Posts tagged suffering
Posts tagged suffering
Yesterday, I was going to The Hobbit with my boyfriend as one of our last dates together before we went our separate ways for the holidays. Before we left, though, we heard about the shootings in Connecticut. I felt incredibly sick to my stomach, not just because these were innocent lives lost, but they were children—the definition of innocence. Also, I want to be a teacher. The reality sunk in that teaching actually has risks, not just for myself but for the students that I love deeply.
Sitting in the movie, I found myself to be angry. I found myself questioning God and having that typical, angry debate with Him after instances like this.
“Why? Why God? Why children?”
“He was awful. He was evil.”
Still, of course, no answer.
“His evil spilled into the lives of others. They took the punishment he deserved. The blood of the innocent should never be spilled to correct the sins of the wretched.”
It was that moment that I caught myself. It was that moment that I think I had my answer. The blood of The Innocent had been spilled to cover all of the evils of the world, and it was the blood of God Himself—God, who humbled Himself, and came as a beautiful, innocent child.
I found myself guilty of the very thing that the disciples of Jesus were guilty of: they wanted a powerful, militant Messiah who would come in and crush opposition and forcibly put everything right. In fact, that’s what they thought they had, even after spending all of this time with Jesus and hearing sermons on “turning the other cheek” and “loving their enemies,” they went to buy swords during his last week on Earth. They were ready for a military insurrection until Jesus had to gently tell them to put their weapons away. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. The point is that Jesus had a different kind of salvation in mind, and He was thinking of a different kind of battle—a spiritual one of the heart armed with swords of truth and love.
You see, you don’t fight fire with fire, you have to douse it in water and choke the flames out. Then, you have to begin repairing the damage of the fire by planting seeds, tending them, watering them, and working with patience and care. The results of such a process aren’t seen for months or maybe even years, but it is the only way to truly reverse the destruction of the flames. God knew that He could come and force His reign. He could come on clouds with terrible lightning and swift justice, but who’s to say we would have actually liked that kind of salvation any way? The human heart is so dissatisfied that we might have decided we didn’t want to worship a God who would force His rule. No, the only way to root out the evils of the human heart is to patiently and meticulously plant humility and love.
This is the Christmas season. My heart is broken for the families in Connecticut; for little children who will not get to open their Christmas gifts; for families with hearts filled with grief at the empty spots around their tables. In that movie last night, there was one part that stood out to me. Galadriel asks Gandalf why he chose to bring the hobbit Bilbo on their journey, and he said, in so many words, that evil is never vanquished with great strength and force, but with small acts of kindness and a mysterious love and courage against the odds.
Remember that this Christmas season. Remember that God chose a young virgin, He chose to come as a child, He chose things that were unexpected and completely against our ideas of salvation. I’m not saying to not be upset about the awful things that have happened. By all means, be upset. I don’t pretend to understand everything that happens in this world. I don’t pretend to be okay with these kinds of terrible acts. Yes, I believe that God has purpose and plan, but none of those things are comforting at all in the face of immense pain. Truly grieving is comforting, and I think that’s okay. Jesus, God Himself, wept deeply. Tell God you’re upset. Be honest about how you feel. But know that the King of the Universe has humbled Himself to a manger and subjected Himself to the darkness of the world so that He could overcome it. Know that He weeps, too.
In fact, that may be the only comfort in such terrible situations. Jesus has felt it, whatever it may be, He’s felt it. The good, the bad, the terrible, the happy, the joyful, the sting of betrayal, the thrill of life and the chill of death—He’s felt it all. God is Emmanuel; He is with us.
Merry Christmas, friends.
I’m really independent and prideful. I hate seeming weak or needy, and I hate admitting when I don’t understand something or I need help. In fact, just yesterday when I was playing Frisbee with some friends, I rolled my ankle. It was pretty bad. I even heard the thing pop (Actually, one of my friends said that he heard it pop too, it was so loud), but I didn’t want to look wimpy. I got back up and continued to run for another hour or so. When I got home last night, my ankle was a blue balloon. I could barely walk, but I refused to show people that it hurt.
I realized sitting at home by myself last night, pathetically rubbing my ankle and icing it, that I am a fragile, weak human being. My little ankle, such a tiny part on my body, put me almost completely out of use. I couldn’t even walk down the stairs to take my dog outside. My roommate had to do that for me. I was so embarrassed, but I was more ashamed at my own foolish pride. I had this false sense of security and autonomy, when in actuality, I am a needy person.
I need food to survive. I need shelter. I need friendship. I needed Anna to walk my dog. I need money to pay for the rent. I need my education for my future. I need my family for support. I need, need, need…
God. It always comes down to Him. God doesn’t need me, though. That’s the crazy thing. While I desperately need Him every second of the day, I forget about Him. While He doesn’t need me any moment at all in all of eternity, He wants me desperately. Wow. God wants me.
God wants me! I mean, think about it. God wants you. And if He wants you, then He will always be there for you. In relationships and friendships, we tend to cling to people who need us. Then, when we don’t need them any longer, we move on. But if we want that person, even if the need runs out, we will fight for them and love them. So if God doesn’t need you, but He wants you instead, that is a phenomenal thing. He chooses you. He says, “Beloved, I don’t depend on you for love, I just simply want your love… and I want to give mine to you.”
Oh God… I know I need You, but I also want You so desperately. I feel it more every day. I see you in my hurt ankles, my weaknesses, my foolish pride, and my amazing friends and roommates. You shine through the good things in life and stick out as a sharp contrast against the bad. You saturate my life with Your love. I just want more of you every hour, every minute, every second…I want to want You the way You want me.
It takes a stronger heart to love than to hate or be indifferent.
Hate is not as burdensome as you would think, but it is corrosive. It comes in many forms such as jealousy and fear… But the danger of hate is that no matter which form you take, each is poisonous. It feels as if it heals your heart at first, like a medicine, but in actuality it will only destroy you slowly. Don’t be fooled because it sedates the pain. It is more damaging than the hurt will ever be.
Indifference is the lightest load. If you’re heart is full of apathy, it can hardly be hurt and it can hardly be strained, but it can also hardly feel love, compassion, grace, or mercy. Apathy isn’t a substance at all, but rather a lack of any sort of substance—namely passion. Passion can be redirected or changed, but a lack of passion is so difficult to rectify. Indifference is more frightening than hate because it lacks any sort of passion at all. It is pretty much the same as emptiness of heart, and an empty heart is the most desperate of all.
Love is heavy. Love feels the most. Love weighs the most because it takes in the consideration of others’ hearts before its own. It thinks of consequences, it sows grace, it gives more than it can spare, and carries the burdens of the beloved. That’s why love is the hardest for the heart to hold, because it does not simply hold its own interests or needs but the interests and needs and passions and dreams and desires of the object of love. There is a reason why I displayed my love on a cross. It’s the only thing strong enough to display the weight of such a love.
Just because a loving heart is the heaviest and hardest heart to have doesn’t mean that you should abandon it. A loving heart is the only heart that is worth having. Don’t poison your soul with hate and don’t deprive yourself of the joy of love with indifference just because you may get hurt. Only the strongest hearts can love. Only the bravest ones will even take the chance.
I love you. I’ll help you carry this weight. Choose love. Choose me. And we’ll carry this amazing burden together.
I really loved him. I did. I gave him the best of me and he took it and ran with it. Now I am empty, broken, and lonely. I honestly didn’t do anything wrong. The only thing I did was love him unconditionally and fully while he repaid me with cruelty and dishonesty.
Is this how You feel when I turn my back on You? Have I broken Your heart in this same way? I prayed for You to show me a heart like Your own and You showed me one that is broken.
What do You see when You look at him? When You see Your beautiful, unique, beloved creation live as anything less than the wonder he was made to be? When You see him hurt others and himself? Does Your heart break like this? Do I even know a fraction of the pain that You feel?
What about when You look at me? I mess up constantly. I cry and fight and shake my fist at You. I have turned my back on You and returned Your beautiful, unconditional love with mistrust and hypocrisy. Have I inflicted the same pain on You that he inflicted on me? You, who deserved it even less than I did… Or, possibly, I did deserve it. I am far from an amazing, perfect person myself. I have hurt him and others just as well… but more importantly, I’ve hurt You. I hurt You daily and You still pursue me just as passionately.
What do You see when You look at the world? After I have wallowed in my own pity and my selfishness, I remember that Your heart has unfathomable love for every human being. I just have to think how strong Your heart must be in order to support such an immense, powerful, unconditional, perfect love for all of these fragile, little humans. It would be much easier to forget us and much easier to give up the pain of loving us so deeply, but You’re too strong for that and too wonderful for that. You can bear the weight of such a heavy load as love.
I can’t bear this weight without You. Help me to love the world as You do. Break my heart for them, if You have to, but help me carry this weight. My heart is too small and fragile to carry something as awesome and as great as Your love. Carry me with You and teach me how to love as You do.
I am more in awe of You every day. I really, truly mean that.
Isaiah 58: 5-7 (NLT)
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the LORD?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
Christ stood up for justice and He came to the aid of the suffering. He constantly called out the hypocrites and challenged them to cast their stones. He forgave tax collectors and then taught them to turn their lives around and repay the money they had stolen. He was always on the side of the oppressed and he always helped those who were hurting. Jesus healed the lame and blind. He hung out with drunkards, lowly fisherman, and prostitutes. He went the extra mile just to prove that His gospel really was for every person. So I can no longer call myself a follower of Christ and accept that even just one person in this world is suffering. Because the truth is that the Kingdom of God has no room for complacency.