Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: Thoughts on Suffering

This post was originally written in April of 2011 as a post for Wednesday of Holy Week and ranks near the top of One Ringing Bell's page views. I suppose the subject of suffering resonates with all of us. This is not Holy Week, but I wonder on this Wednesday if we might find a way to allow God to use our suffering to somehow bless others.

Oswald Chambers often wrote about being “broken bread and poured out wine.” I don’t know how one could possibly be broken or poured out without suffering.

Suffering is a given in life this side of the fall. No way to escape what is inevitably loaded on the train headed in our direction. The question is, what are we going to do with the cargo once it arrives?

The best thing we can do is allow God to use it to bless others. Flip it. Turn it upside down. As Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done….” (Genesis 50:20).

Yesterday, I finished a book I’ve been savoring and pondering, AnnVoskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. In it, she mentions a brother in law who buried two of his young children due to a genetic disease. She quotes him saying, “The way through the pain is to reach out to others in theirs.” And she says, “I have known ache and becoming the blessing is what deeply blesses us and this is the way He binds up our wounds. Empty to fill.”

When the adolescent unloads an arsenal of piercing arrows into our hearts, can we remember those arrows are formed from internal pain and aimed at us because somewhere inside they know we of all the people in the world will not abandon them. Can we let the arrows shoot right through, and reach out to that place of deep hurt in them?

When the spouse seems to stop seeing us, can we continue to pour out love?

When our own childhood’s deep heartaches threaten to hold us prisoner for a lifetime, can we surrender the hurts to God and allow him to use us to loose the shackles of others?

When hands we’ve loved grow cold to this earth, can we release them to eternal love and not grow bitter in our grief?

St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Fernandina

Can we allow the crucified one to redeem every hurt so that we may be a blessing?

Can we bear our blessed suffering to prisons, homeless shelters, and our own families?

It’s something to pray about.

Just after I’d written the preceding words, my husband and I went to a midday communion service. Because, of our out of state location due to Jerry’s prostate cancer treatment, we went to a church other than our own.

After we were greeted, I asked tentatively if we could come to communion since we were not members of the denomination. “Everyone is invited to this table,” we were graciously told.

As I listened to the liturgy on this Wednesday of Holy Week, I heard these words, “…give us grace to accept the suffering in this life…”

Yes, grace to accept, and grace to allow God to use it to make us his instruments.

"Empty to Fill."


Nancy Hamilton Sturm said...

Congratulations on your devo in The Upper Room.
Your last two posts have been especially meaningful to me since my brother was recently diagnosed with cancer and will undergo major surgery next month. Because of your last post, I have bought material to make him a prayer quilt. Since he lives in another state, I won't be there for his surgery, but I am comforted to know that the quilt will provide comfort for him. Thank you for the timely post.

Beverly Varnado said...

Nancy, when Cheryl made the quilt for me, I carried it around like Linus in the Peanuts comic strip does. Such a comfort. I pray your brother's surgery goes well and that he finds complete healing. I also pray that God gives you rest in your spirit during this time. You are a blessing to me and I'm sure your words and deeds of encouragement mean so much to your brother. Many blessings, Bev

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