Last month, Netflix released First They Killed My Father, based on the experience of Loung Ung who is a childhood survivor of the Pol Pot regime during the Khmer Rouge years in Cambodia. It is not only a compelling story of individual suffering and the personal toll of a horrific period in history but also a story with galvanizing relevance today. Director Angelina Jolie, who co-wrote
Please stop. Seriously, just stop saying that.
Every book I read influences me in one way or another. But a handful of books have particularly shaped or solidified my way of thinking.
The Powerlessness of Pain
The worst moment of my life was listening to my mom moaning in pain (later diagnosed as interstitial cystitis) and knowing I couldn't do anything. When someone is hurting, I want to do something. I want to take casseroles to the friend whose dad just died and be at the funeral. I want to change my FB profile pic along with everyone else in support of Weston from my home church who was in an extremely bad accident last week. And when a friend is moving a couple hours away due to cancer, I'm disappointed when I arrive too late to help load the moving truck (even if I would have probably just been in the way of the guys loading furniture). I hate watching from afar. I hate feeling helpless.
Six months after his mother's death, Henri Nouwen wrote the following to his father: “When we experienced the deep loss at mother’s death, we also experienced our total inability to do anything about it. We, who loved mother so much and would have done anything possible to alleviate her pain and agony, could do absolutely nothing” (45).
It's not only the friends who feel powerless, but often the one suffering as well. I recently talked to a gentleman about how the loss of his independence was the hardest part of having a stroke.
Yet, I wonder if that is perhaps one of the purposes of pain? To remind us that we are powerless?
“Death indeed simplifies” Nouwen states, and I would argue that suffering does as well. He continues, “Death lays bare what really matters” (41). We tend to think that we control our lives by working hard, purchasing comforts, or planning our calendar, until a painful situation devastates our lives and reminds us that we “are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes” (James 4:14b).
Suddenly, we have no other options but God.
The Power in Pain
Recently, I was asked about my depression a couple years ago. In talking about it, I was again amazed that I'm now actually grateful for it! No, I definitely don't want to go through anything like that ever again. No, I would never have asked for it. But my increased empathy for others and desperation for God, my gratitude for joy, my deeper love for the church, and my lack of desire for empty pleasures cause me to worship God for that painful experience.
I've again been astounded by God showing up in the church as I watch (from 6 hours away) my home church gather around Weston Shank and his family after Weston had an extremely bad accident. Even though I'm not present, the church’s love is obvious. Profile pictures and statuses are changed to express support. When updates are texted to out-of-state friends, everyone gathers to hear the latest. In-state friends regularly travel the hour to the hospital. The church is evident in pain more so than normalcy.
Some people may look to reason to prove the existence of God. But I know God exists when I see a wife praising God the day after her husband dies. I know God is real when my friends who have cancer care how their experience affects my faith. God must be good if my friend can experience a huge emotional and spiritual attack on her family and still say, “Yes, I want God with all my heart!”. I know there is a God when I see Him loving through His Church.
God has shown up over and over in the painful circumstances of my own life as well. And I too can join those who testify that God is worth it even when life hurts.
Pain is powerful because there we experience God.
Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman, 2006. Print.Nouwen, Henri. A Letter of Consolation. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. Print.
All across the nation today, there will be ceremonies commemorating National Aboriginal Day (or what will soon be National Indigenous People’s Day, according to Justin Trudeau). There will be dancing and singing and regalia and official speeches by important people in city centers from sea to sea to sea. […]
Therefore God lifted him high, and granted freely to him the name above every name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee would bend, in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and every tongue constent. —— So began today’s morning reading in the prayer book that I sometimes use. […]
Recently, I finally got around to watching Lion, the Oscar-nominated film based on the true story of Saroo Brierley who, as a five-year-old boy, is accidentally separated from his older brother while scavenging in trains in India. After falling asleep on a bench at one of the stations, Saroo (played by Sunny Pawar) boards another train hoping to find his brother but ends up 1600 kilometers
He sits over in the corner of the little restaurant on the #3 highway that a friend and I sometimes meet at to talk about God, life, pastoring. He is wet and dirty, just like the weather outside, a ball cap pulled down over long black hair, a wispy moustache straining and stretching over snarling lips. […]
The traditional view of God that is embraced by most—what is called “classical theology”—works from the assumption that God’s essential divine nature is atemporal, immutable, and impassible. The Church Fathers fought to articulate and defend the absolute distinction between the Creator and creation and they did this—in a variety of ways—by defining God’s eternal nature over-and-against the creation. Thus they embraced a conception of God’s being in his transcendent nature that contrasted with God’s accommodating activity with his people. God’s essential eternal nature was defined over-and-against God’s ultimate accommodation in the Incarnation and Crucifixion of Christ. [...] The post Classical Theism’s Unnecessary Paradoxes appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.
“I have a complaint to make.” The comment was made by a member of our church who periodically drops in on me Tuesday mornings. The twinkle in his eye and the grin on his face signaled that this “complaint” was more of an observation or a conversation starter than an actual grievance. […]
Truth and love are both basic virtues for Christians. The Bible tells us God is love, and Jesus is the truth (1 John 4:8, John 14:6). But sometimes truth and love seem to get in each other’s way. Or maybe it is what we think is the truth and what we think is loving. Continue reading Loss and grief and rejection pulverize a heart
A few days ago the world received the news that a Mennonite Christian peacebuilder named Michael “MJ” Sharp was killed while working for peace with the local church and the United Nations in the Congo. […]
Read more...MJ Sharp: An Inspiring Man Who Gave Himself for the Lives of Others. His Life Points Us to Jesus.The post MJ Sharp: An Inspiring Man Who Gave Himself for the Lives of Others. His Life Points Us to Jesus. appeared first on Christian Peacebuilding.