Suffering (And How Paul Never Prayed For The Persecution To Go Away)

Pain Suffering Christian

It’s What’s Inside

San Francisco Giants Pitcher Dave Dravecky

Dave Dravecky pitched for the San Francisco Giants until a cancerous desmoid tumor in his pitching arm required surgery. They removed half of his deltoid muscle and froze his humerus bone to try to kill all the cancer cells. On August 10 in 1989, after a long and grueling period of rehab, he came back to the majors and pitched eight innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched brilliantly and he won 4 to 3. After the game he told the media, “It’s a miracle.” But just five days later, in the sixth inning against Montreal, during his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped in two. The sound of it was so loud it could be heard throughout the stadium.

The cancer was back. And he not only lost his career as a baseball player but he lost his arm. When he was interviewed about it he said this:

“Nobody ever promised that life is going to be fair. Everybody’s going to have adversity. The only way to handle it is to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on the Lord.”

After all that pain and toil and work and sweat and grief, after all that Dravecky failed. Yet look how he responded. How is that possible? How could anyone respond to that kind of adversity that way?

What’s Inside

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14)

A wounded spirit, as I understand it in the Bible, occurs when a person’s passion for life is squashed (the English Standard Version actually uses the word crushed). A depressed person could be an example of this. A suicidal person would be at the extreme end of this spectrum. And here in Proverbs 18 we see one of many places in the Bible where God’s perspective on suffering is different than the typical understanding of most Americans and many others throughout the world. We think our happiness is mostly dependent on our circumstances. If I have the right job, if I have the right woman, if I get the promotion, if I’m healthy, if I can make enough money, then… I’ll be happy.

But God says, your happiness is mostly dependent on your spirit. “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity…” It’s what’s inside of you that sustains you. So even if you’re sick, or any other problem occurs–and for every one of us serious problems will occur–it’s what’s inside of you that sustains you. What’s inside is what makes the difference.

How Paul Never Prayed For The Persecution To Go Away

Ever notice that when Paul wrote to the persecuted churches he never prayed for the trouble to go away? Isn’t that curious? So often that’s not how I pray. When I pray for people, I often pray for someone’s solution, or success, or health, or prosperity. But that’s not what Paul did. So what did he pray for then? He was always praying for God to strengthen the inner man. For example, in Ephesians 3:16 he said his prayer is “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…”

Paul prayed for God’s Holy Spirit to come inside of each person who made up the church in Ephesus, to strengthen each of them in a way that would glorify Christ in their current circumstances.

So it’s what’s inside that makes the difference. You can have the best possible external circumstances: money, and health, and love, but if your spirit is crushed, you’ll be depressed and unhappy.

On the other hand if you’re suffering, but you’re strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner man, as Paul prayed it would be for the Ephesians, God’s light can shine through you, God’s Spirit can live through you, and you can move forward with a passion for life.

You And Two Other Examples

Joseph is one example of this. We see God’s Spirit at work in Joseph while he went through much more than you or I will probably ever have to go through. (see previous post: How Joseph’s Dad Failed It, And How Joseph Nailed It)

Job is another example. God’s Spirit in Job is why Job has been an inspiration to people in suffering for thousands of years.

And then there’s you.

You can be another example.

Pray, like Paul prayed,

“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…” Ephesians 3:16

And pray to God persistently, like the woman before the unrighteous judge prayed. (Luke 18:1-8)

Pray.

What’s Next

So besides praying what else can I do to stay strong in spirit during my suffering? And what causes a crushed spirit to begin with anyway? Some say it’s psychological. Some say it’s biochemical. Some say it’s emotional. Some say it’s spiritual. But what does the Bible say? I was surprised. It’s much more complicated than I thought it would be.

We’ll answer these questions next week and in the weeks to come.

References:

Tim Keller teaches this better than I ever could. You can hear his original teaching here: The Wounded Spirit

Skip Heitzig, Christians in the Crucible of Pain, Connection Communications, 2012

Image via Bhope34 – Creative Commons

A Tale Of 2 Sufferings (How Joseph’s dad failed it, and how Joseph nailed it.)

pain suffering Christian

Alex at 7,500 ft. (2,285 m..) above sea level. (3,500 ft. above ground level)

A Tale Of Two Sufferings

I never saw this perspective before, but have you ever considered the difference between how Jacob handled his suffering, as compared to how his son Joseph handled what was arguably even worse suffering? I heard this last Sunday from a 20-something.

Joseph Betrayed

So Joseph’s seventeen, and he has it made. He’s his father’s favorite. He lives in a wealthy family. And he is given special revelation from God in the form of dreams, dreams of his brothers bowing down to him. But without warning, Continue reading

After A 13 Year Old Girl Was Murdered, This Is What Her Parents Did

Pain Suffering Christian

Pain

Pain and Suffering

We’ve been exploring the topic of pain and suffering and one of the worst kinds of pain and suffering is the kind caused by the loss of a child. The following is a quote from Wilma Derkson who lost her daughter at the age of 13. (You can learn more about the Derksens and their remarkable response to their daughter’s murder in this TED Talk video: TEDxManitoba – Wilma Derksen: When Polarity in Forgiveness Happens)

Losing A Child

For six and a half weeks we didn’t know what had happened to Candace. She just disappeared into thin air.  But everyone knows that when a 13-year-old girl goes missing then something is terribly wrong.  She was a child in a woman’s body, that moment of vulnerability when one minute they’re a child and the next a woman.

Eventually Candace’s body was found in a shack not far from our home – her hands and feet had been tied. Someone had forced her there but we lived with the mystery of not knowing who had done this for the next 22 years.

The day her body was found all our friends came to visit bringing warm food with them. There was so much love in the house that it helped us get through.  Then at around 10.30 that evening, when most people had left, there was a knock on the door and this stranger stood there. He told us, “I’m the parent of a murdered child too.” He was saying we now belonged to an exclusive club that no one wants to belong to. We invited him to the kitchen table and for the next two hours he told us in vivid detail everything he’d lost – his health, his relationships, his concentration, his ability to work. He’d even lost all memory of his daughter because now he could only think of the murder, the trauma and the hate that followed. –Wilma Derksen

Losing 10 Children Continue reading

Robin Williams and Suicide

Robin Williams SuicideThe Waves That Batter and Break

A friend posted this on Facebook the day Robin Williams died:

I don’t struggle with depression.

Not yet anyway.

I might someday.

My father did. Robin Williams did. I’m sure a lot of people you know do too, or have.

But I have seen it close up, and I have seen the way it comes in like waves, and I have seen it batter and break.

Last Monday night I drove home from Portland where I had a great visit with my sons Gabe and Nathaniel, and their families over the weekend. Kathy couldn’t go because of work. When I walked in the door one of the first things she said to me was,

“You heard that Robin Williams died didn’t you?”

Wow. No. I hadn’t. It was a shock. I heard that he struggled with depression (as well as alcohol and cocaine addiction). But even so, it caught me off guard.

The Great Clown Pagliacci

Also on the day Robin Williams died, someone on Reddit shared a page from the Watchmen comic that had this dialogue: Continue reading

An Open Letter To Those In Pain and Suffering

Christian pain and suffering

Dear Friend In Pain,

I feel so sad and so sorry about what you’re going through right now. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I can guarantee you that what I’m sharing in this letter won’t take the pain away. And I want you to feel perfectly free not to read it. If you don’t I won’t take the least bit of offence. I only want to share with you what made the biggest difference for me when I went through my time of pain. Continue reading

The Holy Spirit: How to Know if You Have Him

kurt bennett:

Easily our most popular post. (from the archives)

Originally posted on God Running:

Pentacost by Jean II Restout (Photo Credit Wikipedia)

The Holy Spirit Better Than a Burger?

At church the other night our pastor directed anyone interested in receiving prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to go to the prayer room after the service.

I was amazed.

Only a half dozen or so showed up. On a normal summer Sunday, our church offers free burgers and the line is a mile long. How much better is God’s Holy Spirit than a burger?

I recently wrote a guest post about the importance of the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit for Not Ashamed of the Gospel and this prompted someone to ask, How do I know if I have His Holy Spirit?

The person asking the question is referring to God’s Holy Spirit being poured out upon someone in such a way as to provide supernatural inspiration. As distinguished from having the…

View original 964 more words

The Control Freak And Jesus

Control Freak

There’s This Thirty-Something

There’s this thirty-something in my life who is always asking me these great questions about the Bible: provocative questions, hard questions, but very interesting questions. And it’s caused me to look at the Bible differently. I read and hear so much about how the Bible is restrictive. But this person with the questions has got me thinking about the freedom God has given us. Freedom to make our own choices. Have you ever considered what’s not illegal in the Old Testament? For instance, prostitution is not illegal in the Old Testament, and neither is polygamy. I’m not saying that either of those are good, I’m just saying neither of those is illegal in the civic code given to Israel in the Old Testament. People are free to engage in these activities without legal repercussions, though the spiritual ramifications and life consequences are still there.

God is radical when it comes to our freedom. He wants us to have the freedom to do what we want, even when it’s wrong. And it’s really made me look at my own ideas about what God wants me to do concerning the behavior of others. Because sometimes I want other people to do what I want them to do, and I can get frustrated when they don’t.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Maybe you want to spend money a certain way but your wife wants to do it her way. Or maybe you want more time to recreate with the guys, but she has other ideas. Or maybe it’s just deciding what to do for dinner (not that this question would ever result in a disagreement). Whatever it is, our perspective changes when we Continue reading

Framing Faith by Matt Knisely–Book Review

Framing Faith Matt Knisely book reviewWho Is Matt Knisely?

Matt Knisely is an Emmy Award winning journalist who shares his life and his inspirational insights with the purpose of helping you to connect with God.

His book, Framing Faith, From Camera to Pen, An Award-Winning Photojournalist Captures God in a Hurried Worldwas written with artists in mind. By artist I mean bloggers, photographers, writers, painters, musicians, and filmmakers, or anyone who has a healthy appreciation for the arts.

The Main Message

Throughout the book I was inspired and occasionally amused–I found his interaction with George W. Bush especially amusing. The main message of the book might be summarized by what Knisely wrote in the introduction: “In this modern age, many of us fill every spare moment we have rather than taking an intermission to see the true works of God and realize that he is present in every moment.” That message resonates with me because for decades I did that, I scheduled every spare moment to the exclusion of the influence of God’s Holy Spirit. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really prioritized my relationship with God and Christ and what a difference that has made. Framing Faith delivers a great message to anyone in the habit of over committing their self to the exclusion of their connection with Christ.

My Favorite Part

But easily my favorite part of the book was where he describes his disability. Matt Knisely doesn’t take in the world the way you and I do. Matt Knisely doesn’t process words the same as a normal person. His first grade teacher told his parents Continue reading

Patriotism, God, and the 4th of July–Does God Want Me To Be A Patriot?

Patriotism and God 4th of July

And they sang a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9

Not Of This World

“…persons from every tribe and language and people and nation,” they sang. And Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” So patriotism is out right? I mean, Jesus died for every nation so, God doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t put our country at the top of His list of nations and say, Yeah, they’re the ones to root for, they’re who I favor in the world, so you should favor that nation too. No, He doesn’t say that. So patriotism is out, right? Continue reading