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, Continue reading

More Important Than Your Marriage

More Important Than Your Marriage (Photo Credit: Christian Marriage Headquarters)

I just read a great article on marriage by Tim Keller. In it he quotes from John Tierney’s classic humor article Picky, Picky, Picky some of the reasons Tierney’s single friends ended relationships. (NY Times)

“She mispronounced ‘Goethe.’”
“How could I take him seriously after seeing The Road Less Traveled on his bookshelf?”
“If she would just lose seven pounds.”
“Sure, he’s a partner, but it’s not a big firm. And he wears those short black socks.”
“Well, it started out great … beautiful face, great body, nice smile. Everything was going fine—until she turned around.” He paused ominously and shook his head. ”… She had dirty elbows.”

Keller then proceeds to explain how the person who will fulfill us and completely accept us just as we are is never the person we marry, not for anyone. Wait around long enough and every marriage relationship winds up in the same place, a place where both husband and wife recognize they’re two flawed people who will each have to make changes and work at their relationship to make it worthwhile.

But why should we think marriage wouldn’t be hard work? Keller asks. Why should a baseball player think it wouldn’t be hard work to learn how to hit a curve ball? Why should a basketball player or a football player think it wouldn’t be hard work to make the playoffs? Or why should a writer think it wouldn’t be hard to write a great book?

Worthwhile things are hard work. Marriage is no different.

Perhaps, like many people, you’ve forgotten about a relationship more important than your marriage. Perhaps you’ve forgotten or neglected your relationship with your Creator.

That relationship can be hard work too.

Today your relationship with God is under constant assault by distractions: There’s sports, and travel, and work, and friends, and family — and then there are the screens. The screens are bombarding us with distraction like never before. There’s movie screens, and computer screens, and smartphone screens, and tablet screens, and TV screens. All of these distractions, most of which aren’t bad in and of themselves, are pulling on you, pulling you away from God. Sometimes it takes hard work to pull yourself away from all of these things to draw near to God. (James 4:8)

Go ahead, ask yourself, Am I treating God as I should? Am I honoring Him? Do I do that which I think will please Him? Do I live my life with the design to please Him? Is He ultimate in my life? And if I answer yes, does the way I invest my time, energy, and money reflect my answer?

Investing your time, energy, and money in God and your relationship with Him can be hard work at times. Just like a marriage you’ll have to make changes in yourself and you’ll have to work at your relationship with Christ to make it worthwhile.

But it’s worth it.

The return on investment is eternal.

You, and I, and every person has to ask, Do I believe I ought to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind? (Matthew 22:37)

And if the answer is yes, then comes the hard question.

Am I doing so?