9/11, Fires, and Firefighters Who Died (And the meaning of suffering)

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to follow Jesus more closely, love Jesus more deeply, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.

Unprecedented Fire

A few days ago there was a devastating fire of historic proportions in the Rogue Valley, the place where I served as a firefighter and the place where I spent most of my life. My friend Trevor Hill took the photo at the top of this post, at 2 am from the top of a ten story building where he works. It’s a residential facility and he and the other staff there were scrambling to evacuate the occupants. To be clear, primarily it’s not trees and brush that’s on fire in the photo. Mainly it’s people’s homes and businesses. Severe winds caused the fire to rip right through the middle of the valley. My mom’s house burned to the ground. But she’s alive and well. All over the state of Oregon there have been large fires driven by extreme winds. Firefighters have been working without rest for days in some cases. Dozens of people are dead and/or missing.

The 9/11 Fallen

At the time of this writing it’s September 11 so I’m also hearing about the firefighters who lost their lives battling the blaze in the World Trade Center. As they climbed the stairs up the towers toward the fires, sending civilians down the stairs to safety, I believe most of those firefighters knew it was a one way trip. They knew they were going to die. But they focused on getting as many as possible out alive.

People Who Suffer

These news stories have me thinking about the way we look at life. I tend to look at circumstances that cause me to suffer as disadvantageous. But I wonder if God looks at difficult situations that way. The people I know who have suffered the most are almost always the deepest, most godly, most mature people. They also very much tend to be the most admired people. Something happens to human beings when we suffer. If we invite God’s Holy Spirit into our suffering, we grow.

How Jesus Suffered

Jesus was the person in all of history who deserved suffering the least. He was perfectly innocent. He was nothing but good. He did nothing but good. To say he loved often and frequently doesn’t really communicate the extent to which he loved. In fact Jesus didn’t just love, Jesus was love, Jesus is love. Yet he was mocked, wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, beaten, whipped, and tortured. Then he was murdered.

The Goal of the Christ Follower

And the goal of the Christ follower is to become more like Jesus. So think about this with me for a minute. When I suffer, when you suffer, we become more like him. We grow more into his likeness. We become deeper, more godly, more mature people. If we invite God’s Holy Spirit into our suffering, as a result of our suffering we grow in our capacity to become like Jesus.

As a result of our suffering we grow in our capacity to love like Jesus.

With all this in mind, if I think it through — and, if, I invite the Holy Spirit into my suffering with an eye toward growing — suffering is to my advantage. Loss is to my advantage. That difficult person in my life is to my advantage. Unfairly losing my job is to my advantage. Being mistreated by that person close to you is to your advantage. Bearing up well under the weight of that disease is to your advantage. Loving someone who doesn’t love you back is to your advantage.

God’s way of thinking is different than our way of thinking.

“. . . you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns,” Jesus told Peter when Peter objected to what Jesus would have to suffer. (Matthew 16:21-23, NIV)

I wonder if our Lord might say something similar to you and to me when we object to our suffering. I’m not saying we have to like it. I’m just saying it’s likely to our advantage to suffer. And if we can ask for strength, if we can ask for Jesus to be present with us in it, if we can ask him to be present with us in the most intimate way possible, as we walk in our suffering,

we can grow more into the likeness of Christ with suffering than we can without it.

And who doesn’t want to grow into the likeness of Christ.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!

Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:

  • Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
  • How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
  • The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
  • How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
  • How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
  • How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
  • How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.

A life of loving like Jesus.

(Kindlehardcover, and paperback now available on Amazon.)

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