Friday, July 12, 2013

What Lisa had to say about suffering when I asked her. . .

 Lisa and I have never met in person. 

One day I wrote a blog post.  I was so terrified that I had "put myself out there" (like, i only have 5 followers, so you can see what a brave gal i am. ;)...) that I resolved to delete the post as. soon. as. I.  got. home.  

And when I got into Blogger to delete it, there was this comment from this person named Lisa.  So full of empathy and encouragement.  So.  The post did not get deleted.  And I went over to her blog (Hephzibah at that time, Christians Under Construction now) and so began a long an mutually beneficial friendship.

Last winter when I was contemplating suffering, I was eager to find out what Lisa would say.  I know she has had some heavy burdens. . .too heavy to be borne. . .and that she crumpled under the pressure and heat.  I have had the privilege of watching from halfway around the world as she and her husband Leo have emerged from the ashes of destroyed hopes and dreams, more vibrant and free and alive than ever before.

So I asked what words she associated with "suffering", what she thought was the cause, and where she turns to overcome.  She responded:
Oh WOW! Those questions seem like they should be simple, but... I'll have to think that out a bit.

Happy to do that though.

I guess words I would initially associate with suffering would be: pain, affliction, sadness, distress, anxiety, sickness, exhausting, grief/sorrow, adversity, torment but also; , testing, refining(fire), endurance, patience, discipline, dependance, Comfort, Grace, Salvation

What causes it? well that's a bit more complicated isn't it...

I think it's all manner of things as I have said many times before... I always make sure I have not brought it on myself first... or that it is not a disciplining or a 'giving over to my sins' is God trying to get my attention to repent for something I have been leaving out and it's damaging my life with Him.

These are true reasons we can suffer! As uncomfortable as I think we often are with the thought of them!

The other reasons are; suffering for Jesus... being persecuted for speaking/standing for His Truth. Preaching Jesus in anti-Jesus religious areas like Middle east for example... or just the simple your work colleagues hate you 'cos they know you're a 'God' person and they are convicted in their sin by you and your life and they act out in hate!

Refining fire and pruning... God Himself allowing or orchestrating a period of suffering for a purpose -through which (if we listen) He will teach us how to respond and make this time work for us spiritually and relationally with Him...

Then I guess the others we often don't focus on as Christians are - for one, living in a fallen world where we are degenerating... the sins are piled high to heaven and the creation is crying out...

also, if we live a life given to sin we may have repercussions or consequences. I.E suffering a disease which was contracted by sleeping around... or liver disease from abusing alcohol... they are not 'put on' us!

something I read earlier that made me think - Leo and I have said it of our experiences BUT the reality of it often still does not seem real at times:

2 cor 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What my friend Lillie responded when I asked her about suffering

 When I was considering the idea of suffering and how we overcome the trials in our lives, one of the first people I thought of was my friend Lillie.  She is a young woman who, in my opinion, had a childhood of deep suffering.  She sincerely does not understand what a miracle she is.  However, she epitomizes redemption.  She is beautiful in every way, and a constant source of inspiration for me.   So when I was pondering suffering and overcoming,  she was one of my first friends that I asked about what she considered the causes of suffering, and then what was her life-line when the waves of suffering wash over her.  Her thoughtful response follows:

This is just off the top of my head, but I think of suffering's cause as a direct result of sin and the curse. I don't believe God originally created the world with suffering in mind, though He of course knew before creating it what Jesus would suffer. I believe suffering isn't bad or evil in and of itself. (I'm barely beginning to learn this.) It is a great gift and tool in God's hand--gift, in the sense that it can be a warning, like when a child touches something hot after being told "no," or in the case of [my brother]'s cancer, when he pursued help because of pain. Whether suffering is consequences for one's own choice, someone else's choice, or a natural catastrophe or life experience that seems random to us, it can be very beneficial. Suffering seems to "deepen" some people's spirits, and they are able to help bear other people's burdens and to grow very compassionate and gracious through the suffering--as long as they have a deepening, growing relationship with God. Even some "atheists" who go through much can reach out to many people to do "good things." I'm thinking of an "atheist" that Dave has worked for and tried to speak to about God, who has been quite generous to us. "A lady in our church gave a testimony today; she works at a place called "Options for Women," and she has lost 3 babies, two being 2nd trimester stillborns. She said God doesn't heal us from the pain, but with the pain. Maybe this will sound weird, but before we had even begun to pursue having more children after Kayty (she was a little over a year when we started feeling ready to pursue more) I remember having almost a knowledge-thought-thing that I might have a miscarriage or two in order to be more sympathetic and empathetic to other ladies. That thought didn't sound appealing, but it definitely sounded okay at the time, if that makes sense--I wasn't feeling morbid, just knew somehow that it was probably one of God's purposes for me and that there was I guess "peace" or "rightness" about it, I guess. (Btw, I am still "dying" for Him to let me know if I get to give birth to more. I definitely have human struggles!!) Well, I hope this rough little essay in response to your questions (that I still can't believe you asked ME!!) was of some help to you, even though you already know all of this! :o) "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we..." was the first verse that came to mind. The Psalms are probably my favorite place to go when I feel pain, from a "bad day" to the death or abuse of a dear one. Suffering of any kind seems to be, I think, not God's first tool, but a frequently effective one, that draws us closer to Him. When He begins to heal us and reveal to us that He is as perfectly good as Scripture says, we can't help but worship and adore Him, and that is the greatest source of joy and ecstasy there is! The grace far outweighs the pain. I didn't like how I grew up, though grateful for the Bible knowledge and some other things, but the Steeses and my best friend with her family and you wonderful Wordens adopting Jim and I were a gift far greater than I'd ever imagined. Psalm 111 is my "9-11" Psalm to call God in emergency or whenever. It doesn't talk about suffering but about how good God is. I also like Isaiah 12 and Psalm 147. "Bearing one another's burdens" also came to mind. Better go. Would love to read your blog(s). And to hear what YOU have to say about it. Much love to you.

The older we get, the more we realize we have to learn, I guess. I agree with you about His individual-style teaching. I heard someone say once that grace comes in different colors for the different colors of pain or suffering, which is essentially what you were saying, I think. I love how you put things, and I really enjoy conversing with you. You're a great treasure of a friend! Have a felicitous day!

Monday, July 1, 2013

i wonder

is our ability to give generously
on our ability to receive abundance freely?

is our ability to give acceptance
enhanced by our ability to receive acceptance?

does our ability to fearlessly love
 grow out of our ability
to freely receive love?

is our ability to be fruitful
always dependent
on our ability to receive nourishment?

can we give anything
that we haven't received first?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

art and me

here's the thing.

i've been gifted and online art course.

i have poor eye-hand coordination.
never had good fine motor skills.
legally blind.

and i wasn't given this
so that i could become a better artist.  ;)

i was given this so that i could share
a piece of my favorite artist's life.

that would be my one and only child.
an artist.

and i was happy to observe.
but then a quiet voice spoke within my heart:
i've been given an art course.

i might not be greatly gifted this way,
but i could grow in the small gifts i have.

 so the pre-course challenge
was to feel free to make messy art,
and all those artists are dealing with

and me?
in a certain way i am too.

so here is my art.
--and with an irony that makes me smile,
it is a statement against perfectionism--
because i really don't have the ability
to make any other kind of {visual} art.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Perspectives on Suffering.

When I was working through the series on guilt, pertinent blog posts appeared in my feed, and I passed them on in my blog.

When I started thinking about suffering (November!)  I started looking for blog posts on suffering, thinking I'd have more to share this time around.  Not until this week have I been given any additional perspective in this way. 

So here are some gleanings from my reading this week:

 From The Contemplative Cottage, an extended quote from Christ the Tiger by Thomas Howard.

John Piper speaks about preparing for (inevitable) suffering.

Tony Reinke reflects on what John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, wrote to his young step-daughter about the inevitable hazards of life.

Lovely Holly Gerth wrote about not letting the fear of getting hurt dominate your decisions.

I follow the {in}courage bloom book club, and one day this week the vlog was about Prayer of the Heart, Meditative Prayer, and Contemplative Prayer. 

Perhaps this kind of praying happens most naturally when you are flat on your back or flat on your face.

The way that intense suffering humbles and empties a person may prepare her for deep communion with her God.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Angela Nazworth published an article about "When You're Expected to 'Pull It Together'" on {in}courage which I thought was helpful in considering suffering.

My response to her article is asking myself some questions.  Am I comfortable with letting other people express their grief, both privately and publicly if necessary?  Am I comfortable with grieving through my own griefs?  Am I ashamed when my griefs overflow outside of my privacy?  Can I trust God to let appropriate expressions of grief be good?


"Suppressing your hurts is like not tending to a bullet wound. Eventually you will bleed out. Don't numb pain, express it."  Lecrae

Friday, March 8, 2013


He has suffered horrific childhood abuse of every kind.  In one of our first conversations, he said that he wanted to tell me something really funny, and he laughed while he told me a first-hand story of being exploited. 

I felt a little ill.

His survival skills were phenomenal, but his ability to move into adult life with healthy relationships had been seriously crippled. 

Over the course of nearly a dozen years I have had the privilege of watching this youth grow into manhood.  He has struggled to heal and be free of the damage of the past.

He joined the Marines and served in Iraq.  He married and had children.  He has nurtured his children.  He graduated from college and entered graduate school.

He has struggled philosophically, since he is in truth a philosopher.  What is truth?  Does anything really exist?  He came to the point where he knew confidently that at least one thing really existed: love.  He knew that he loved his son.  His daughter.  His wife.  And from there he began to realize that there is a kind of truth that cannot be quantified, but which exists.

In the first part of December he was given the gift of faith in God, in Jesus. At the same time, he was given healing for his heart and soul. 

A few weeks later we were talking on the phone, and he gave me two pieces of news.  He has cancer. And he and his wife are expecting their third child.

Grief and joy mingled.  Healing followed by fresh suffering.  Fresh grief.  Fresh pain.  And fresh hope.

He told me once that after his surgery, he had a couple days where he was tempted to think angrily, "Haven't I suffered enough?"  But his foundational understanding is that suffering is good. . .or results in good.  There are good reasons for suffering.

Much of this is beyond my ability to comprehend.  But I feel privileged to observe and love this amazing manchild.  I love to see him making such tremendous effort and succeeding.

I am inspired by his courage.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Is Suffering Evil?

We've known Daniel almost his whole life.  He is now in his early 30's, and has long rejected God.  Not without reason.  He's seen some fairly awful things said and done in God's name.

In recent correspondence with my husband, Daniel revealed that though he is an atheist, he believes in absolute truth.  Mark asked him what he believes is absolute truth, and Daniel responded that he believes that pleasure is good, and suffering/pain is evil.

I thought of sadism.  And masochism.  In these, both pain and pleasure are probably evil.

I thought of the fitness motto: no pain, no gain.  A little pain may bring long-term benefit--or healthy pleasure.

I thought of life-saving surgeries.

How about labor and delivery?

These are all examples of physical suffering, but I wonder if the same concepts apply to mental or spiritual suffering?   Are there mental pleasures that are destructive to oneself or others?  Are there painful disciplines that bring long term benefits?  Are there piercing losses that bring long-term mental or spiritual health?  Can pain and suffering birth new spiritual and mental life?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


This list was also gleaned from conversations with friends:

*people in close relationships
*covetousness/discontent ("We think we should have something we don't")
*bad choices

What causes you pain?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

suffering--word associations

The council of friends is scattered right now.  One is snow-birding in California, and another has had a number of business related trips. 

However, I talked with each, and also number of other friends who I know have experienced significant suffering.  Some of the comments I will give individual posts, but from different conversations, I collect the following word associations for suffering:


From, I found "suffering" defined as "pain, agony".  Synonyms listed were: adversity, affliction, anguish, difficulty, discomfort, distress, dolor, hardship, martyrdom, misery, misfortune, ordeal, passion, torment, torture.

Wikipedia defined "suffering" broadly as "an experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with the perception of harm or threat of harm in an individual."  The article further explained that suffering can be subdivided into physical suffering, mental suffering, emotional suffering, psychological suffering, and even spiritual suffering.  In addition: 
[Suffering] may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable. Factors of duration and frequency of occurrence usually compound that of intensity. Attitudes toward suffering may vary widely, in the sufferer or other people, according to how much it is regarded as avoidable or unavoidable, useful or useless, deserved or undeserved.

So a paper cut causes a certain level of suffering, and betrayal by a friend causes a different level of suffering.  But the intensity of pain felt by each will differ (stating the obvious there).

What is the worst thing you have ever suffered?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Introduction to Suffering

When my council of friends was concluding our reflection on guilt--and in the journey some significant deliverance from it--Lisa from Ireland emailed me and asked if maybe after the new year we could explore the concept of suffering in the same way.   I agreed and starting meditating on suffering.

Toward the end of December a significant chain of events led to major changes in my life.  In the culture in which I live, there is a lot of violence.  Someone new to the area commented that the judge is too free with handing out restraining orders. I disagree.  Having conversed with quite  a few of the people who have asked for restraining orders as well as those who have had restraining orders against them, I would observe that they seem to have been served fairly. 

Avoiding the back story (I still can't talk of it easily), I will say that a woman who has hatred for me went from stonily glaring at me every time she saw me to unrestrained public verbal attacks, not only on me but also on other of my family members.  These attacks have happened both at church and at the only grocery store (currently) in town. My understanding is that we have reason to get a restraining order.  However, we don't feel free to take her to court, nor to make any more trouble in her life than she is already making for herself.  Nevertheless, we still feel a need to avoid needlessly placing ourselves in danger. 

This has led to significant lifestyle changes.  It  has also led to a spiritual struggle with anger and fear.  Summarizing hours and days of internal battle, I can truthfully say that the Lord has given us the ability to love her and care about her well-being.  He has also given us the ability to be wise and avoid unnecessary provocation.  All this is very humbling.  Humiliating even.

So I didn't write about suffering when the new year started.

Because I was so shattered.

Then I was going to make it the subject of thought during Lent.  Well, Lent is well underway, and nothing has been written.

This morning I have worked out and and listened to podcasts and watched vlogs and started dinner.  I folded laundry and put it away.

And there is no avoiding it any longer.

What is suffering?  Why do we suffer? What good is it?  or is it evil?  How can we suffer well?  How can we suffer badly?  What is the worst kind of suffering?

Sunday, January 13, 2013


From friends' facebook posts:

"God does not send us two classes of providences--one good, and one evil. All are good. Affliction is God's goodness in the seed. It takes time for a seed to grow and to develop into fruitfulness. Many of the best things of our lives--come to us first as pain, suffering, earthly loss or disappointment--black seeds without beauty--but afterward they grow into the rich harvest of righteousness! J. R. Miller"
 "It never seizes to amaze me how blessed my life has been for so many years! God loves doing the impossible in my life and I love it!!"  C. Z.
I so totally concur with both!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Love adds chocolate?

(I copied this from a friend--it's a li'l cheesy, but sweet. . .)
Love  Adds a Little Chocolate
A house is a house--until love comes through the door, that is. And love transforms a house into a very special home for very special people: your family.
Money, of course, can build a charming house, but only love can furnish it with a feeling of home. 
Duty can pack an adequate sack lunch, but love may decide to enclose a little note inside. 
Money can provide a television set, but love controls it and cares enough to say 'no' and take the guff that comes with it.
Obligation sends the children to bed on time, but love tucks the covers in around their necks and passes out kisses and hugs. 
Obligation can cook a meal, but love might embellish the table with a potted ivy trailing around slender candles. 
Duty writes many letters, but love adds joy. . .a joke or a picture or a fresh stick of gum inside.
Compulsion keeps a sparkling house, but love and prayer stand a better chance of producing a happy family.
Duty gets offended quickly if it isn't appreciated, but love learns to laugh a lot and to work for the sheer joy of doing it.
Obligation can pour a glass of milk, but quite often, love adds a little chocolate.
Author unknown