Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Grandfatherly Advice

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die.

I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing. Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.

"The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pain and Suffering

Pain comes in all forms – the small twinge of pain, a bit of soreness, the random pain, the normal pains we live with everyday. Then there’s the kind of pain you can’t ignore. A level of pain so great, that is blocks out everything else. It makes the rest of the world fade away, until all we can think about is how much we hurt.

How we manage our pain is up to us. Most often, we need medicine. Excedrin – Vicodin – Morphine. Sometimes we have to ride it out and push through it and somehow overcome it without any medicine.

Pain. You can hope it goes away on it’s own; hope the wound that caused it heals. There are no solutions, no easy answers. You just breathe deep and wait for it to subside. Sometimes the pain can be managed with medicine, but sometimes the pain gets you when you least expect it and it doesn’t let up. You just have to fight through, because the truth is, you can’t escape it.

Pain can be physical. Pain can be mental or emotional. And life always makes more.

I have known excruciating pain. Some close to me in my life have known much more. Very much more. I know some suffer great and terrible physical pain. It is severe and will not stop. Some are tortured only mentally and emotionally. I knew a mother that lost her son, and the grief was devastating, over-whelming and long lasting. I knew a wife that lost her husband and it almost killed her. I knew a son that suffered greatly in his life after he lost his dad.

I don’t know why some have more than others. It doesn’t seem fair or right. But suffering comes to everyone, in one form or another. I do not know why God permits layoffs, illness, cancer, family fighting or mean, rude and hateful neighbors. I can’t explain the meanness of some teachers, bosses, peers or family members. But I do know that suffering in all of it’s forms is a universal human experience.

Last night I stood at the pharmacy counter to pick up medicine for my wife. She suffers more than anyone knows. I know, I see it everyday. And I respect her more than anyone else I know because I know how bravely she faces her pain and suffering. I try to help her as best as I can, but mostly I’m just left feeling helpless when all I can do is not really helping that much. But as I stood there waiting at the pharmacy counter, up rolled a young girl in a motorized wheelchair, with no legs. It was clear she had many problems. And then up walked another lady that was her caregiver. I later watched as she helped the sick girl from the wheelchair back to the car, and was reminded of how so many have it worse than we do. Someone recently told me that if we could all put our problems out on the table in a pile, where we could see everyone else’s problems, we would reach out and take ours back.

Some smart people tell us of the good that can come from suffering. Gold is refined by the fire which heats it, until the impurities come out. In the same way, suffering somehow makes us better people. Pain and suffering can test us to show what we are made of. Sometimes it takes pain and suffering to turn a person’s life around and head it in the right direction. Finally, we turn to God.

Besides cheerfully carrying our own daily crosses, our children need to learn the value of suffering in their lives. There will be times when friends desert them, a job may be difficult to find, or the "perfect" spouse eludes them. If we do not teach our children how to handle the disappointments and sufferings of life, when suffering comes, as it comes to everyone, they will try to escape it through drugs, alcohol, sex, divorce, and/or suicide.

The book of Job tells of how Job lost everything: the love of his wife, the lives of his ten children, all his possessions, his health and the respect of his community. Job's friends even thought that he was suffering because deep within his soul he must be a very wicked man. They were 100% wrong. Job was suffering, unbeknown even to himself, to prove to the universe that he truly and sincerely loved God. Satan had accused the Almighty of favoring Job; by trying to gain Job’s worship by bribing him with cattle, goods and material wealth. Of course Satan was totally wrong. So God allowed Job to suffer the loss of virtually everything - including his health to prove that Job’s love was genuine and unselfish. And what was Job's reaction to his terrible suffering? He said this of the Almighty:
Job 13:15
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him...

Helen Keller said, "although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."

C.S. Lewis reminds us: "God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."

No one is born happy. Happiness is something that comes to you. Despite the message we get from TV and movies, we were created solely to grow in holiness by knowing, loving,
and serving God in this world so that we can be happy with Him forever in eternity.

We may need medicine and sometimes we do – we may need the help of psychiatrists and sometimes we do – but mostly what we all need is God’s love in our heart. God is love. When we come to God, he fills us with His love. And this love endures all things. Love endures the suffering that comes to us. Love endures the injustice that comes to us. Love endures the evil that confronts us. Love endures because Love is the power of the life of the suffering Christ. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Christ in us is the secret to enduring all things. Filled with God’s Love and Holiness, we find a measure of peace and happiness that will bear us through the really bad times.

If we are nudged to seek the good of another, purely for that persons sake, we have been moved by God's Love. If we have the impulse to help someone, forget our self-interest, and act solely for another, with no regard for any reward, we are in touch with God’s Love. If we are driven by a desire to heal or help and are glad when that person is helped, even if no one knows it was we who helped, we are under the influence of God’s wonderful Love. When we take someone in to help in this way, we are being seized by the one power that never runs down or wears out – God’s Love. This love never dies. It endures all. And it will get us through our problems, our pain and suffering too.

God has a million-fold reward waiting for his saints. It is beyond imagination, just how great it is. And remember these are God’s promises to you.

Romans 8:18
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Memorize these two verses. They will carry you through times of seemingly unbearable suffering. Millions of believers in past ages have endured suffering with great courage. None have endured more than Jesus himself. Even as much as you have suffered, Jesus suffered more.

Quite frankly, Satan would love to destroy you and your faith however he can. It was Satan who instigated all of Job’s suffering. Satan is always prowling, looking for a way to bring you down, looking for a Christian to destroy. When we respond to suffering with humility towards God, praying with faith, God is able to take pain, suffering, injustice and all manner of junk and use to bring about good in your life.

Do like Job….do like Jesus himself, and never stop loving God, no matter the amount of suffering sent your way.

Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalms 91: 1-4 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

We draw close to our Lord Jesus Christ and rely on Him to be our refuge and fortress in times of trouble.

God bless you richly. Ric