We’ve been exploring what the Bible has to say about suffering and right in the middle of this series of blog posts, God did something for Steve Mays, the pastor of Calvary Chapel South Bay, that I just have to share.
An Improbable Life Of Suffering
Steve’s life was often heavy with suffering. He battled drug addiction as a teenager which led to a series of strange and destructive events while he was still living at home with his father and mother. One time when Steve’s parents came home, as they opened their front door, water gushed out. Steve turned their house into a swimming pool by stuffing towels under the exterior doors and filling the place up with water. They found him in the living room smoking a pencil. He was completely oblivious. Instead of acknowledging the damage he’d done, he talked to them about the show he was watching on TV–but the TV was turned off.
Another time Steve’s parents arrived home to find him fixing a meal for a friend who lived inside the clock hanging on the kitchen wall.
Another time he terrorized his parents by angrily pacing around the house while swinging a machete.
The bewildering thing about Steve’s behavior was that he was a normal kid until junior high school. His parents didn’t know it but during that time in junior high he was Read More
What A Man Suffering From Disease Once Said
I wish I was never born.
I’ve lost all my strength, and my disease has reduced me to skin and bones. I’m estranged from my friends and relatives. My breath is offensive to my wife. Loathsome, that’s what I am. People find me loathsome.
My cries pour out like water. I shout for help, but there is no answer. God has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy.
Illness And A Crushed Spirit
Before his illness Job was intimate with God and his life reflected that relationship. He was the kind of guy who smiled often. He had the kind of face that lit up a room. He was the kind of guy who loved to help the underdog: orphans, widows, the lame, the blind, and the poor. He liked to rescue the weak from wicked people who would take advantage of their weakness: the Bible says he “broke the jaws” of such wicked men. Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. And people loved him for it. He was dynamic, he was charismatic, he was popular. And his words were wise, and beautiful, and encouraging: people waited for his words like people waited for the spring rain. He held the honor and respect of the people in his community. And he was rich. (Job 1:1-5, Job 29)
Then, along with other tragedies, his disease came. It was a disease that isolated him from his family and friends. It was a disease that caused him to become emaciated. It was a disease that covered him with painful boils from head to toe.
It was a disease that made him loathsome to the same people who used to love him.
And his countenance changed. This great man of God didn’t smile like he used to. His face didn’t shine like it used to. And his words changed. He said Read More
A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy
Elijah was coming off three amazing and miraculous events in his life. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit Elijah just “won” a showdown with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah. “…you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God,” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and to the crowd of Israelites assembled there near the sacrificial altar.
The other prophets did everything imaginable including cutting themselves with swords and lances until blood gushed from them. But it was all to no avail. There was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah poured water onto his sacrifice, twice. Then he prayed for God to let it be known that He is God in Israel. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and even the dust around it. And when they saw it all the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” And after that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were slain.
Then Elijah prayed for rain, because there had been a great drought in Israel up until that time. He prayed with fervency and intensity. He prayed seven times. And the rain came.
Then the Bible says, “…the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.” And Ahab was in a chariot at the time.
Good things are happening to Elijah. God is doing amazing things through Elijah. Through him the Lord is turning the people away from false religions and turning their hearts back toward the true and living God. Through Elijah God is providing rain to a people plagued by drought. (1 Kings Chapter 18)
But look what happens next. Read More
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?
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, Read More
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.
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, Read More
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 Read More
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
I saw these math equations today on a blog I started following recently.
Work – Rest = Trust in self.
Work + Rest = Trust in God.
If you’re interested, you can read the rest of the post here: Your Faith in Math by SammyA. I thought he pretty much nailed it.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Jesus Christ, Matthew 11:28-30
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.
How Jesus Loved People:
Jesus was rejected. He was rejected in a way you or I will probably never have to experience. He had just read from the scroll of Isaiah, implying very strongly He was the One Isaiah was referring to. He had just told the Jews God miraculously provided for a Gentile widow, rather than a Jew, through Elijah. (see 1 Kings 17:8-16) And He had just told the Jews God miraculously healed a Gentile of leprosy, rather than a Jew, through Elisha. (see 2 Kings 5:1-14)
These things He said infuriated them. And the enraged mob left the synagogue en masse. They took Him to the edge of a cliff to throw Him off. (Luke 4:16-30)
I’ve never been rejected in that way. Have you? So how does Jesus respond to what can only be described as murderous hatred?
He does good. In John 4:46-54 we see Jesus, still in Galilee, not long after He had suffered at the hands of the Galileans, doing good. An official’s son lay sick, and Jesus healed him.
How to Love Like Jesus:
I lost all my followers, yesterday. What I experienced is not even remotely close to the rejection and suffering Jesus experienced, because I’m only talking about Twitter followers. I’m trying to figure out a way to reach the lost, on Twitter, and I made some sort of mistake in the process, so my account was suspended for it. And now I’m suffering (sort of).
Did you know the Bible tells you what God’s will is for you when you’re suffering? 1 Peter 2:15 tells us we’re to do good when we’re suffering.
To this you were called by God because Jesus, the One who saved you, set an example for you. (see 1 Peter 2:21-24) He did good and gained followers. He did more good and some followers rejected Him. He did more good and nearly all His followers rejected Him. He did even more good and they reviled Him. He did yet more good and they crucified Him.
So you might say, why would I do good? Jesus suffered at the hands of the Galileans and the religious leadership of His day and responded by doing good, and where did that get Him? He lost nearly all His followers, He was reviled, and He was crucified.
That’s true, but what happened in the end? What good was done — ultimately? The relatively few disciples who remained, turned the world upside down for Christ! The consistent good Jesus did while suffering at the hands of others resulted in an astounding bountiful crop for God’s kingdom. According to the Daily Mail, a British online newspaper, Jesus Christ has 2.2 billion followers today.
So how do you love like Jesus? Do good in response to suffering — even when you don’t feel like it, or perhaps, especially when you don’t feel like it.
And yes, you might do good and lose followers for it. You might be reviled for it. You might even be crucified for it. But it doesn’t matter, do good anyway.
Because it’s God’s will for you when you suffer.
Because you were called by God to respond this way.
Because ultimately it will bear abundant fruit.
Jesus loved people by consistently doing good in the face of rejection and suffering.
You can too.
Bob Thornley teaching: 9/5/12