Series on Suffering: An Introduction

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Suffering impacts everything. It reaches beyond our circumstances and grabs our hearts, influencing how we interact with others, how we view ourselves, and even how we view the gospel. If you’ve engaged with Repurposed for any length of time (or if you’ve watched from afar), you’ve read numerous posts about wrestling and surrender. The stamp of suffering has imprinted almost all we hold dear.

But I absolutely love that I was born into my generation. And I’m even more grateful my kids were born into theirs. Let me explain…

I live amongst a generation encouraged by the Church to live authentically… to share our secrets… to reveal the brokenness in our lives. And in all of it, while the impact of sin seems so vast, the cross, well, it towers over the brokenness. It’s big enough to cover all the shame and mistakes and regrets.

And I believe God is glorified when we admit our desperation for Him.

I look forward to meeting King David someday – warrior, national leader, and… um, poetry writer. I wonder if he planned for his words to be “wisdom literature” as many theologians categorize the Psalms. But nonetheless, the man after God’s own heart, the man given over to his lust, the schemer — he knew how to be real. And I do mean real.  He wasn’t afraid to tell God like it was. He wasn’t scared to “go there”. He identified his pain, he processed it over and over, and he finally surrendered. Over and over. Healthy guy, that King David was.

During the month of February, you’ll be invited into the pain of others’ lives. It’s sort of fitting, don’t you think? It’s Black History Month, and while we celebrate accomplishments and success, we can’t ignore that all that redemption rose out of pain. All that beauty was resurrected out of oppression. It’s the Valentines month, too, and suffering, no doubt, repurposes our hearts through and through, whether we’re ready for the transformation or not.

Back in 2012, I sat down with men and women and crafted a Series on Suffering for my original blog out of those conversations. We examined events, reactions, coping… and of course, redemption, too.

Because Repurposed is about surrendering, begging God to transform us, and then impacting those around us, I thought it was fitting to touch base with those original men and women and see how they’re doing — four years later.

Miscarriage and infertility, a marriage ended by cancer, parenting a physically disabled child, an eating disorder. We’re hitting some hard ones. These people have stories that are common — but are often behind closed doors.

Many of us–even in our increasingly open and authentic generation–don’t pursue these topics with our friends who are living them. We don’t know what to say.

And when the pain is our own, we also stare at the terrifying chapters of our stories in silence. Alone. Waiting to be pursued. Waiting for insight to help sort out the mess. And with the passing of days, we detach ourselves more from the pain, from others, and even from our own hearts. It’s really confusing to be the victim.

So for the next month, I’ll be posting different interviews that were held a few years ago followed by an update (in the person’s own words) the next day. I’m grateful these incredible, ordinary people are willing to talk again. They’re inviting us back into their private pain. And I’m confident the hope of redemption is still there.

I ask two things of you. First, please dare to “go there”. Allow yourself to identify with certain aspects of their stories and boldly study your own suffering. Your own reactions.  Your own coping mechanisms. The healing starts there.

And secondly, invite others over to RepurposedShare the interviews and updates with people in your own communities facing similar issues. Allow my friends’ boldness to speak into their suffering. Let’s join God in healing the world, one person at a time.

So, come be a part of this. It’s fitting, don’t you think, that our series will overlap with the start of Lent? While reflecting on suffering, we’ll walk right into the season of preparing our hearts for reflecting on the most vivid representation of suffering and self-sacrifice. May the Rescuer, the Redeemer, be glorified in all of it.

This week’s first conversation will be with a dad who is parenting a severely disabled child. That girl is a teenager now.

See you tomorrow.

Pain. Even on Vacation.

sunriseI ran, and I felt the sun wake the earth. I saw my husband discover his childlike joy again. I watched dolphins from a rustic dock.

Community with family I rarely see. Restoration from life’s weariness. The reminder the world is much, much bigger than our everyday. All gifts. All grace.

But pain is often part of the Puzzle we’re trying to piece together here on earth.  Even on vacation.

jellyfishAnd with experiences only the beach can etch on our hearts comes the sting of the jellyfish.  The oldest grandchild, the youngest grandchild, and the husband discovering his childlike joy again after life’s deeper sting – all victims of its randomness.

“Why did God make jellyfish in the first place, Aunt Christan?”

“When exactly did jellyfish start stinging people, Mom?  Was it before or after the Fall?  Before or after sin entered the world?”

Together we pondered marine biology and ancient history and theology.  And I winced.  I still cringe today, for my daughter’s sting was so tiny compared to the pain she’ll face as her life unfolds. Sometimes its easier to look back on the mysteries of history instead of looking ahead.

And the Puzzle, it can be so frustrating, but we keep coming back for more. We try and fail and try again. We work with the hope of wholeness. Work toward restoration.

We were made for complexity. Made to wrestle the deep. And the unsatiated longing keeps us going, keeps us piecing together the mystery until every piece is in it’s place.

We’ll be piecing until the dawn of eternity, connecting pain with beauty, suffering with wholeness, heartache with understanding. Yes, we’ll be piecing until each fragmented piece becomes peace forevermore.

We have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here.  2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Help me see You, God, amidst all these pieces. Help me want to see You. Guard me from bitterness as you grant the hope of a mystery fulfilled.

Calm me when the Puzzle isn’t beautiful yet…when I’m too scared to pick up another piece.

photos | Tybee Island, Georgia, usa

This post can also be viewed as a guest post at the Greentree Community Church blog (St. Louis, Missouri).