"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Saturday, October 23, 2010

First class Suffering

A friend yesterday, through tears, shared with me that he believes that choosing faith and walking with God was most definitely "a first class ticket on the suffering train". I couldn't disagree with him. He isn't wrong.

Somewhere along the line we, in the West, we have believed that Christianity was a means to "happy families", "successful business" and "a healthy body". Don't get me wrong. It isn't that God doesn't bless. He does. He blesses and loves to bless. He absolutely does! And, I love to ask for His blessing.

I am living in blessing. I wake up with abundance everyday... food filling my cupboard, a husband I love, children that smile and laugh, and even a happy dog. I am living in green pastures. But, these physical blessings aren't really what I am talking about. And, even they certainly aren't a guarantee. While tremendously blessed, in fact, I do suffer.

I think the longer I walk with God the more I do truly suffer. I suffer deeply actually. As I soften to God... When I allow my heart to open up... If for a moment, I contemplate the eternal state of my family that do not know Him, the reality of my sweet neighbor boy that is growing up without a father, and the reality that in certain parts of India there are no little girls over the age of 5 because they have all been sold into sexual slavery. When I look about me at the innumerable empty eyes, the thirsty souls and the sad state of my friends and neighbors.... My heart aches and suffers. Sometimes, I feel that I can hardly stand it. As I pray, I suffer. And, this is blessing.

As I get to know the Father of Creation, His loved Son and the Spirit that lives in me... the aching increases. While I get to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8) and my taste buds more keenly register His goodness, so does my mouth sicken at the hint of sin. My stomach turns and my insides cringe at the evil, the darkness, and the dirt in this world.

I know I am rambling a bit here... but, I do believe my friend is right. I believe that Christianity is a call to both blessing and suffering. Both. And. I need to grow in my understanding and grasp a theology of suffering and the theology of blessing. What is the true blessing and the suffering that He promises, exactly? From the Old Testament to New Testament he seems to promise both.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:2

God says, "when"... not "if". When you walk through the waters. ...it is a given. Trials, difficulties, suffering and persecution are a sure thing throughout Scripture. The question is what are "the waters" in my life... do they include suffering and blessing?Season to season the answer to this could be very different.

A first class ticket to suffering, my friend said. I am so glad that God says over and over again... "when you pass through deep waters, I will be with you".

So, I ride "first class" on the suffering train. (I have always, always wanted a "first class ticket!")

But, according to Isaiah, I don't ride it alone! And, I will not burn. The fire, or fires, will not consume me. This is blessing!! Presence and deliverance, protection and care are promised. This is the beauty of our green- pasture-and-valley-of-death Father! He is with us. And, on this train, this dark train... "darkness is as light to Him" (Psalm 139).

He is the one I want to ride through this life with! He is the one I want sitting with me in my comfy first class seat of suffering.
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