Archives For suffering

Hurting On Mother’s Day

Chris —  May 8, 2014 — 11 Comments

Hurting on Mothers DayMother’s Day is a wonderful time to be thankful for maternity. But the celebration of Mother’s Day can also focus pain.*

I am taking the time this week to pray on my knees for women in several categories. I know specific ladies in nearly all of these categories. And I know some who are in multiple categories.

Who have I missed?

  1. Mothers who miss their mothers
  2. Women who have mothers with Alzheimers, dementia, or other illnesses that require care.
  3. Mothers who have lost a child: such incredible grief – See Christian books on pain and suffering
  4. Women (couples) struggling with infertility
  5. Women (couples) who could not have children and now watch friends with grandchildren
  6. Women who had abusive or neglectful mothers including some who even abandoned them
  7. Women who clash with their mothers on a personality level
  8. Mothers who miss husbands who have died
  9. Women (couples) who are trying to adopt and yet continue to be met with obstacles – See these posts on Russ Moore’s book here and here.
  10. Women grieved by rebellious children (see this post) and how parents should unpack forgiveness with rebellious children
  11. Single women who battle loneliness
  12. Mothers who regret how they raised their children
  13. Mothers battling “empty nest” syndrome
  14. Mothers who are estranged from their children and cannot see their grandchildren
  15. Single mothers trying to do everything on their own
  16. Women who chose not to have children and feel ostracized or out of place amongst other Christians.
  17. Mothers overwhelmed by financial concerns
  18. Mothers worn out physically who are facing other physical problems
  19. Mothers battling depression
  20. Mothers who have gone through a painful divorce or who are in painful marriages
  21. Mothers who regret abortions

Do be encouraged by the gospel. As one of the comments below said, “For some, Mother’s Day is difficult because of their experience or non-experience with their mother. Yet it can be transformed into something that is more positive when they think about how God provided someone to fill that void.”

*I will be updating and editing this as I receive input. I have already received excellent input. I have already made 4 revisions based on input in the comments.

Christian books on pain and suffering shouldn’t give simplistic answers. Yancey is right, “Why?” is a question that doesn’t go away.

I am preparing for a series on Job this fall at the Red Brick Church- – and I’m a pastor – – and a person living in a fallen world – – all of which means I read a great deal on suffering. Today, I’ve been encouraged by reading Philip Yancey’s honest, raw interaction with the Japanese Tsunami, the murder of children at Sandyhook elementary in Newtown, Boston and other awful tragedies.

Did you know?

  • The earthquake that struck Japan and caused the Tsunami released 600 million times more energy than the atomic bombs that fell on Japan (Yancey, 45).
  • 410,000 automobiles were destroyed in the Tsunami.
  • Approximately 19,000 people were killed or are missing.

Why?

There are no trite answers to suffering. In fact, simplistic answers are insulting. But there is real comfort in Yancey’s book.

Thankfully, there are a number of thoughtful Christan books on pain and suffering.

I will soon be reading carefully reading Tim Keller’s highly recommended Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.

I have previously recommended Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil.

Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, is also excellent.

TGC Nunez

Pastor Miguel Nuenez interacts with an important pastoral question.

This controversial topic has unfortunately often been addressed in emotional ways, not through biblical analysis. Those of us who grew up Roman Catholic have always heard suicide is a mortal sin that irretrievably sends people to hell. Influenced by the arguments of Augustine and Aquinas, this belief dominated through the Reformation. However, for Luther, the Devil is capable of oppressing (not possessing) a believer to the point of pushing him to commit the sin of suicide (Table Talk, Vol 54:29). As the salvation became better understood, many Reformation thinkers and theologians distanced their views from the Church of Rome.

Besides this traditional position of the Catholic Church, we encounter three others:

a) A true Christian would never commit suicide, since God wouldn’t allow it.

b) A Christian may commit suicide, but would lose his salvation.

c) A Christian may commit suicide without losing his salvation.

So what does the Bible say?

Let’s begin by talking about those truths we know as revealed in God’s Word . . .

Read the rest here.

iStock_000001124202XSmallBeloved, do not be surprised . . . (1 Peter 4:12)

This October, someone may jump out from behind a tree and scare the daylights out of you. That’s not your fault. Hooligans have no business taking advantage of jumpy people such as ourselves. As the author of Unpacking Forgiveness, I give you permission to withhold their caramel apples. We’ll come up with a verse to justify our behavior later.

But if it’s okay to be surprised by people who jump out of the shadows, there are challenges that come up in the Christian life that really should not make us jump. In fact, we can fully expect that these challenges are going to come leaping out of the darkness. Rather than being surprised by them, we should spot them before they try and catch us off guard. Below I share three challenges that should never surprise a local church.

Don’t Be Surprised By:

  1. A Shortage of Workers – Since Noah tried to get his family to stack up gopher wood, there has been an abundant harvest but a shortage of workers (Matthew 9:35-38). If your church is struggling to find workers, don’t be surprised. Don’t imagine that there are churches where recruiting is easy. It’s always a challenge. If someone tells you it is easy at their church to find enough help, don’t believe them. God wants us to be on our knees pleading for workers. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself doing so. For more, read Struggling to Find Workers at Your Church.
  2. Painful Trials – God allows suffering into the lives of believers for many reasons. Suffering and difficulties humble us and teach us patience (James 1:2-4). They soften us so that we can comfort others in their suffering (2 Corinthians 1:6). They show us that we are weak and God is strong (2 Corinthians 4:7). If you do not have a trial currently, then thank God. But the week isn’t over yet. Expect trials and be prepared to count it all joy.
  3. Conflicts When Your Church is Moving Forward – In a fallen world, any time God’s people are moving forward, we can expect opposition. Paul summarized it well at Ephesus. There is a wide door, but many oppose me (1 Cor 16:9). In World War II, no one got shot at flying over Des Moines. But things got a bit dicey over Berlin. Likewise, if your church is making headway for the glory of Christ, then expect some anti-aircraft fire from the evil one (Ephesians 6:13). For more, read Expect Conflict.

What else shouldn’t surprise Christians?

Of course, we do look forward to being surprised when Jesus returns – – – And that will be soon!

What President Reagan said to school-children following the Space Shuttle Challenger accident:

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

You can read the whole thing here or watch below. It is under 5 minutes.

 

Oklahoma Pastor Sam Storms reflects on the tragedy and devastation in Moore,OK:

I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to the tragedy that struck our community today is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly?

I’m not certain I have the answer to that question, and I write the following with considerable hesitation. I can only pray that what I say is grounded in God’s Word and is received in the spirit in which it is intended.

I first put my thoughts together on this subject when the tsunami hit Japan a couple of years ago. Now, in the aftermath of the tornado that struck Moore and other areas surrounding Oklahoma City, I pray that those same truths will prove helpful to some. Allow me to make seven observations.

(1) It will not accomplish anything good to deny what Scripture so clearly asserts, that God is absolutely sovereign over all of nature. He can himself send devastation. Or he may permit Satan to wreak havoc in the earth. Yes he can, if he chooses, intervene and prevent a tornado, a tsunami, and all other natural disasters. In the end, we do not know why he makes one choice and not another. In the end, we must, like Job, join the apostle Paul and say: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

(2) God is sovereign, not Satan. Whether or to what extent Satan may have had a hand in what occurred we can never know. What we can know and must proclaim is that he can do nothing apart from God’s sovereign permission. Satan is not ultimately sovereign. God alone is.

(3) Great natural disasters such as this tell us nothing about the comparative sinfulness of those who are its victims. Please do not conclude that the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, are more sinful than any other city that has not as yet experienced such devastation. Please do not conclude that we are more righteous than they because God has thus far spared us from such events. The Bible simply won’t let us draw either conclusion. What the Bible does say is that we all continue to live and flourish not because we deserve it but solely because of the mercy and longsuffering of God. Life is on loan from God. He does not owe us existence and what he has mercifully given he can take back at any time and in any way he sees fit.

Read the rest here.

John Piper:

Earlier this year, a grieving mother, who recently had given birth to a stillborn son, wrote to me asking for counsel and comfort. The team at Desiring God thought this letter might be helpful to some others, whether other mothers who have lost infants, parents who have lost young children, or perhaps even more broadly.

Dear _____,

This loss and sorrow is all so fresh. I hesitate to tread into the tender place and speak. But since you ask, I pray that God would help me say something helpful.

First, please know that I know I don’t know what it is like to give birth to a lifeless body. Only a small, sad band of mothers know that. I say “lifeless body” because, as you made clear, your son is not lifeless. He simply skipped earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, he will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows.

I do not know what age — what level of maturity and development — he will have in that day. I don’t know what level of maturity and development I will have. Will the 25-year-old or the 35- or the 45- or the 55-year-old John Piper be the risen one? God knows what is optimal for the spiritual, glorified body. And so it will be for your son. But you will know him. God will see to that. And he you. And he will thank you for giving him life. He will thank you for enduring the loss that he might have the reward sooner.

God’s crucial word on grieving well is 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Yours is a grieving with hope. Theirs is a grieving without hope. That is the key difference. There is no talk of not grieving. That would be like suggesting to a woman who just lost her arm that she not cry, because it would be put back on in the resurrection. It hurts! That’s why we cry. It hurts.

And amputation is a good analogy. Because unlike a bullet wound, when the amputation heals, the arm is still gone. So the hurt of grief is different from the hurt of other wounds. There is the pain of the severing, and then the relentless pain of the gone-ness. The countless might-have-beens. Those too hurt. Each new remembered one is a new blow on the tender place where the arm was. So grieving is like and unlike other pain.

There is a paradox in the way God is honored through hope-filled grief. One might think that the only way he could be honored would be to cry less or get over the ache more quickly. That might show that your confidence is in the good that God is and the good that he does. Yes. It might. And some people are wired emotionally to experience God that way. I would not join those who say, “O they are just in denial.”

But there is another way God is honored in our grieving. When we taste the loss so deeply because we loved so deeply and treasured God’s gift — and God in his gift — so passionately that the loss cuts the deeper and the longer, and yet in and through the depths and the lengths of sorrow we never let go of God, and feel him never letting go of us — in that longer sorrow he is also greatly honored, because the length of it reveals the magnitude of our sense of loss for which we do not forsake God. At every moment of the lengthening grief, we turn to him not away from him. And therefore the length of it is a way of showing him to be ever-present, enduringly sufficient.

So trust him deeply and let your heart be your guide whether you honor him one way or the other. Everyone is different. Beware of blaming your husband, or he you, for moving into or out of grief at different paces. It is so personal. And what you may find is that the one who seemed to recover more quickly will weep the more deeply in ten years. You just don’t know now, and it is good not to judge.

May God make your grieving a bittersweet experience of communion with Jesus. Matthew tells us that when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself” (Matthew 14:13). So he knows what it is to go with you there.

We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize. He was tested in every way as we are — including loss.

Grace to you and peace.

Affectionately,

Pastor John

The Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Swiss AlpsDuring times of danger, Psalm 121 is a great comfort. Say it to yourself. But when you do, be like the lady from my church. Speak up enough for the doctors and nurses to also hear.

I called on one of our ladies today who has surgery later this week. Rather than pick out a Bible verse myself, I asked her. “When you face something like this Scripture, what is a Scripture you like to remember?”

She immediately replied, Psalm 121. She quoted, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2).”

She went on to tell me that once during a cataract surgery she was quoting the Psalm loud enough that the doctor and nurses had to ask her to be sure and hold still.

So I read Psalm 121 aloud to this lady and her husband. She knew almost every line before I read it. She’ll be ready to quote it again before her surgery on Thursday.

Sooner or later you will face a dark trial. You may be tempted to be afraid. If you are, quote Psalm 121 to yourself. Maybe quote it loud enough for the people around you to hear also.

121 A SONG OF ASCENTS.
1       I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2       My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

3       He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4       Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5       The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6       The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7       The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8       The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Feel weak?

Chris —  April 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

Feel weak? Watch J.I. Packer on his forthcoming book.

Weakness is the Way by J. I. Packer from Crossway on Vimeo.

Calvin saw the testimony of Christian martyrs as a firm proof for the credibility of Scripture.

Read the quote. Watch the video.

 Now with what assurance ought we to enlist under that doctrine which we see confirmed and attested to by the blood of so many holy men! They, having once received it, did not hesitate, courageously and intrepidly, and even with great eagerness, to suffer death for it. Should we not accept with sure and unshaken conviction what has been handed on to us with such a pledge? It is no moderate approbation of Scripture that it has been sealed by the blood of so many witnesses, especially when we reflect that they died to render testimony to the faith; not with fanatic excess . . . but with a firm and constant, yet sober, zeal towards God.” John Calvin, Institutes I, page 92