouraged to discipline our bodies to experience breakthrough. We cannot effectively be filled with the Spirit and lack discipline. Our faith is not passive; it’s active faith. Romans 6:16 (NASB) sheds much-needed light: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” Either way, we are slaves—we are either God’s servant or a slave to our passions and desires. Self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit, according to 2 Timothy 1:7.

Those who say that discipline is legalism are dead wrong. We are called to yield to the Spirit and quench sin—but when we yield to sin, we quench the Spirit. Fleshly appetites are subdued when fasting. Fasting is challenging because the flesh always wants to negotiate with us. It says, “Can’t we meet in the middle? Don’t completely remove food—that’s too extreme!”

Self-control is also required for leadership. In Titus 1:8 (NIV), Paul adds that a leader “must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” John Wesley required fasting so that his leaders disciplined their appetites rather than allow their appetites to rule them. It’s been said for centuries that no man who cannot command himself is fit to command another. Paul told the Corinthians that he strikes a blow to his body and makes it his slave so that he will not be disqualified for service (1 Cor. 9:27). An undisciplined leader is an oxymoron.

We also see the power of fasting in Joel 1:14: “Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” The magnitude of the situation determined the response. God’s people had departed from Him. The call was to return through fasting, prayer, and broken-ness. Fasting is depriving the flesh of its appetite as we pray and seek God’s will and mercy. We are saying, “The flesh got me into this predicament, now it’s time to seek God’s mercy and humble myself before Him.”

Obviously, people have overcome challenges without fasting, but fasting adds extra strength, especially when overcoming addictions. One addiction may end, but others can continue. The alcoholic switches to caffeine, the nicotine addict switches to sugar, and the opioid user switches to food. It’s a never-ending cycle, but fasting can break the cycle. However, fasting is not a cure-all or a magic wand; it’s a spiritual discipline designed to aid in victory. Again, choose the pain of discipline over the pain of regret.

Fasting—The Physical Affects the Spiritual

Through fasting, our body becomes a servant instead of a master. When Jesus directs us, the outcome is always beneficial, spiritually and physically. Notice He said, “When you fast” (Matt. 6:16). Scripture doesn’t say, “When you sin, and if you fast,” but rather, “If you sin” and “When you fast.” The obvious goal and benefit of fasting is spiritual, but there are physical benefits as well. Can we pray and seek God with all our heart with a headache, tight pants, and a sluggish, lethargic body strung out on our favorite addictive substance? Of course not. Does the way you feel affect your productivity and the quality of your life? Absolutely. Our diet affects key hormones such as serotonin for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure, glutamate for healthy thinking, and noradrenaline for handling stress. If we allow junk food and addictions to control our attitude and productivity, it will hinder what we do for God. When we’re always dealing with stress, anxiety, and sickness, can we do much for God? No, we will be limited. Granted, there are those who, through no fault of their own, have a debilitating illness. I’m assuming the reader understands that I’m talking to those who can make changes.

What you put in the mouth (body) and the mind (soul) affects the spirit—and when you feed the spirit, it affects the body and the soul. I’m often asked to pray for panic attacks, angry outbursts, and anxiety. That can be done, and God honors prayer, but are we opening the door to these things by not halting highly addictive caffeine, sugar, opioid, or nicotine habits? Or are we renewing our mind by meditating on the Word and spending time in prayer? The physical affects the spiritual, and the spiritual affects the physical. Much of the healing that I have witnessed over the years was the result of renewed stewardship of the body. You can do this … it’s all about falling forward.

Now that you’re motivated to fast, I want to offer two helpful resources. First, here is a recent message on fasting that will help answer many questions. I also want to recommend my book, Feasting and Fasting – what works, what doesn’t, and why. This link has free download options. While there, download my brand new book, HELP! I’m Addicted. 

VIDEO Everyone Deserves A Second Chance

by America DeFleur September 26, 2019

Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog. But growing up on the streets has a way of depriving you of a lot of things that other people take for granted, so a dog was never on my list of necessities. It was just something I dreamt of.

Bouncing between broken homes and shelters before entering foster care, I never had the opportunity to have a dog. And as an adult, it wasn’t high on my priority list either. I became too wrapped up in trying to survive. No, scratch that, STRUGGLING to survive that I didn’t have time to even think about a furbaby.

Most foster youth and former foster youth lack resources and the parental guidance that it takes to become a successful and productive member of society in today’s world. It’s sad, but it’s true. We need more mentors, foster parents, friends and family to make it through this journey we call life. It’s one of the main reasons why you see so many youth branded as a “statistic” or labeled as “troubled” because there are not enough resources and support. Period. Had there been more people to reach out and offer me guidance, protect me when I needed it, support my transition into adulthood or been someone that I could talk to and ask advice from, I would have avoided so much pain, drama and a hundred different and treacherous paths. Paths that most foster youth succumb too. Why? Because pain, neglect, confusion, PTSD, Depression, lack of family members and years of boiling trauma can break anyone.

It takes a special kind of person to be there for you when no one else has, take your hand (or paw) and lift you up when everyone else let you down. It takes time, patience and unconditional love to heal anyone or in this case, any creature. Which brings me to my point, I spent the majority of my life wishing for a family that never came. It wasn’t until I was able to grow up and create a family of my own, through friends, co-workers my husband and my daughter, did I realize that no matter where you come from, You are capable of being loved. EVERYONE deserves a second chance. So can I have a drum roll please…Everyone MEET DOTTIE!

Dottie needs a second chance. She is a pit bull mix and desperately in need of a loving home. I had the opportunity to spend time with Dottie today through the Front Street Animal Shelter – City of Sacramento“Doggie Day Out” program. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s basically the coolest thing since sliced bread and helps so many animals find loving homes. You basically “borrow” a shelter dog and go on an outing. You can take the shelter pups hiking, jogging or even have them spend the night at your house. The idea behind the project is that these dogs have more exposure to loving individuals, burn off energy and spend some time away from the shelter. You can take pictures, leaves notes, advice or tips and hopefully all of this helps get the doggie get adopted.

When I first heard about this program I instantly thought that it was an amazing idea but never acted upon those “wanting to help instincts” Today, I said no more and decided to give it a try and honestly it was the best thing I could have done for myself and for Dottie. I’ll tell you why.

1. Animals are therapeutic, they have a way of making you feel better.
2. It motivated me to get out of the house, lately I’ve been a lazy slob.
3. I felt so much better after doing it (and so did she) Physically, mentally, emotionally. It was great!

For the past while now, I have been struggling with depression and have been trying to figure out a way to stay motivated and positive while impacting others and making a difference. I usually find that volunteering helps keep me distracted because let’s be real, when I have too much time to myself I overthink EVERYTHING and can’t escape my past. I need to stay busy. Which is why I’ve been excited about that writing workshop for foster youth I’ll be hosting! And now, more recently “Doggie Day Out” I’ve decided that at least once a week I will be at the Front Street Shelter “borrowing” dogs until I can have one of my own. Until then, check out my latest adventure with Dottie.

PS: She needs a home. NOW.

 

© 2018-19 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur

Fun Fact #18 – Everyone Deserves A Second Chance.

Don’t Wait For Joy

God’s promises aren’t just for “someday.”

BY CHARITY SINGLETON CRAIG

 

It’s funny how happy I feel about spring,” I said to my husband, who’d joined me on the patio. It was an ordinary day in May. Our tulip poplar shaded me with its new leaves, and birds chirped and whistled from its tangled branches. A warm breeze rustled the fabric of the patio umbrella, and I felt the full force of joy bolstering my spirit.

We weren’t doing anything special. In fact, it was a Friday afternoon following a particularly busy week, and I was outside reading. I should have been pulling the mass of weeds in the flowerbeds or mowing the towering grass we couldn’t keep up with in the unseasonably wet month we were having. But for the moment, the sun was shining, the air was warm and dry, and all felt right with the world.

“Our tulip poplar shaded me with its new leaves, and birds chirped and whistled from its tangled branches.”

 

“I think it’s because winter seemed to last forever,” Steve said, lying back in the reclining chair next to mine. We sat there quietly for several minutes, letting the delight of spring dull the memories of a particularly harsh season: the polar vortex that froze our water pipes, one son’s frustrating struggle with Spanish class, my extended bout of the flu, and the ongoing reality of aging—both our own and our parents’.

Finally, with one last gulp of sweet spring air—surely the neighbor’s lilacs were blooming—we headed off into the busyness of another weekend.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus talks about joy in much the same way we experienced that evening: the result of waiting for and finding the things we deeply desire after a period of struggle. In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd is thrilled when he finds the one and can return to the 99 (Luke 15:1-7). In the parable of the hidden treasure, joy propels the man not only to receive the treasure, but also to buy the field it’s buried in (Matt. 13:44). The woman who loses a coin searches until she finds it again. Then, not only is she filled with happiness, but she also invites her neighbors to rejoice with her (Luke 15:8-10). Each parable points to the future and to the wonder and exhilaration we’ll experience when the kingdom is at last fulfilled. These stories point to sinners repenting, God’s purposes being accomplished, and Christ, our true treasure, being revealed at last. What joy there will be when God’s kingdom comes!

These stories point to sinners repenting, God’s purposes being accomplished, and Christ, our true treasure, being revealed at last.

It’s like a long-term annuity, something I learned about recently when I helped a relative plan for retirement. Annuities are a type of insurance policy that allows for tax-deferred savings, and specifically with the long-term ones, a person makes a significant up-front investment for a big payoff down the line. Often we see joy this way: a future payout in heaven after a lifetime of adversity. Particularly as we enter the season of Advent, this cycle of suffering, waiting, and joy seems embedded in God’s plan for redemption: first, when Jesus came as a baby, and ultimately when He comes again. We sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” even as we look toward our future joy when the Lord will return.

But joy doesn’t point us only to the future. In my research, I also learned about income annuities. In this case, the investment is the same, but the payout can begin immediately, with periodic payments along the way rather than one lump sum at the end. When I compared the two options, the latter brought not only the quicker return but, in my relative’s case, also the greater. I think this is how joy is supposed to work, too.

During the Last Supper, the Lord tells His disciples this story: “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21 NIV). In one sense, Jesus seems to be saying that future joy makes present suffering worth it. Suffer through the pain of pregnancy and labor, and you’ll gain a baby to love. Or even endure winter, and spring will be waiting for you. Or invest your money wisely, and one day you’ll receive a profit.

But Jesus, more than anyone, understands that life doesn’t always work out so neatly here on earth. Sometimes, even the best investors lose everything in a crash. Occasionally cold, wet springs, like the one we ended up having, offer little relief from the ravages of winter. And all too often pregnancies end in miscarriages or stillbirths, with a mother’s (and father’s) anguish even greater at the end than the beginning. Yes, the coming kingdom will offer that linear joy following directly after suffering, but Jesus isn’t asking us just to grin and bear it here on earth until He returns. Rather, He’s giving us a vision of future joy that makes present joy possible, despite our suffering and pain.

“They could live hopefully now ‘in the body’ as they were ‘being renewed day by day’—like a pregnant woman who experiences the thrill of her baby kicking.”

Jesus shared this parable of childbirth the night before He was arrested, as He talked about His own death and resurrection. He’d raised the topic often enough that the disciples were starting to believe Him. He knew they were shaken by the death threats and attempted arrests. But He wanted them to understand that all the things they were—and would be—enduring were actually producing something greater, both now and in the future.

It’s like what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (NIV, emphasis added). That meant the disciples didn’t need to simply survive the days at hand, letting their “light and momentary troubles” achieve only some future glory (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV). They could live hopefully, confidently, even happily now “in the body” as they were “being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV)—like a pregnant woman who experiences the thrill of her baby kicking. Or like my husband and me keeping track of the growing hours of daylight in the darkness of winter. Or like Jesus Himself, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).

But joy isn’t ours to relish alone. In 1 Thessalonians 2:20, Paul tells the Thessalonian Christians they are his “glory and joy,” and the reason he endured imprisonment, shipwreck, torture, and scorn. Kingdom joy is others-focused. It’s at the heart of brotherly love (Rom. 12:10). It’s the secret to rejoicing with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15). It’s why John wrote in his third epistle, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

It’s also why, on that ordinary day in May, I didn’t realize how much I was enjoying a quiet moment of spring weather until my husband came to share it with me. It wasn’t just that we’d endured the long winter; we’d endured it together. And now, the delight was ours to share together, too. The same is true for all of us in God’s kingdom. Even during the long, cold months of tragedy, difficulty, and suffering, we can await Christ’s return with hope, confidence, and—most of all—joy.

 

Illustrations by Adam Cruft

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/margin-notes/dont-wait-for-joy

VIDEO Why Is There Pain and Suffering?

By:  Jason Malec

If God is both powerful and good, why doesn’t he eliminate pain and suffering?

What is the meaning of it, Watson?” said Holmes solemnly as he laid down the paper. “What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable. But what end? There is the great standing perennial problem to which human reason is as far from an answer as ever.Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Cardboard Box

The Universal Question

There is perhaps no greater challenge to faith than the presence of pain and suffering in the world.1 Whether theist or atheist, pain seems to be the testing lab of faith.

This question—Why is there pain and suffering in the world?—has plagued humanity since our very first thoughts about God. Even the earliest narratives of divine beings wrestle with the idea of pain and suffering.

In the Ancient Near East, three- to four-thousand-year-old Mesopotamian and Akkadian stories provide explanations for why bad things happen in the world.2 Simply put, there are good gods, and there are bad gods. Good gods do good things in our world, and bad gods are responsible for bad things.

In Eastern theology, particularly in Confucianism, this idea is incorporated into the “yin and yang.” Just as life presents us with polar opposites that are interconnected (think “light and dark” or “hot and cold”), so too do we experience “good and bad.”

However, this says nothing about why things happen—just that they do occur.

Theodicy: The Great Problem

But when most people wonder about pain and suffering, they want to know the cause. And that cause, almost by definition, comes back to God.

In a polytheistic worldview, as noted above, pain and suffering are simply factors caused by malevolent gods. But in a monotheistic worldview, why would God allow pain and suffering?

If God is good, the thinking goes, he would eliminate pain and suffering. And if he’s powerful, he’d be able to eradicate it, right? But there is evil in the world. So either God is not loving, he is not all-powerful, or there is no God.

Philosophers and theologians call the endeavor to overcome this thought process “theodicy.”3

This conundrum has perpetually plagued believers and nonbelievers. But there are a few observations that clarify the question and even provide some explanation for pain and suffering.

Timeless Question

Regardless of when or why the question of pain and suffering is posed, one can propose that it is a problem primarily in the Christian worldview.

If God is the benevolent creator and sustainer of life depicted in Christian tradition, then he should be able and willing to eliminate our pain and suffering. He obviously does not. Consequently, Christians find this tension particularly acute and troubling.

Evangelistic atheists argue that this is the last nail in the coffin of faith: God would not allow suffering and outright evil to persist in his creation. Therefore, he cannot exist (or if he does, he lacks the characteristics of a good god).

The Morality Question

However, in order to consider something “evil” (or even bad or unnecessary), one presupposes a moral standard by which those things or experiences are deemed “evil.” In fact, evil is only such when compared to something not evil.

But if human experience is entirely random, then “good” and “bad” things are just the way things are—we cannot attribute moral weight to anything we experience. Without an Arbiter of Goodness, theists argue, there is no such thing as a “bad” experience.

An assumption that God or a god exists is implicit in this discussion. So why does God allow pain and suffering?

Reframing the Question

To answer that we must first ask, “Would a good god eliminate pain and suffering?” C. S. Lewis addressed this very question in his book The Problem of Pain.

In it, he argues that humanity desires not so much a good god, but a kind god. Kindness “cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.” We want “not so much a Father but a grandfather in heaven.” Lewis suggests that a truly loving father “would rather see [the loved ones] suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.”4

In other words, a good God may not eliminate pain and suffering from the world because they are used to accomplish meaningful ends.

No Pain, No Gain

In my own life, I’ve seen this principle at work. When my eldest daughter was nine weeks old, she was diagnosed with a rare lung disease, which required immediate surgery to remove the defective lung. In preparation for surgery, the doctors requested an MRI, which would enable them to operate effectively.

As you can imagine, a nine-week-old baby isn’t going to respond to instructions to lie still during a twenty-minute scan. So I had to stand over her, pressing her shoulders into a cold, hard, metal table while the machine did its noisy work.

It was a painful twenty minutes. And I could only imagine the thoughts going through Cassie’s mind: Dad, why are you doing this? You’re hurting me! Please stop!

But if I’d obeyed the look in her eyes and the message they sent—if I relieved her of the temporary pain I was causing her—she would have died within days. I knew more than Cassie did about her circumstances and desired truly good things for her, not just temporary relief or pleasure.

If God knows more about our circumstances than we do and desires good things for us, perhaps he also uses painful circumstances to better ends than we can see or imagine.

Intellectual Limits

One thing is certain: Any intellectual response to the question of pain will not make the experience go away or any easier to endure. C. S. Lewis himself quipped, “You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess for I will tell you; I am a great coward.”5

Pain and suffering, no matter how much we know about them intellectually, have a way of tapping into our very core. They expose what we’re made of in ways that other emotions do not.

Perhaps this is why Lewis, through the experience of great pain, discovered that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.”6

A Choice

Could it be that in this way pain helps us grow—though it can be hard to see at times, even in retrospect?

No matter the reason, it seems pain and suffering are unavoidable; we seemingly have no choice in the matter. What we do control is our reaction, how we deal with our pain, and what we do with our experience.

What will you choose to do with your pain?

https://www.exploregod.com/why-is-there-pain-and-suffering

A Higher Law

July 16, 2019 by Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

It is easy to view the fruit of the Spirit as part of a nice Sunday school lesson. We read through Paul’s words in Galatians and think he’s writing about how to live the Christian life and relate to others.

This is true, but there is another profound purpose for the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. When trials and difficulties come, God’s Spirit gives us the tools to deal properly with pain, discomfort, sorrow, and suffering: the fruit of the Spirit.

When the fruit of the Spirit is not mature in us, we will fail to love the way Christ loves us.

If God’s fruit has not matured in our lives, however, we will face even more problems. For example, when the fruit of the Spirit is not mature in us, we will fail to love the way Christ loves us.

We will still be abrupt, harsh, or unforgiving even though we know that God calls us, and even commands us, to love others the way He loves us. In fact, we are to love and have a sense of joy and peace within our lives so much so that others want the same for their lives. We are also to be patient because God is patient with us, and we are to be kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Each of these reflects the true nature of God and His grace toward us.

Refuse to take Satan’s bait by becoming angry, frustrated, or bitter over life’s blows. Instead, seek to display God’s fruit of the Spirit by asking God to empower you to lay self aside and submit to His will. He will surely bless you in such a purpose.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for loving me so well. I give You the areas of my life where I have failed to love others because of frustration or selfishness. Cleanse my heart daily, that I may freely give grace to others as You do. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

https://www.ltw.org/read/my-devotional/2019/07/a-higher-law

Eight Undeniable Truths That Are Going to Change Your Life

February 9, 2019 by Cristian Mihai

The truth does not change based on your ability to accept it.

I do my best to live life in a way that I am aware of what I do, while also trying not to chase things that are outside of my control.

Here are some of those truths that help me stay in control of my life.

Life is pain

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” — William Goldman

The first person that comes to mind is Gary Vaynerchuk, whose constant social media posting encourages folks to chase happiness instead of money.

Well, sorry to break it to you, but life is pain. If you do not accept this, life is going to break your heart on a daily basis.

The pursuit of happiness? How does that even work? How does one go about it? How long does it last?

Don’t wish for fairytales. Just don’t.

The truth is that you have to make use of your suffering. That you must do your best to choose the battles you want to fight.

Do what is hard every single day, do what is meaningful, and happiness will come as a by-product of your actions.

Envy is the most stupid thing ever

“People always get what they want. But there is a price for everything. Failures are either those who do not know what they want or are not prepared to pay the price asked them. The price varies from individual to individual. Some get things at bargain-sale prices, others only at famine prices. But it is no use grumbling. Whatever price you are asked, you must pay.” – W.H. Auden

There’s a price that one must pay for anything. The price is sometimes time, sometimes energy, sometimes compromising oneself.

If someone has more than you, if someone is better than you at a certain skill, you can rest assured that they are worst than you in other areas.

We get what we are willing to sacrifice for.

I spent eight years writing before I earned a single dollar. I was living mostly on coffee, Coca-Cola, and cigarettes. I was also a recluse. I felt as if there was this invisible wall between me and the rest of the world. I cannot count the times I cried whenever I saw people who were in love or seemed to be.

I paid the price. To be able to write my stories, to share them with the world.

Think about that next time you feel like being envious of someone else’s success or achievements. They paid the price. You didn’t.

Cynicism is going to poison your soul

“Michelangelo’s great perfect marble David cries out to its observer: “You could be more than you are.” When you dare aspire upward, you reveal the inadequacy of the present and the promise of the future. Then you disturb others, in the depths of their souls, where they understand that their cynicism and immobility are unjustifiable. You play Abel to their Cain. You remind them that they ceased caring not because of life’s horrors, which are undeniable, but because they do not want to lift the world up on to their shoulders, where it belongs.” – Jordan B. Peterson

Here in Romania a lot of folks tend to believe that rich people are all thieves. Corrupt. They did something bad to acquire their fortunes. And when I tell them that they could also steal, they look at me like…

Play by the rules, if you want to win. If you hate the game, hate the players, you’re only going to be bitter about it for the rest of your life.

You know those guys who call the police whenever a neighbor throws a party?

Well, they do so because no one ever invites them to parties. The same goes for guys who slut-shame women, people who hate on the rich, on the famous, on the talented, on every single other category.

The dog that can bite, almost never has to

“Morality is just a fiction used by the herd of inferior human beings to hold back the few superior men.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

We have a saying here in Romania: the dog that barks never bites. The people who are most vocal about their beliefs, about ethics, about the way that we should live our lives, they are most afraid of the chaos that life truly represents.

You know one of the best ways you can gain self-confidence and speak up for yourself? If you are strong enough to defend yourself physically. Funny. But true.

The thing is, unless one is capable of being bad, he cannot be considered good.

A rabbit is not good. It is harmless. Being harmless, being the nice guy, that’s not going to get you the kind of life you dream about. Avoiding conflict makes it so that you attract conflict.

Just take a look at the kind of kids that get bullied. As a matter of fact, take a close look at kids aged 2 to 4 and the way they play together. How mean and aggressive they are. They lie, they steal, they fight. Little monsters.

I think it’s almost a miracle we don’t all end up as serial killers.

There’s a certain darkness in each and all of us, and we must accept our own darkness, and we must be willing to face the darkness in other people’s souls.

Pretending otherwise? You’re just setting yourself up to be exploited by those who do accept the darkness that lies in each and every single one of us.

Think about it.. if you expect the lion to not eat you because you didn’t eat it, guess what’s going to happen?

Intentions don’t matter

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold but so does a hard-boiled egg.” – Maya Angelou

A few years ago I was deeply in love. Or so I’d define what I was feeling back then. One fine morning, after a particularly long and tedious fight the night before, she decided to break up with me. I didn’t expect it, never thought it could happen.

All I could do was cry and tell her that I loved her as much as I could. That was it. All I could do. What I felt for her, I couldn’t feel more of. There wasn’t more to be felt. There wasn’t room in my heart to love anyone or anything else but her.

It didn’t matter, of course.

The rabbits from my previous truth on life are probably judging her as insensitive and cold.

Here’s the thing: in life, everyone except your mother is going to judge you by your actions. It does not matter that you tried to do the right thing. Did you do it? That’s all that matters.

It does not matter how much you love someone or what you’re willing to do for them, it matters if you love them the way they want to be loved, if you are the person they want to love.

Unhappy kids raise unhappy kids

“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth” – African proverb

A mother is supposed to love her child unconditionally. It does seem to be the one element an awful lot of successful people have in common, but not the only one.

Children are fragile, and you can even break them by giving them too much love and attention, or by never saying no, or by trying to protect them from what you consider to be a dangerous world.

It took me years and years to understand my own self, to get rid of traumas that I had the tendency to downplay.

And the demons that we acquire when we are kids (that we sometimes end up calling destiny) are not so easy to get rid out.

Habits, not goals

“Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.” – Jeff Olson

It’s February and I bet that the vast majority of people who set New Years Resolutions have already failed at them.

Goals are not as exciting as we think they are. As a matter of fact, most of the time reaching a goal is not as satisfying as daydreaming about it.

Habits, on the other hand, can last a lifetime.

Develop the habits. Focus on the twenty-four hours ahead of you.

Ask yourself who do you want to be, and do something today that brings you closer to becoming that person.

Be a king. Always.

“About this time he had the sarcophagus and body of Alexander the Great brought forth from its shrine, and after gazing on it, showed his respect by placing upon it a golden crown and strewing it with flowers; and being then asked whether he wished to see the tomb of the Ptolemies as well, he replied, “My wish was to see a king, not corpses.” – Suetonius

Be the king of your own life. Of your own soul. True mastery is mastery over oneself. Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes. Especially if your voice shakes. You are going to die, no matter what. Do not beg for moments or temporary comfort.

Be a king. Keep your head high.

And remember, always remember, that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything. It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

If the world asks you who you are, you speak loud and clear, because you if you do not, it will tell you and you won’t like it.


These are some of the truths that I try to remind myself on a daily basis. There are, of course, a lot more, like the fact that most people are wrong (and it always helps to stay away from what the majority thinks or believes in or does), or the fact that we must do something hard every single day, or that we must embrace uncertainty.

What do you think? What are some undeniable truths that you figure out about life?

Eight Undeniable Truths That Are Going to Change Your Life

VIDEO The Narrow Path To Personal Peace

May 18, 2019 by Dr Charles Stanley

Wars, riots, domestic violence, and international conflicts—it’s clear that the world is not at peace. But our internal worlds don’t have to mirror this external chaos. In this message, Dr. Stanley speaks of Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace and explains how we can find inner contentment and true rest through a personal relationship with Him. Don’t let things like anger, lust, or bitterness steal your peace. Learn how to trust God and let Him calm your soul with His soothing presence.

The Narrow Path to Personal Peace

KEY PASSAGE: John 14:27

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURES: Matthew 5:9 | Luke 9:5 | Luke 10:5

SUMMARY

The night before His crucifixion Jesus gave His disciples an amazing promise: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).

He wasn’t saying that all their conditions would be serene, easy, and comfortable. On the contrary, He was telling them they would have peace of mind and heart even though their circumstances were painful, difficult, and uncertain. And this is the same kind of peace Jesus promises to all of us who belong to Him.

SERMON POINTS

The peace Christ gives is a settled sense of satisfaction in Him. It’s not dependent upon good conditions but on a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We can be confident that no matter what we face in life, He is with us and in us through the Holy Spirit. And one of these days, whether we die or Jesus comes first, all the troubles of this life will be over, and we will be in heaven with Him forever. Then everything will be made right just as He promised, but until then, we have His peace within us as we live in this world’s pain and trouble.

Christ’s peace is not like that which the world offers.

This age is not characterized by peace, whether external or internal. People are anxious about their jobs, finances, relationships, and situations because the world cannot give them the peace that transcends circumstances. The only thing it can offer is counterfeits, which falsely promise that peace will come when they can have whatever they want. In the days when Jesus lived on earth, Rome was doing its best to keep external peace in the empire by subjecting everyone in two ways—through power and pain. But the peace Christ gives doesn’t come through coercion. The Greek word for peace is eirene, which means to bind or join together, signifying oneness without strife or consternation. Jesus Christ’s offer of peace comes when a person is bound together with Him.

Without that relationship, genuine peace will always be missing no matter how many other good relationships one may have. Furthermore, anxiety and a lack of tranquility may result in physical ailments. Although people oftentimes seek relief in other alternatives, they will never truly find peace apart from Christ.

Jesus is the source of this peace.

Christ’s peace is not something we can work to attain but a gift freely given to all who belong to Him. It’s actually the gift of Himself that is acquired at salvation. At that moment, an eternal relationship with Christ is established, and where He is, there is peace. One of the evidences of this relationship with the Prince of Peace is that we become peacemakers (Matt. 5:9). And the most basic way of doing this is by connecting other people to the ultimate Peacemaker, Jesus Christ.

There is a narrow path that leads to peace.

The world offers a wide selection of ways to find tranquility, but they are all false. Yet this is the path most people choose. They move from one false hope to the next but are never able to satisfy the gnawing need for peace in their hearts.

When Jesus sent His disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God, He said to them, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house’” (Luke 10:5). This verse is a good reminder for us to pray for those whose homes we visit. Although we may not know the circumstances of their lives, the Lord does, and we can pray that they will receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, and experience His amazing peace.

On the narrow path to peace, there are obstacles that steal our peace.

  • Lustful thoughts. When a Christian is looking where he shouldn’t and desiring something sinful, he will have no peace because of the conviction of sin that comes from God’s Spirit within him. Lust always creates chaos in the heart and soul.
  • Guilt. Peace is fragile and is easily lost when we feel the guilt of our sin. It could be something we said or did that we shouldn’t have, or perhaps something we should have said or done but didn’t. Either way, our peace evaporates under the Spirit’s conviction.
  • Anger. Peace and anger do not coexist. Animosity toward someone stirs up negative emotions and robs us of a tranquil spirit.
  • Bitterness. If we allow past hurtful experiences to fester, we will have no peace because our focus is on the wrong done to us and not on Christ. He suffered more injustice than anyone else ever has but harbored no bitterness, and we are to follow His example.
  • Self-centeredness. If we are preoccupied with what we want or think we deserve, we will have no peace because such thinking is rooted in pride.
  • Doubt. Any time we doubt the truth of God’s Word or His promise to answer our prayers, we can’t have the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts.
  • Unbelief. Those without Christ cannot have His peace because they don’t have a relationship with Him. They may display a limited or conditional serenity, but it is easily lost and won’t last.
  • Jealousy. A preoccupation with a desire to have what belongs to someone else robs us of tranquility and contentment.

How can we experience Christ’s peace?

  • We must believe that He is in control of our lives and our circumstances. Otherwise, we will try to take control, and there is conflict in that struggle.
  • We must believe that Christ’s offer of peace is real and be willing to accept it in spite of our feelings.
  • We must fully surrender our lives—mind, will, and emotions—to Jesus as our Lord. This includes yielding and conforming our character, conversation, and conduct to His will.

Having Christ’s peace does not mean that we will never have any trouble, suffer pain or illness, or feel afraid. But whenever these experiences come our way, we will be able to respond with absolute confidence and certainty in the sufficiency of Christ. He is adequate for every situation and will always carry us through it. In fact, sometimes the most difficult, painful, and trying circumstances can become the seedbed for the awesome peace God gives to us in those moments.

RESPONSE

  • Is your life characterized more by peace or anxiety? What situations most commonly rob you of peace? Where is your focus in those times? Is it on yourself, others, circumstances, the unknowable future, or Christ?
  • What is your level of peace when you are trusting God versus when you are trying to control your life or the lives of others? Who is more qualified to be the one in charge—you or God?

Original here