Tag Archives: life

Suffering & Pain

Lyrics to three of four songs about suffering are below.  The best of the four songs in my opinion is Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane.  I have included a YouTube link with subtitles and brief thoughts about suffering.  Excellent video.  I hope these lyrics and video may bring a bit of purpose and/or meaning to suffering:

“I Will Not Be Moved” by Natalie Grant

“Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

“You Were There” by Avalon

and “Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane with a special message from John Piper.  The link to that video is here – it’s a comforting, hopeful message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY

If one or more of these songs mean something to you, please consider purchasing at Amazon or another provider.  The cost is about the same as a cup of coffee and the impact you receive should be greater than a 3-hour jolt from caffeine.  Much love.

I Will Not Be Moved by Natalie Grant

I have been the wayward child
I have acted out
I have questioned Sovereignty
And had my share of doubt
And though sometimes my prayers feel like
They’re bouncing off the sky
The hand I hold won’t let me go
And is the reason why…

[Chorus:]
I will stumble
I will fall down
But I will not be moved
I will make mistakes
I will face heartache
But I will not be moved
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
I will not be moved

Bitterness has plagued my heart
Many times before
My life has been like broken glass
And I have kept the score
Of all my shattered dreams and though it seemed
That I was far too gone
My brokenness helped me to see
It’s grace I’m standing on

[Chorus]

And the chaos in my life
Has been a badge I’ve worn
Though I have been torn
I will not be moved

Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day

To everyone who’s lost someone they love Long before it was their time You feel like the days you had were not enough When you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains Keepin’ you back from your life You believe that there’s nothing And there is no one who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that’s struggling just to hang on Have lost all of their faith in love And they’ve done all they can to make it right again Still it’s not enough

For the ones who can’t break the addictions and chains You try to give up but you come back again Just remember that you’re not alone In your shame and your suffering

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus

When you’re lonely And it feels like the whole world is falling on you You just reach out You just cry out to Jesus

Cry to Jesus

To the widow who suffers from being alone Wipin’ the tears from her eyes For the children around the world without a home Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

You Were There     by Avalon

I wonder how it must have felt
When David stood to face Goliath on a hill
I imagine that he shook with all his might
Until You took his hand, and held on tight

‘Cause You were there, You were there
In the midst of danger’s snare
You were there, You were there always
You were there when the hardest fight
Seemed so out of reach
Oh, You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So there he stood upon that hill
Abraham with knife in hand was poised to kill
But God in all his sovereignty had bigger plans
And just in time, You brought a lamb

‘Cause You were there,
You were there
In the midst of the unclear
You were there, you were there always
You were there when obedience
Seemed to not make sense
You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So haven’t I learned that my ways
Aren’t as high as Yours are
And You alone keep the universe
From crumbling into dust
You are God and though we would
Not have understood You
There You were

Hanging blameless on a cross
You would rather die than leave us in the dark
Every moment, every planned coincidence
Just all makes sense
With Your last breath

You were there, You were there
During history’s darkest hour
You were there, You were there always
You were the Victor and the King
You were the power in David’s swing
You were the calm in Abraham
You are the God who understands
You are the strength when we have none
You are the living, Holy one
You were, You are and You will always be
the Risen Lamb of God

You were, You are and You will always be
The Risen Lamb of God

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Is There Any Purpose or Meaning to Suffering?

Before starting this blog, please note that this blog will probably offer little or no sufficient answers to a person who is currently suffering. Having experienced my own oppression, discouragement and suffering, rarely did people attempting to provide answers seem to help. Yet I think it important in times of lucidness to find meaning in suffering since people have difficulty doing so.  Even some agnostics or atheists have used suffering to question God’s existence. In reality and truth, suffering reveals glimpses of a God who has a purpose and a God who cares.

Did you realize or consider that pain and suffering are clearly acceptable at times, and at other times pain and suffering are not? Why the difference? Philip SufferingYancey in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts? quotes philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “It is not so much the suffering as the senselessness of it that is unendurable.”

Yancey then notes the different views of suffering and pain by using a couple examples, NFL football player Merlin Olsen who continued playing football on a bum knee through pain and fluid retention. His persistence and willingness to endure pain and suffering is remarkable. As the fluid buildup got so thick, medical personnel had to almost drive the needle in with a hammer. Olsen was quoted as saying, “Damn it, get the needle in there, and get that stuff out.” His words are a stark glimpse into Olsen’s willingness to endure pain in order to fulfill his desire to play football.

Yancey then contrasts birthing a child with passing a kidney stone – a similar level of pain. A woman experiences the excruciating pain of child birth because there is meaning and purpose, and then may desire to have more children. Yet, there is no desire to have additional kidney stones.

The difference is in purpose and meaning. This is no small issue.

The senselessness of Nazi Germany is often referenced by some as evidence that given the brutality and scope of the suffering, God must not exist. Some ask, “Where was God during that terrible tragedy?” Yet Yancey notes that some Jews (Frankl, Bettelheim, Wiesel) and others found meaning and fared better overall than those who did not find meaning amongst the suffering.

When pain has a positive result or outcome, we might possibly accept it better, but more importantly it gives us meaning. There’s purpose. There’s hope! To lose hope causes a person to want to quit; to despair. Despair is a painful emotion in itself. So, as humans we try to cope. In order to avoid despair, tragedy, hurts, problems, etc., one alternative is to indulge in the present, “the now” with its pleasures and entertainment. Like pain medication or drugs, indulging in the present only temporarily relieves pain and numbs the senses. But like the drug user who desires an escape, while imbibing in the drug, the drug user cares not that the high is only temporary. All that matters to the user is the “here and now.” More importantly the high postpones / defers the critical need to address underlying problems and issues the druggie has.Drugs

I believe America (and the world at large) is utilizing the drugs of pleasure, entertainment, sports, materialism and other riches to avoid the realities of and purpose of life. Rich America is not the only place. This numbing happens here in the slums of Africa, too. Sex, alcohol, drugs, pleasure, entertainment, money, material items, etc. are all desired in order to avoid and/or escape the reality of severe underlying problems – the day-to-day issues of lack of good health, lack of proper food, lack of happiness; and the larger issues which result from a broken relationship with our Creator, such as lack of answers, lack of peace and contentment, along with ultimately despair and lack of hope.

Ironically and amazingly it seems one of the challenges in an increasingly wealthy society is that meaning and purpose fade as life becomes easier, more pleasurable and materialistically driven.

Knowing this, God has provided wise counsel for those who are relatively well and are not suffering very much. Rather than stay busy with life and work, He counsels His people to care for those who are suffering: outcasts, orphans, the sick, fatherless, prisoners and the poor. Spend time with a disabled child or in a slum in Africa – be quiet, that is “shut up” talking, visit and listen, perhaps for weeks. Attend funerals, not parties. Does God work through those who suffer? Does God speak quietly and provide answers through those who suffer? I believe He does slowly, and I see Him working.

What about those folks who suffer to the point that there is no satisfactory answer, purpose or fulfillment. For example, the issue of totally disabled children (IQ’s of 30-40) or senile adults (with Alzheimer’s) who lie in bed day in and day out. Yancey asks the question, what could possibly be meaningful to these people who suffer? Yancey provides an example of an East German doctor who cared for severely mentally disabled children. For years the doctor could not answer that question, until a survey of new trainees mentioned the fulfillment and rewards the trainees experienced of helping others. The children (and their disability) gave the trainees meaning, purpose, fulfillment, compassion, appreciation for life, a different perspective, more tolerance, patience, less complaining, a renewed looked at their own problems, an appreciation for what love can do for people. It gave purpose while the child received necessary care and love.

NOTE: One should not, in my opinion, surmise from the above example that God allows or creates mentally disabled children or causes / allows adults to develop Alzheimer’s for the sole purpose of other people’s own learning and advancement alone. This kind of logic seems myopic and can be quite cruel and calloused. Rather, these terrible conditions exist in a fallen world. It is the responsibility of the world’s inhabitants to respond in care and love, and a result could very well be an insight to life’s broader questions.

Love in a society is paramount.  It should be elevated to the highest standard.  Yet our society is promoting selfishness and self-absorption, similar to drug addicts.  In February 1995 Mother Teresa stated at the National Prayer Breakfast the following reality:  “By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

What messages are we sending our young people – to commit violence and murder in order to live happy lives?

Finally, Yancey also briefly references the existentialist, Sartre’s play, No Exit Drug Paraphenaliaabout three people (two men and a woman), who after death are locked into a room together for eternity. One of the three characters in the play, Garcin, concludes, “Hell is other people.” At the end of the play (after much analysis, attempted sexual acts and attempted murder) the play closes ironically like an addicted drug user – rather than freely escaping the room of hell (which they could have done), the three characters at the close of the curtain agree, “let’s continue on.”

I ask, “For what real and lasting purpose should the three in the play continue on? Other than for purely selfish reasons?” And isn’t that the point? True hell is selfishness. Watch the lives of a drug user who will do anything to get him/herself a temporary high.

Lack of meaning. Lack of purpose. People are not hell, unless the world is all about me. People are not hell until they refuse to satisfy my needs and my pleasures. At that point people start irritating the hell which resides in each of us.

Then again, maybe people are hell, broken in pieces. And God’s purpose might just be to rescue us from ourselves by entering hell in the person of Jesus Christ and saving those who trust, believe and rely on Him. As He saves us, He whispers simple answers to life: “I am your hope, your Outcastfulfillment, your purpose.  As I have rescued you in your sin as a pleasure- seeking drug addict, follow in My steps and focus on those hell-filled sinners, especially the broken and humble of society. In that path of life you will catch a glimpse of who I (God) am while discovering love, mercy, satisfaction, meaning, fulfillment and purpose in life.”

Week 3

Perhaps this week I should title the blog, “Jinja Honeymoon, Week 3.”  Early in the week the kids were sitting with me in the living area of the house where we are staying.  I adjusted my voice to a serious tone, which they noticed immediately.  “I’ll ask a question and I want Joshua to answer first.  You need to be very honest with me.”

“Given what you’ve seen so far, do you think you can stay here in Uganda until the end of 2014?”

Joshua immediately broke my tension, “Oh, yeah.  It’s not like I thought it would be.  Staying here doesn’t seem like a problem at all.”  The girls’ answers were similar.

His answer includes the experiences of living out of suitcases for four weeks, killing numerous insects and a small rodent in the house, adjusting to dirt and lack of cleanliness, the change of food, culture, showers, power and heat.

Obviously we all miss our family and friends, for sure.  And while his answer was quite encouraging, I tend to be quite the skeptic.  So I’m willing to give it more time.  I mentioned how the next months may be challenging at times with various difficulties and that it’s usually at that time that North Carolina will tug on us.  But I praise God for His preparing us and the kids for this transition.

This past week I have been quite encouraged to see how other children in various settings have responded to our teens.  Alexis and Brittany babysat a young 3-year old adopted son (Jeremiah) of one of our team members while the child’s mother (Anna) and Michelle went out for a coffee and Anna showed Michelle the market – the market is an experience of a life time!

Joshua threw Frisbee and football with the caretaker’s son, Timothy, here this week.

Joshua and Timothy throw Frisbee and football with each other.  The frame in the foreground is a table being built for the house where we are staying

Joshua and Timothy (R) throw Frisbee and football with each other. The frame in the foreground is a dining table being built for the house where we are staying

Both kids really enjoyed that time together.  Timothy had such a big smile.  Later in the week when Joshua returned from town with Michelle and the girls, Timothy’s younger brother, Steven, age 3, came up to Joshua, bent both knees, lowered his head and held out his hand.  This three year-old honored Joshua out of respect.  Someone, probably Steven’s father, Moses, had taught him a powerful way to show respect.  Although the gesture was not necessary, it is evident relationships are starting to form.

At church today an eleven year-old local girl, Christine, came up to Alexis, knelt down next to her and put her head in Alexis’ lap as the congregation sat during one of the prayers.  Christine stayed with Alexis during the service, at times both arms around Alexis, playing with her necklace, hands and hair, and sitting in her lap.  At the end of the service I look over and Brittany is holding Anna, who will be three in July.  Anna is our teammates, Chris and Jane Sperling’s only daughter.

So the children seem to be fitting in and adjusting well.  Again, I praise God for His goodness in making the preparations.  Yesterday they enjoyed some video chat time on Gmail with some friends from back in Marion.

Other transitions continue to happen as well.  Michelle is starting to cook more.  We have eaten in local restaurants more than usual during the first few weeks while we adjust and settle.  At home our meals have consisted of the following:

Breakfast is easy – fresh pineapple, mango, papaya and / or banana and bread with some jam and / or eggs and water, juice or coffee.  Water has to be bottled or boiled.  Lunch consists mainly of sandwiches – usually groundnut (peanut butter) and jelly sandwiches, fruit or leftovers from the night before.  Supper has been rice with various sauces or beans, pasta, fresh vegetables or something like fried cabbage dressed up with hot dogs.  Michelle treated us to mango salsa, fresh avocado dip (from the tree in the backyard) and chips a couple nights ago – thanks to recipes from our teammate, Tamara Boone.

The variety of foods and number of prepared foods do not exist here like the States.  Items differ in price and can be expensive, while others are similar or cheaper than the US.

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja.

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja.

We have started language training, learning Luganda.  I was able to find a downloadable DVD from Amazon before leaving the States.  It seems the family is picking up the language quickly, and enjoying it.  They like the Lugandan word for toast, which consists of two words meaning “bread” and “fire.”

Josh started school back two weeks ago.  Since he was out of school for our transition here, he will be working through the summer and into the fall.

Today, the power went out from 4:30 am until after we returned from church.  Power outages really haven’t been bad since we arrived.  And today, I drove the Boones vehicle to church, without an accident – dodging potholes, botas (motorcycles), pedestrians, bicycles, all the while driving on the left side of the road, which was a challenge.  I am thankful nothing significant happened.

Tomorrow our girls will be going with Anna, our Equip Uganda team member from Oregon, to visit three or four Childrens’ ministries.  They are looking for a place to volunteer their time.  Half the population in Uganda is fifteen (15) years-old or less.

Tomorrow Samuel returns here (see Samuel’s story by clicking on the word, Relationships), and I look forward to seeing and listening to him.  I continue work (more about that in a future post), language training, learning the culture and visiting different places, like our Farming God’s Way project this Friday outside Jinja.

“Weraba.” (Pronounced “Wehr ah bah” Luganda for “Good-bye”).  All the best (and the best is Jesus!)