In the Midst of Pain

Do we have to go through suffering to be shaped by God? Prompted by a question on a blog comment, Brad and Wayne talk about the tension between finding God's presence in the midst of our troubles and difficulties, and thinking God brings suffering in our lives to teach us something. While God does not orchestrate our sufferings to help us grow, he does promise to be in them when they come to teach us how to live beyond the realities of this age by living deeply in his love. Rather than live in fear of future sufferings to come, we can simply live in his love every day, whether that is in easy times or painful ones. Suffering on the outside does not have to destroy us on the inside.

Podcast Links:
Great Joy in Kenya


  1. Hi guys, it was quite refreshing listening to the podcast today after a while. I particularly enjoyed the one for last week with Mike and Kevin, I always enjoy listening to brothers and sisters sharing their thoughts on this relationship we have with our Father.
    The bible clearly states that all good and perfect gifts come from the Lord, Jesus also described Father as one who gives good gifts. To say God gives pain and suffering is out of His character to say the least, however, we do see portions of scripture that say; God disciplines his children in Hebrews 12, but the nature of the discipline is unclear but it does say the experience isn’t pleasurable at first but it ultimately bears fruit of peace and righteousness in them that submit to this type of discipline. So guys I will appreciate it if u can shed some light along the lines of the discipline that Hebrews 12 mentioned. Thanks for the good work guys, very encouraging.

  2. Two universal and prime paths of transformation have been available to every human being God has created: great love and great suffering. These two things transmute us from a fear-based life into a love-based life. Have no idea why. No surprise that the Christian icon of redemption is a man offering love from a crucified position.
    Love is what we long for and created for in fact, love is what we are as an outpouring from God, but suffering often seems to be our opening to that need, that desire, and that identity. Love and suffering are the main portals that open me up to experiencing my union. They take me to the edge of my inner resources where I “fall into the hands of the living God”(Heb 10:31).

  3. “Job’s Comforters” may ring a bell. When a mourner’s pain is being explained or minimized, it is likely misguided and unappreciated. We know not. Scripture reminds us that the secret things belong God.

  4. Oh my! What a podcast! It is soooo good to hear pain and suffering being discussed in such an open way. Thanks Wayne and Brad. And thank you for acknowledging all the different ways this subject can be looked at.
    What helped me the most is that having fellowship with God, being in relationship with Him THROUGH everything – is what it comes down to. I can live that way. Don’t and never did buy into that God brings pain to teach us, as the woman was talking about in the mail that was read.. I also don’t buy into that there won’t be/shouldn’t be pain if you are doing things “right”.
    What I can live with, and am really entering into in my life (that has a lot of pain in it right now) is that I can be with God in it and and that He is with me and there is a wonderful special something between God and I in the midst of it.
    So different than the years of having difficulty and then having messages blasting out steps or “answers” or things I have to do, and then I can have peace with God. All backwards..and twisted!
    I am taking the approach that it is truly about fellowship and relationship with our Father first and foremost. Pain or joy. Glory or despair. Whatever. Just being with Him as it is…as I am. And as HE is…loving and present!
    That ties in with what you said Joni, about love and suffering taking you to the edge of your inner resources where you fall into the hands of the living God. May we all fall into His loving hands!

  5. Dave –
    Secret things do belong to God, don’t they? Heh, we aren’t God, we don’t know or understand it all (or very much sometimes). Some of those “secrets” He opens up to us…most call for childlike rest and letting go.

    Psalm 131:1
    [ Psalm 131 A Childlike Spirit ] A Davidic song of ascents. LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved with things too great or too difficult for me.

    It actually brings me relief to think of God’s secret things. That takes the pressure off me having to get it all figured out. More falling…..

    And that’s ok, because His love is all around – everywhere. There is nowhere it is not. And no painful condition or situation exists where He and His love are not fully with us.

  6. Your conversation reminded me of in Psalms God says “I will preserve you from evil” to David, and look what David’s life looked like. I love your thoughts on Jesus having the last word like your father in the vineyard. It gives me hope. Thank you!

  7. Hi! Really enjoyed this podcast. I’ve been on both sides here – very angry at Him for allowing events to happen and now a growing trust in Him both that He is with me now and He was with me while I was plastering His face with my anger. I could not have imagined that He was grieving for me back then. I was blinded by my belief that He was punishing. His patience, pursuit and unending love is having the last word. While I do not believe He creates painful circumstances for us, He sure does not let them go to waste either.

  8. Hi Wayne and Brad,

    Got “connected” to your journey several months ago. Thanks for sharing the trip. It is a little intimidating “offering” something to the 2 of you, but here goes. Just some stuff I’ve been learning.

    Regardless of where the pain comes from (my sin, the sin of others, trials or any of those happenings that people feel compelled to explain with what are often quite “goofy contortions” when only sovereign Father knows) I have found it helpful to focus on what Oswald Chambers suggested in My Utmost for His Highest.

    He suggested keeping an eye out for what God wants you to “unlearn” as opposed to the lesson needed to be learned. In my expereince of learning to abide in the grace of God as opposed to legalistic self effort (life by the Spirit as opposed to life in the flesh), I need to avoid trying to do things in my own strength to fix things (regardless of how “scriptural” that self effort is disguised as).

    The process of unlearning self dependance takes time and some repetition (slow learner due to how engrained performance had become). The Holy Spirit directs me to a calming rest as God walks through it and I tag along looking at, following, and enjoying Him.

    If character building is involved then I usually experience the patience required for whatever the particular character trait or fruit of the Spirit He is producing in me.

    Patience with others is love

    Patience with self is hope.

    Patience with God is faith.

    Thanks again lads.

  9. Carol, “I do not get involved with things too great or too difficult for me”.Not so much in the first half, but in the second half of life. . .Amen. 🙂

    Cherokee Prayer: O GREAT SPIRIT, Help me always to speak the truth quietly. To listen with an open mind. And to remember the peace that may be found in silence.

  10. Tom, may i please quote your lines about patience? Did you write them or get them from another source? What perspective in those few words! Thank you for sharing them.

  11. Glad the discussion went the way it did guys. Thanks for leaving such times in God’s gentle leading so His agenda gets covered.

    Pain and suffering is always deep on my heart and mind at this time of year as my sister was totally unexpectedly brutally murdered this very day (Feb 17th) 16 years ago. To this day the murderer has not been found though extensive instigation and appeals for tips continues.

    Pain it seems can be a gift of God, now bear with me. It really gets our attention averted to either it’s cause or its Helper and Healer. We all experience it. When we are in extreme pain, even so called unbelievers, Who do we call out to? It seems to come when it is actually needed. Mysterious as it is, it simply is. AW Tozer called it God’s megaphone; “Testing, testing, one two three four! Where are you Adam!? Hello! Can you hear me!? He seems so often to be saying through it, loud and clear!

    For me, through this harrowing experience, God was and continues to be so close and clear in His speaking. After two friends from my men’s small group came over to pray over me with the laying on of hands and I got through that “long dark night of the soul”, He led my parents and I through the coming weeks with such “gentle hands” and heart it was undeniably Him. Scripture is packed full of His being close to us when we are down. “When we remain faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself”. Miracle after miracle has ensued ever since starting with forgiving the murderer, finding out from God first and then others coming forward that indeed my sister was a Christian before she died, when I had no idea she was! In fact the very place my parents decided to spread her ashes was the same spot she said yes to Him and her life changed from that point in time! In fact it was actually I who led her to the Lord! But since she cut me off and didn’t say the so called “sinners prayer” and I moved to the next province over to be a youth pastor and didn’t get to see her much, I thought she wasn’t “saved”! God clearly said to me, when she said yes to Jesus, “It is enough Kent, she is with me now”. My dad and I were able to share her testimony at her memorial. To this day, “though she is dead, she still speaks” of God’s loving grace for all mankind.

    Just last week I was able to retrieve the plaque my dad had made and displayed on a park bench since her passing close to where she lived and died. Here is its inscription:

    Love is just one tiny step away from hate.
    Try it. Earn enriching beauty by loving everybody.
    See? God is love!
    Muriel Ina Lindsay 1956 – 1996

    God seems to use anything and everyone all the time to teach us, His offspring, of His amazing grace and love for His glory, that others might receive the same comfort by which we have been comforted.

  12. Hi Nancy, Please forgive the missing quotation marks. I believe they originate with Adel Bestavros and are quoted by Tomas Halik in his book Patience with God. Tom

  13. Kent – Yours is a incredibly difficult and touching story about your sister. There is nothing so difficult that God isn’t in, and He is able get through to us His grace and love even during the deepest difficulty. Your story really shows God has been with you and your family during your time of darkness and of “God’s loving grace for all mankind”.
    Thank you for sharing your story of pain and the hope we can have through pain as
    “God seems to use anything and everyone all the time to teach us, His offspring, of His amazing grace and love for His glory, that others might receive the same comfort by which we have been comforted.”

  14. There are two sides to this topic. Our own sufferings and the sufferings of others and they each have very different solutions.

    On one hand, we protest that there is pain and suffering in the world. On the other hand we readily accept our pardon from the fact that we ourselves are, at least occasionally if not regularly, the source of it. Why is there pain and suffering in the world? Mostly because we cause it to each other. We will fight from a political level all the way down to a personal level, to retain the freedom to make our own choices and yet, we will regularly use that freedom to choose a life that either causes or sustains the pain and suffering of others, whether they are in the same room or across an ocean.

    On a grand scale, when entire cultures chose to sustain and improve their own levels of freedom and enjoyment, it is almost always at the cost of another. The hopelessness and sufferings of entire continents of people can be traced back to the exploitation of everything other entire cultures using people to feed their own lusts. There is no mystery here. We have created problems of suffering for each others on an enormous scale, a scale far greater than we can even conceive of repairing. Without the genuine love of Jesus fully and completely active and living inside of us, the victims and perpetrators alike, we are condemned to leave an expanding trail of pain and suffering behind us.

    We may blame shift the consequences to say that it is for a greater human purpose that we suffer, that there are greater meanings in it, that God allows suffering or we can stand squarely on the same human arrogance that got us here and say that it was, in fact, God who caused it. No, it was in fact we who caused the majority of it, it is in fact we who sustain it’s existence and if our guilt leads us anywhere but to humble personal repentance, it has lead us in circles and continues to have it’s way with us.

    Great reminder Brad – “if we have tasted the kindness of the Lord…” There is _nothing_ but loving God with the depths of our hearts, our souls and our minds that can enable us and instruct us on how to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that is the only thing that will minimize the fallout of our behavior.

    If we must helplessly suffer the consequences of others or helplessly observe the sufferings we have caused to them, may we burn in our pain and suffering until all that is not the Love of God in us is burned from us, so we are moved out of our complacent inaction by His love for us and those around us.

    “Find someone who nobody loves, and love them” – Mother Teresa

  15. The discussion was so helpful. There is so much that ppl are processing and it’s a great reminder not only from Wayne and Brad but also from the others who share their stories here that not only Jesus is with us but there are other ppl also who are facing their own “dark nights”. This process is such a gentle and at times a very slow one precisely b/c of his love for us. Blessings

  16. Interesting knowing how to respond when you’re in the middle of pain, when everything inside is crying out “why God??” Its not always simple to say or believe God is there in the midst of it, or that he’s ever experienced it. Theologically I know he’s experienced anguish prior to the cross, but I’d never believed he lived with it any other time… you know, he was always secure in his father’s love… so I do often wonder if he knows what’s its like to live in a “sinful” body that is usually grabbing for itself what has not been given.

    I don’t doubt God or his love… probably the reality is when the pain is great its easy to perceive he’s not around, though he always is.

    I’m conscious that in the middle of yuck stuff, its easy for me to revert back to the old pattern of living a “good Christian life” which involves its up to me to “do the work to get back in touch with God and understand his purpose.”

    This time, I simply couldn’t do it. Kept praying that prayer “help my unbelief, help me know you’re there, I don’t have it in me to understand what’s going on.” It occurred to me that this was another area I had to let go control of, even control about how I shape my walk with God and the only certainty there ever was going to be in life was God’s love for me.

    Have loved reading Jim Palmer’s book “Wide Open Spaces”, and was particularly drawn to the chapter “Does it matter WWJD if we can’t do it”. Kind of see God’s work in my life in action through Jim’s conversation as I realise there is a “glorious mystery” to how God is saving me. I loved his comments about “Adam’s message is, ‘this is the brain on lies’… [whereas] Jesus is born into the world and says ‘this is the brain on truth'”

    It still leaves me with the question – when is it mine to participate with him in reshaping, or when is it God’s job? or is it that when I’m secure in his love, then I’m tuned into what he wants and question answers itself. When I’m in the middle of a painful time, its him I rely on. When I’m distant from it, its easy to think its up to me. Not sure this makes sense… Perhaps its pain that draws us to God, though if we’ve never experienced his love, its easy to blame him.

  17. Wayne and Brad,
    Loved the podcast, very helpful and real. I do have a question that i struggle with though that I wanted to run by you . When you or a loved one is really suffering and you ask God to help alleviate the pain and nothing happens, but you say God is with me in it and that is all you need, why is that any different than someone who is starving to death and a friend who has the resources to help feed the person comes alongside and says “I am with you” but doesn’t give any food and the person starves to death. God does have the resources to intervene in pain and suffering and when he lets us know that he’s with us in it but doesn’t do anything about it and our suffering goes from bad to worse, that is a tough pill to swallow. No easy answers sometimes I think. Thanks

  18. Jim.. Love that question. Im sure many have it, but like you say. Im pretty sure there is no answer for that one. I wish there was.

  19. Jim, unless you are currently in the situation you describe, yours is a torturously hypothetical question. Along with all personal suffering comes the grace of God to endure it. There is even grace to endure the helplessness of watching someone else suffer, but in both cases, it isn’t there until the situation actually exists. There is no hypothetical grace for a hypothetical situation.

    But when the situation becomes real, windows of understanding and comfort will open that are otherwise unseen. It is an inspired thing to be able to say “God is with me in this pain and that is all I need” but this too a personal gift of grace to be able to say. Overcoming the discouragement of our own pain is an encouraging sense of success and hope that comes as a gift in the midst of our pain and suffering, but it is also a choice to receive. We can focus on the pain and suffering in our lives but they will quickly over take us and it will seem as though they are all we have. The choice is ours. Pain in inevitable but the emotional suffering that often accompanies it is not.

    I was recently injured on a construction site and had to spend a month recovering. On one of my visits to the doctor I was describing how I could no longer seem to use my left arm. The nurse said “Well, that’s why God gave us two of them”. It may have seemed insensitive but for me, in the moment and joined with the grace God was giving me to endure, it was a privately thankful moment of worship for the 1 million other body parts that were in no pain at all.

  20. I also wanted to comment that God never ‘doesn’t do anything’ to resolve our pain and suffering. There is always some time involved but if it weren’t for God’s life giving intervention of the human healing process or the delivery of his merciful endings, your comment would certainly be hopelessly true.

  21. Alan,
    Thanks for your encouragement. I am dealing with the loss of a loved one who went in for a procedure and while there had a stroke and a heart attack and the family watched her suffer for a month until she went home . Their are questions about the wisdom of the procedure and some of the doctor’s care that bother me. I know God doesn’t always heal when we ask him to, buit it sure seemed like a terrible thing to see her have to go through what she did . Did God help me , yes?Was I wondering why he let this happen and why it had to turn out this way, you bet? I agree scripturally with your answers but feel like you need to let people express their true feelings to their Father and not have them fake that everything is ok when it isn’t. Sometimes when people are hurting and don’t have the answers, they just have to work through it with God and some friends, the theolgical right answers don’t always help.

  22. Carol shared a helpful video skit link on the forum. (As far as how to be with others when they are in pain … sitting in the “Mourning Booth” with them and just be there can many times be the best response). . . The video of the skit called the “Mourning Booth” can be watched here:

  23. Nomad Dave – Love the Cherokee prayer – Thanks!
    Wayne and Brad,
    The discussion this week is a blessing. As others have said, refreshing to view pain from many different perspectives. In recent months with the help of a really good therapist I have journeyed into some very dark places within that I had locked away long ago because of shame, guilt and fear. I have come to understand this was an involuntary action to protect myself.
    A couple of observations: 1) Darkness and pain are where we live as symptoms of the brokenness and damage that sin has inflicted upon us – It’s not that we find God in the darkness of our pain but rather God finds us there. He is always reaching out to each of us, but during periods of great pain we take down our facade of courage and strength and acknowledge “I need you Lord!”. 2) I acknowledge that it does seem more common for those believers who are truly seeking after God to consistently be in the throws of great suffering and pain. This tends to fuel the misconception that God causes pain to enter our life to discipline us or mature us in our faith. I suggest that traditional Western Christianity has inadvertently (or perhaps not so innocently in some cases) taught parishioners to “cast all your cares upon God” or to “Walk in Faith”, with the misunderstanding of these very worthy phrases resulting in people throwing up their hands and doing nothing. This is as if to say, “Okay God, you got me into this mess, so I will demonstrate my faith here – you get me out!” This laissez faire attitude toward our faith then perpetuates life’s difficulties. Faith is a verb! This is what James meant by letting suffering and patients have thier perfect work in you and faith with out works is dead. Now, in the beginning this is difficult, but walking in faith means knowing and trusting that as we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps God is for us – not against us and no weapon formed against us will prosper and Jesus has overcome the troubles of this world, and all the many other encouraging promises of a loving Abba Father! 3) Finally, as our relationship with Jesus deepens, which often is accelerated during times of pain, we begin to discern when and how to balance our efforts and his will. This is where we begin to understand what Jesus meant by “Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven”. The Kingdom of God is that place where God gets to have his way in your life. Implicit here is that you let God have his way because he respects you enough not to force his will on you. This is that beautiful place where you get to stroll through the garden of your pain with Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit as they suggest to you, “Water this plant. You might want to dig up this bush – its dead. Looks like you ought to weed this bed of wild flowers. Hey, transplant this rose – it will do better over hear. Oh, it’s gonna rain tomorrow – may be a good time to fertilize!”

  24. Thank you Nomad Dave for sharing that video. I know, in our current valley, just the presence of our family and friends gives us the comfort we need.

  25. Nomad Dave ,
    That was a powerful video, thanks !!! I think it is important to be able to ask God to help you feel the pain of others and let God’s compassion and comfort flow out of you as you get in touch with their suffering The Love of God in you wants to do something to comfort , and being moved with compassion involves feeling others pain and reaching out to help. Bless you Nomad Dave

  26. Thank you Cliff, Len and Jim for your kind responses. Many years ago after our family was hit with a horrific multiple tragedy, I remember falling to the floor sobbing in pain and to this very day it is hard to describe. The memory of the funerals is a blur except for the friends who unexpectedly came and was with us in the mourning booth. That, I remember.

  27. Dave – I remember sitting in that booth! Fortunately at the time I had about 6 friends to sit with. They talked and I ached. One time I remember just tipping over in the restaurant bench seat from exhaustion. One of the guy leaned over, pretty much just to check and see if I was still breathing, and then went back to the conversation.

    The Sunday after I awoke in the middle of the night to tragic news, I was sitting alone in church. I am pretty sure it was God who spoke “I know you hurt but everyone has to hurt sometimes, now is just your turn to hurt. All there is to do is sit in it and wait”. I recall thinking how much the grief was like having the stomach flu. It just hurts and there is nothing to do but to sit in it, endure it and wait.

    Finally, I remember one night when I couldn’t sleep at all and I was so angry, and so depressed and consequently, so unconcerned for any sort of consequences, I started out walking into the dead of night. I was looking for some way to get into some kind of trouble so someone would stop me and ask me what I was doing, just so I could feel like someone actually cared. I even hoped I would get arrested so the cop would ask me what I was doing out there. After hours of wandering, I gave up and headed home. Just as I rounded the last corner to my house, I said “Okay God, here is your last chance. This is the last busy road, no one will stop me from here on out”. No one even drove by and I just cried out “No one cares about me God!”. Immediately, I heard the thoughts come back “No Alan, nobody does not the way you need to be cared about. But I do”. That was 17 years ago and I still cherish that moment that marked the beginning of my return the joy of living.

    I am so glad, now, that I have those memories to think back on. Of all the places I went to to find comfort, none ever comforted me more than those little comments I heard, what I believe to be God, whisper to me.

    I have always understood Paul’s comments in Romans 12 about weeping with those who weep. But for years, it perplexed me when I read Jesus simply say “Be of good cheer” or James say “Count it all joy” or Paul say “Do not be anxious about anything”, and the grand daddy of them all, when Jesus told the mourning son who wanted to bury his father “Let the dead bury the dead”. I would let each draw their own conclusions on these seemingly over generalized statements but for me, they have come to be reminders that despite anything I may feel in the moment, the truth is that life in the kingdom of God is always very good. For me, to linger too long in my pain is perfectly acceptable, but sometimes I just need to tell myself how I feel rather than let my feelings tell me how I feel. I admit it, it is denial, sometimes it is an out and out lie, but as the kingdom of God comes closer into my view, what I once believed to the the painful realities of human life, are gradually becoming little more than a self indulgent denial of the realities of this new and wonderful kingdom that we have been invited to become citizens of. Probably sounds a bit harsh but after 6 decades of living in this cruel world, I have turned more towards conserving my emotional energy so as to spend it on things that bring me and those around me more joy than sorrow. Maybe that is what is meant by the word “hope”, confidence in what is unseen.

  28. Alan, thank you for sharing your heart felt experience with us. My brother hiked up a desert mountain seeking a sign from God. He wanted to know if Misty, his three year old daughter, was being comforted in heaven. On that day at the top of that mountain he received a sign in the form of a large hawk hovering in front of him with flapping wings. When the hawk finally flew away, some of his pain did as well. God seems to respond to each of our pain in many different ways. I do appreciate and am thankful for your experience with God also.

    ((((((((((((Alan)))))))))))) *Cyber-hug* “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” Henri Nouwen

    For the record, I have fallen short many times in my life by not heeding Henri Nouwen’s wise observation. Although at times, the former seemed to be preferred over the latter. There appears to be no “one cure fits all” approach to helping one another or in being helped by God. Each of us are so different and that which is meaningful to one may not be meaningful to another.


  29. Thanks for the hug Dave, but you still can’t have my Bud Lite.

    I think Henri is right; “…we often find…”. Maybe there is more to his quote but for me, as often as it is the case, so is the case of someone who is willing to honestly and unapoligetically speak the austere truth into the fog bank of feelings that may leave me unable to navigate. As cold and wet as I may feel, the truth is what ultimately rescues me from my darkness. Timing is everything. Timing is a gift of the spirit that Paul forgot to write down, and like the gift of healing, it is a tough one to fake.

  30. You’re welcome Alan and thanks for the LOL 🙂 “Absolute seriousness is never without a dash of humor.” ? Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945).

  31. @Alan, I’m a Jim too but a different Jim than the one who commented earlier about struggling with suffering and the question (to paraphrase) “if God has the power to intervene but doesn’t, what kind of relationship is that anyway?” To me, that also doesn’t do a lot for trust either. As Jim says – no easy answers.

    In such dark times, it is not all that easy for some of us to see God walking along side (may in part be due to personality type). I, like most people on this blog, am experiencing some personal suffering and I am also watching a close friend going through heavy duty suffering (metastasis to the spine). So with respect to your comment, “Along with all personal suffering comes the grace of God to endure it. There is even grace to endure the helplessness of watching someone else suffer …” – that definitely has not been my experience at all (although it has been for some like Nomad Dave’s brother). In fact, I’d really like to kick the crap out of the dude who wrote “Footprints in the Sand”.

    Since I’m arguing with you, I also don’t like Bud Lite either. To me a real beer needs to have a minimum of 5% of the active medicinal ingredient.

    Anyway these past few years I’m just some guy walking down the road of pain with wax in my ears and my head up my posterior, but I sure hope that I will bump into a tree soon so that I can see the picture more clearly.

  32. As I’ve been reading everyone’s posts I am really aware of how different we all are as well as how different our experiences and reactions to them are. I am very much aware of how challenging talking, ummm, actually it’s just writing, about these matters on a forum staring at a computer screen is.
    There is so much that is not, or can’t be said or expressed. So much that is incomplete in what we are trying to communicate and in what we can understand as we read each other’s posts. Sometimes it can come across too black and white, but our realities are not black and white. If we were all sitting in a room together having this “conversation” it would probably be quite different. Too actually be able to see someone’s facial expression, look in their eyes, notice body language would give us a more clear picture of what each of us are feeling. And talking in person to someone can cover so much more ground, and open up a lot more understanding about what another is saying that writing can ever do.
    It was take each of us writing an entire book and posting that to give others a more complete picture of how our lives really are as far as our experience of pain and suffering and how we understand God to be involved in our lives in all of it.
    Real life is not ever black and white, or even gray. I would love to be able to see all of the colours, and nuances and details of everyone’s life that has posted here. I am sure the people that know me – in person – see an entirely different story than what may come out when I post here. That is not that I don’t try to post with openness, but maybe I am just sharing my feelings of the moment, or maybe hesitate to let it all out (how painfully I can experience life, or the times I question and don’t have answers). In actually life this whole area is very complex and difficult for me. There is also the reality of God being here with me through it in amazing ways. But there is no black and white.
    I can have a feeling of God being with me at the same time I am in some agony about something.
    I don’t always know what to post on a forum. What might help someone, or not help? I guess posting something as honestly and openly as I know how and at the same time trying to be sensitive to how it may come across to others and whether it may help someone or not is better
    than not sharing anything. I look at it that way as far as all of you posting too. I will only understand a little about anyone who posts here, but it helps me that you do!
    Jim, at the end of your post you said you hope you can see more clearly. That probably speaks for all of us. The journey is long, the path is winding, and clarity waxes and wanes. I think talking or writing about it, and listing to others really does make a difference in this challenging journey as each of us moves toward growth and sorting out the perplexities of this life.
    Jesus, somehow help us see more clearly! (and spare Jim the bumping into a tree method, if possible). Help me understand more of what is going on in my life, and please give me compassion for others wherever they are. Thank you for a mourning booth along the way here and there.

  33. The Other Jim – Yup, in the dark times, it’s hard to see anything at all. Kind of like flying a plane by the instruments rather than by sight. It’s hard to learn to trust the instruments, but the middle of a storm in a really bad time to start. It is however, a really great time to learn _not_ to trust our sight.

    Not that you asked but, I think you are squarely on the path to greater faith. Sometimes just hating the futility of sin and death is all we have to offer, but it is also a big part of building a functional faith rather than the rhetorical one we are all taught to recite to each other.

    Not to put too blunt a point on it but, in the end God wins anyway. What a gracious Father we have that even allows us to resent what we may see as his apparent inaction and complacency. But if we stop and recount the number of things that have gone perfectly well in our lives, we would be so busy counting that we would scarcely have time to consider those that don’t. We have a tendency to over leap a thousand working things, so we can hold up the one that is apparently not.

    Of course, beating the crap out of anyone is a felony so you might want to rethink that one (insert cheesy smiley face here) and, it would only place their loved ones at their hospital bedside, perhaps saying the same thing about you, besides, she died in 1999. You might want to read her story for reference instead, you may find more comfort in her story than in her poem. I suspect that life beat the crap out of her enough times (if not her husband) that she simply found no other recourse than to yield to the hopeful uncertainty of God’s care.

    Either way – beer is just not the answer.

  34. Carol, I think we can make a commitment to ourselves to read _everything_ on this blog as positive and endearing, regardless of how it may come across. I don’t believe there is one single person writing or even reading this blog that is hateful, insulting or malicious. In light of that belief, anything can be said – hateful, insulting or malicious (except Wayne will probably filter it out) and in love for each other, we have the gift of NOT misreading body language as well so, what an honor it is to have such a place as this where we can be as inefficient and poorly worded as we are, and still know that we are loved. That was a long sentence.

  35. Thanks Carol, your post really made a difference to me and was an encouraging read. Alan, enjoyed your response but I still remain biased against sand and footprints, however your comments inspired me to reconsider crap-kicking as a fitting response. 🙂 As the famous David Fredrickson once posted, an alternative to this poem is a theme like Butt-prints in the Sand describing a double furrow where the author had been dragged a long resisting all the way. I can relate to this one.

    Theoretically death should be a much welcomed frontier, as it represents a step into the direct face-to-face conversation with Christ (and good answers to the questions on the post), but I’m still not thrilled with the pain route. I suppose that if I enjoyed pain, that would be weird (almost as weird as wanting to kick the crap out of defenseless poets armed only with a pen and paper to protect themselves).

  36. This excerpt is from a dear sister in Christ and it was posted in the midst of a heated online debate. “So let’s breathe deep here and remember even when we STRONGLY disagree with a viewpoint offered, behind each viewpoint is a living breathing human being who has a heart and feelings and who NEEDS (whether we think they “deserve” it or not) to be treated like they matter, like their heart matters, like their feelings matter.”

    “If anything matters… everything matters” – comes from the conversation in “The Shack” in which Mack is wondering (as he anticipates his return to ‘real’ life), if what he does in his day-to-day experience even truly matters (has any significance).” Wind Rumors

    No particular reason for this reply, just another two bits for the blog pot. “The word bit is a colloquial expression referring to specific coins in various coinages throughout the world. In the US, it’s 1/8th of a dollar.” From the free encyclopedia. 🙂

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