I think my first brush with suffering came when Shiloh had a bad bicycle wreck in front of the California parsonage my family of origin occupied. It was days before Joel, Shiloh and I were supposed to go to Yosemite Bible Camp for a week. I think it was the 1983-1984 school year, so it was the summer of 1984. It was just after fifth grade. Shiloh was actually hospitalized for that wreck, so obviously he didn’t go to camp. I remember being crushed. I can only imagine not being bullied by “Christians” at camp that summer had Shiloh been with me.
Coming out of suffering takes time, but time does not heal all wounds. Let me unpack that. We always remember the pain of our suffering, but suffering can rear its ugly head when we least expect it. Even for people who are “normal.” Normal here is for the average man or woman who doesn’t battle an illness. I know there aren’t normal people out there per se, but every last one of us grieves loss. If you don’t grieve something then you have refused to interact with the world at all costs, but that in itself drives you to loneliness, and that is suffering. So again, everyone suffers and grieves.
I cope with grief by doing what I’m doing now – write. I also enlist the help of professional counseling. I seek times of meditation, and I use my job as “therapy.” I pray, listen to music and read the Bible. I attend church services online, and I text others to give and receive encouragement. These are powerful things that detour my thoughts from irreversible choices. Yesterday I was intently focused on God’s physical self next to me. We’ve been under attack from Satan, and when I say we I mean my wife and daughter as well. He knows the epic good we are capable of, and whatever underlings are assigned to us haven’t been enough, so he’s shown up himself. If he’s reading this I want him to know that the Savior is saving us, and the cultural messages he’s using to infiltrate our thinking to make us “lost” only drive us deeper into the omnipotence of the Godhead who is no match for him. And he knows that. I don’t know if we are in the end times, but if we are then Satan is doing everything he can to bring people like us down. It would be an honor to become a martyr because if he ends my life physically then my witness would be even more powerful. I do not have a death wish because I feel the Father calling me to expand my business into all fifty states, and it’s in that context I can quote the famous Pauline passage we all know and love. “For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” This pathetic time we spend in the flesh is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed. And it will.
Thank you Kevin for showing me on Monday that our focus must be vertical to be effective horizontally. My identity has been rooted strongly in Christ since 1983, and nothing will destroy that. I understand why Satan has to attack people like me. We are not afraid to speak truth into the lies of his propaganda, but even if he “silences” people like me he’s seen over history how the silences he doesn’t want unbelievers to hear become even louder even if one word is not spoken or written.
Suffering drives us closer to the One who created us. I do not want to suffer, but Jesus didn’t want to either. He did not escape from his suffering however, and the son of man is the epitome of what suffering looks like when we lay down our lives. We may not lay down our lives the way he did on the cross, but then again we may. We will lay them down daily as we interact with our circle of influence, be they believers or unbelievers.
Be patient with yourself. Haste makes waste, and regret is a terrible taskmaster. Listen carefully to what the Holy Spirit is communicating because She is not silent. Victory can be had sometimes in not engaging evil doers, but sometimes facing evil doers in conflict, especially when they are bullying others, is just what the doctor ordered. And hear this.
The Great Physician is not wringing His hands in fear of what to do. He’s as much a good good Father has He has always been, and we can trust that reality even when our worlds are crumbling.