Thursday, January 24, 2013

What I Know of Pain

I started work on a new book project yesterday - the one I would call my "magnum opus."  (If you are my husband reading this, that was meant to imply it is going to take me awhile to get it on paper and submitted to publishers for consideration.  Adjust expectations accordingly.  :))

It is a chapter book that has been rolling around in my head for awhile.  Looking back, I've started it twice already, but wasn't ready to write it yet.  Now, I'm at least ready to start putting it on paper.  It is based on what it means to live out the two Greatest Commandments from Matthew 22:37-40.  It is in large part my experience of walking in this life of faith, but also exploring how the rest of my life (and possibly the lives of others) could/will be transformed by Jesus's words in these verses. 

Part of my "research" is reading through the entirety of the Bible in a year.  The plan I'm following is from a little book called Read Through the Bible in a Year by John R. Kohlenberger.  It was a plan I found I could realistically accomplish, given all that is going on in our lives.  If I miss a day, or two (or more), I'm not so far behind that I just give up (which is why I haven't achieved this goal in my 2 previous attempts.)  I'm also using, as an addendum, The Bible Jesus Read by Phillip Yancy.  I love that guy - I wish I could write like him.  He is so real, so fresh and just so darn authentic.  It is clear, even after decades of walking with the Lord that he is still working through his faith with fear and trembling. 

It is the authors, constantly working (even struggling) to embrace the Lord more fully that I love to read.  I never said living a life of faith wasn't complicated, I have not experienced that.  I really appreciate it when people are real about it and don't try to make following God easy.  But they still try to do it.  Having faith in Christ isn't easy, but nothing worth doing ever is, right?

Speaking of being real, I started reading through Job yesterday. Reading this book brings up so many emotions, so many experiences I had during Sophia's treatment.  Y'all - some people on this Earth have to deal with really tragic stuff.  We had our own taste of it.  In those 11 months, I often experienced guilt because I would get upset with God, knowing Sophia's cancer wasn't my fault, but at the same time needing to express the unfairness of it all.

Yet, the "good Christian" in me felt it wasn't right to shake my fist at Him.

So, I waffled between these two paradigms - wanting to praise God for His goodness, but at the same time fighting back the feelings that He was doing nothing to right the sinking ship.  Lots of people said things similar to what Job's friends are quoted as saying to him and, for me, it was insult to an already grievous injury.  Some days I felt like I was accused of murdering my own faith because of how I felt and what I heard from others.  I wrote about it - I have to say some of those posts, I wish I let the pain and confusion I felt speak for itself instead of trying to wrap it up with an acceptable Christian ending. 

But that was the spiritual battle I was in at the time.  Now I know better.  Fast forward 2 years and I'm finding comfort (once again) about that season in God's Word.  Job is a snap-shot of one man's faith.  That period didn't define his whole life, just as my feelings in Sophia's treatment don't define me.  The fact that Job is in the Bible gives me peace, like the Lord is saying,

I know you don't understand My Ways, but I have not forgotten you.  I was, am and always will be more than capable of handling your feelings.  I might not answer your questions, but I am a safe place to bring your pain and hurt.

It is a great relief to know I serve a God who cares that much!  He doesn't try to sugarcoat how I feel or talk me out of it.  He doesn't make me think I need more faith to endure.  He just accepts whatever I have to give and loves me unconditionally.  A season of suffering has it's own growth curve and when we look to God, He will take us slowly and gently through it.  He does not force us to "get back to normal"; He only guides us to healing.

If you know someone dealing with tragic circumstances, don't be quick to judge or quote Scripture.  Don't rush to give them a pat answer.  Your part may be to be present - be the ear of Christ for them.  Not everyone's grieving process looks the same.  It would be good to pray all the things Job's friends are recorded saying, so they don't get stuck in bitterness, but do it in the background.  Quoting them, I assure you, isn't the best idea.  (Even God was mad at those guys!) 

You can read Job for perspective on what they might be going through, but also trust God knows.  Assure them He is a God who sees and hears their pain and He is a refuge for any and everything they are feeling.

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