suffering

God uses adversity to educate us.

God uses adversity to educate us.

2 Chronicles 12

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the idea we have that our lives here on Earth should be easy and relatively painless. We must have this idea buried deep somewhere in our minds, for it seems that when any of us face adversity or crisis, we react with shock. How could this happen to me? Next, we focus our energies on how to get out of the unpleasant situation.

The Association of Light with Darkness {ex20:21}

Photo © Unsplash/Sidney Severin

Photo © Unsplash/Sidney Severin

Mighty God,
Great Dispeller of Night,
Awesome Disbander of Murkiness,
Glorious Dismisser of Shadows,
we prefer to hail You
as the One
who banishes darkness.
We prefer hymns which extol
the world-illuminating power
of Your light.

We never sing songs
about Your darkness-dwelling tendencies.
We don't lift our voices
to praise Your presence in the shadows,
but to question Your delay in dissipating them.
And we are careful
to keep our distance from dark clouds,
though we seem to find them just the same.
   /or, rather, they methodically
    hunt down and engulf us/

Mighty God,
Strong Dismantler of Gloom,
when the inky blackness swirls around me,
may I choose to praise You,
the ever-present Holy Squatter
in Earth's rundown tenement.

As long as evil persists in this place,
draw my heart out
and steel it to brave
the onslaught of the whirlwind,
emboldening me
to seek You where You are,
willing to share and shoulder
some of the sorrow and suffering
that lives in Your own heart
for this forlorn and much-loved race.

 

God is to be praised.

God is to be praised.

1 Chronicles 23

Of everything written in this chapter of 1 Chronicles, this stuck out to me the most: "[The Levites] were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the Lord on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals." (vs 30-31)

The Blessed Burden {gn36}

Photo © Unsplash/Jenn Evelyn-Ann

Photo © Unsplash/Jenn Evelyn-Ann

Esau is known as the one
who sold his birthright
and forfeited his blessing—
not the one "favored" by God,
not the one destined to be in that family tree,
not one of the "children of promise."

As between him and his brother Jacob,
Esau was not the "blessed" one,
but have you ever read a more blessed genealogy
in the entire Bible?

No barren women,
no tragedies,
no hardships,
no scandals,
no poverty—in fact, the opposite—
so much wealth the family had to move to a larger land.

By contrast, those "blessed" of God
met frequent hardship and troubles—
their genealogies littered with innumerable obstacles:
barrenness, injustice, illness, death.

It was after, after!  Jacob decided to
fulfill his vow to God
commit his life to the Lord and
return to the sacred place of his Creator
that his family was besieged by
sickness and unexpected death—
burying, in rapid succession,
first Deborah, then Rachel, then Isaac.

Is burden a blessing?
Is blessing a burden?

How is it they stroll together so comfortably
hand in hand
like lovers on a Sunday afternoon
in the park?

The Sin of Sodom {gn14:20}

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Hershey

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Hershey

I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition... when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys.

Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ. And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources.

But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys... And that is why tribulations will not cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is hopeless.  —C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p106


In a culture where
being gay
is a big deal,
Sodom has become a familiar word.

Even if you don't know anything else about the Bible
you've probably heard
the story of Sodom.

Some folks say
Sodom's sin was homosexuality.
Other folks say
it wasn't.

I say
the real shame is
nobody knows the other story of Sodom:

the one where they were
sodomized by a gang of neighboring kings
attacked and invaded and clobbered
overpowered and crushed and defiled—

the one where they were left
naked and helpless and defenseless
victimized and paralyzed and weak—

until God
rescued them
recovered their possessions
rebuilt their cities
and restored their fortunes.

Sodom's first encounter with God
did not end in
smoking ruin
but
stunning rescue.

In their calamity
(when all their broken toys were
momentarily swept aside
to reveal the One
on whom they unconsciously depended)
they met
a God who delivers, not destroys,
a God who heals, not hates.

Nice to meet you, they said
then quickly leapt back to the toys,
stubbornly clinging
till even their hearts were bound.

 

Promise {gn9:17}

Photo © Unsplash/Abigail Keenan

Photo © Unsplash/Abigail Keenan

a rainbow always appears
where the storm
meets the sun

a defiant reminder
that

pain can be beautiful
heartache can shine
suffering can glisten
sorrow can be radiant
grief can be stunning


after all
there'd be no rainbow
if there was no storm

and in this world there's never a storm without one

that's how we know
we're never alone
when we face
the howling winds

for

a rainbow always appears
where the storm
meets the Son

 

God transforms suffering.

God transforms suffering.

GENESIS 45

What a remarkable chapter! Joseph finally has a reunion with his long-lost brothers. He reveals to them that he is Joseph, and it’s pretty apparent that he doesn’t harbor any grudges against them for what they have done. He embraces and kisses each one of them, eagerly telling them how wonderful everything will be for them when they move to Egypt.

Eight {gn6:5-6}

Photo © Unsplash/Tim Marshall

Photo © Unsplash/Tim Marshall

There was no ark
to save God's heart
when grief crashed in like a flood.

            when
regret raindrops
            became
pain puddles
            that joined up into
remorse rivers
            that pooled into
lament lakes
            that merged into
sorrow seas
            and eventually yielded a
deep blue deluge
            over our terminal condition

No—
there was no ark
to save God's heart
when grief crashed in like a flood:

the grief of knowing
the ark he would send us
required room
for no more than
eight.