In the last 24 hours, I’ve received notification via several church members regarding an “URGENT PRAYER REQUEST” to do with systematic beheading of children in Iraq. (more…)
Invest Your Suffering
Paul Mallard, Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, 2013, 192 pp.
Every writing pastor seems to put out a book on two themes. One is marriage. Another is suffering. Judging from the prologues, the process goes something like this: they give a sermon series; it’s popular (who isn’t interested in these topics?); they turn the series into a book. (more…)
In the last few tragic days, I received the following comment in my twitter feed from an Australian journalist.
AIDS researchers and a Catholic nun among #MH17 victims. If you believe in a god, this would seriously be testing your faith.
The birth of your first child is always momentous. For me, it was also scary. We were expecting twins, and the labour did not proceed well. Karyn was wheeled off for an emergency caesarean, with me running alongside. I was then left standing at the thick red line by the nurses’ station. And the door closed. (more…)
All our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away…
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Ps 90:9-10, 12)
When you’re young, life seems long and full of promise. A young woman told me she hopes Jesus doesn’t come back till she’s experienced career, marriage, children. I remember thinking the same when I was eighteen. Life stretched ahead, and I wanted to see and do it all. Can you recall it? Standing at the brink, ready to plunge in? (more…)
Cancer has become the leading cause of death in Australia and almost every other country, according to a major international World Health Organization (WHO) study (link to report). Everyone knows someone who is impacted. Sadly too many! And—to state the obvious—not everyone gets better from a cancer diagnosis. (more…)
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy! …
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope.
(Psalm 130:1-2, 5)
There’s something about certain Christian books on suffering that bugs me. I’m just going to come out and say it. The writer tells you how suffering deepened his feelings of closeness to God. How a sense of God’s presence never really left her. They imply, and sometimes even promise, you’ll feel the same. I’ve finished paragraphs like that with tears running down my cheeks, longing for what I’m reading about, angry at God for failing to deliver, wondering what’s missing in me. (more…)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)
I know what I want. I told God so today. I’d like a guarantee that things are going to get better. We’ve reached the end of this particular time of suffering. Happiness is on the other side of the door, knocking. But the days go by, and, yes, things do get better – my son learns to manage his condition, my sorrow and bewilderment retreat – but life is still draining and difficult. Tears are never far away. We’re not yet in the land where leaves heal sorrow (Rev 22:1-4).
Maybe I’ll find the guarantee I want in the Bible. (more…)
A great article on the impact of the bush fires currently burning around Sydney on not only property, but theology and community too.
My house just burned down.
There was nothing that anyone could have done to put a halt to the marching wall of flame which devoured so much of the street in which I grew up. The tireless devotion of the ‘firies’ and the unwavering dedication of a legion of volunteers was simply no match for the onslaught which took so many of us off guard and has shaken the very fabric of our community. Beneath the darkening, ash laden skies, my faithful home filled with all of its treasures breathed one last sigh and resigned itself to the flames. Tonight, the interwoven stories of our community are alarmingly coming together with one accord as the fires rage on and the reality of loss becomes an all too familiar motif. Many a tear will be wept before this darkness has passed and no doubt with each tear will come the resounding question ‘Why?’
Life is pretty good at the moment. I have three great kids. My marriage is going well. We planted a church a few years ago, and we are starting to get some traction. The problems we have are because of growth. All in all, this is one of those seasons people dream about. Life is good. (more…)
I’m linking to Jean Williams again, this time with a review of Paul Grimmond’s Suffering Well.
Regular readers will know Jean has been writing a series on God’s gifts in suffering. We also published an extract from Paul’s book back in September 2011, and the full copy is available from the Matthias Media store.
Jean’s review, however, is useful in pointing out the strengths of Paul’s book:
Some books grow inside you after you’ve read them. The little book Suffering Well, by Paul Grimmond, is like that.
I finished it a few weeks ago. It’s prodded and poked me ever since, getting under my guard, helping me respond to suffering the way God wants me to. It’s a bit like the Bible – not always easy, but encouraging in the old sense of “giving courage” – and that’s a huge compliment.
Sorry this post has taken a while. Sometimes you’re too close to something to be able to write about it. By God’s grace, here it is. (You can read my previous posts here: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
I’ve been listening to my fears. I’ve been imagining dire possibilities. Every medical article, every story of hardship, every description of suffering, seems a pointer to our future, a list of what-might-be. There are times when I lie face down on the carpet, sick to the gut, held down by a blank, black dread. I knew that I would cry, but fear? It seems a strange accompaniment to sorrow.
Over at the Gospel Coalition blog, Matt Smethurst has a summary of a recent lecture by Don Carson’s on suffering, and the 6 pillars of a Christian view. As Carson says:
Christian worldview rests on huge, biblically established, theological frameworks—all of which have to be accepted all of the time […] And this massive structure is stable and comprehensive enough to give you a great deal of stablility when you go through your darkest hours.
The post is a good read for the general outlines, and has a link to the video too. Also worth checking out on the topic is Carson’s book, How Long O Lord? As Matt says, this is preparatory work to do before suffering overtakes you:
Every believer, Carson concludes, would do well to ponder these six pillars prophylactically—before the evil days come. Only then will we be best positioned to face the complexities of suffering with stability, humility, compassion, and joy.
For I know that the Lord is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:5,6)
I write this post with a heavy heart, because we are neck-deep in this particular season of suffering. It’s not showing any signs of letting up, at least for now. It’s only bearable because God no longer seems like a stranger.
Of all the effects of suffering, this is one of the most disquieting: the God I meet in suffering is different from the God I thought I knew. It’s as if you turn to a friend and catch an expression on their face that you never expected to see there. Your wife of twenty years does something so completely out of character that you wonder if you really know her. Your father turns out to be fundamentally different to the man you loved and respected all these years. (more…)
I’m no Job. The words I used to sing so blithely, with such theoretical appreciation of their beauty, such bland conviction that I’d sing them whatever came—“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)—don’t, apparently, spring to my lips when suffering comes. My lips are sealed, silent. (more…)