Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Suffer With

One of the things I learned while I was on the field is how to suffer.

I know, I know, that’s so dramatic. But it’s true. There are so many different kinds of trials that it’s hard to talk about them in generalities, so right now I’m going to focus on compassion, otherwise known as suffering with others.

When I was in Mexico, I learned something about three different friends in the youth group there: one who was 15 and pregnant, one struggling with homosexual feelings, and one who was abusing drugs. I was totally overwhelmed by each of these situations, knowing full well that I had never dealt with any of those specific things, and I had no idea how to help. These were obviously not the only overwhelming or painful situations I encountered in my ministry, but these were the ones that hurt me most. I remember one night in particular, going into the bathroom in our apartment and just sobbing as silently as I could. I didn’t even know what to pray to God, much less what to say to them. I felt helpless as a missionary, and even more importantly, as a friend.

But the story isn't over. A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 56:8 – “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” I love the thought that God knows our every tear. One of the shortest verses in the Bible, “Jesus wept,” demonstrates one of Jesus’ defining attributes: his compassion on humanity, manifested by his coming to our world and suffering with us to show us that he cares and to save us from the worst of fates. Paul says to the Colossians that he rejoices in his sufferings for them, that he is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the church”.

These words convince me that there is something inherently and yet intangibly valuable in our sufferings here on earth. I wish I could calculate it right away, but I guess that’s where trust comes in; it’s not an exact equation. In these situations with my friends that I described, I cried for them and let my tears be a prayer for healing and redemption. My suffering isn’t like Jesus’ in the sense that his washed away our sins, but my suffering can, like Paul’s, make a difference in my own soul as well as others, by the grace of God. Sometimes there are happy endings, and other times we just have to wait and watch, remembering that God really does care. I’ll end with this poem I wrote after that night of crying in the bathroom:








save them

in a cup, just

like you promised.

If you can walk on water,

you can build my tears into

something beautiful. I trust

you, more than ever tonight.

This pain must be used for

something valuable,

healing, like yours.


-Brettin White

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Night At A Temporary Inn

C.S. Lewis in his book "The Problem of Pain" talks about the fact that we humans will never experience true peace here on earth. The reason for this is simple. God wants us always to remember that there is something better out there for us. "This world is not our home." So, we dwell on this earth in "pleasant inns," not mistaking our temporary shelter for the permanent homes God has for us in eternity.

Suppose C.S. Lewis is right. What if God in his great love, purposefully chose to allow us to endure trials here on earth, if for no other reason than to remind us that this place is not where we want to be? What if pain on earth were a tool of evangelism? Could sorrow be an instrument of God, always reminding us that life here is not like life there?

Today, no matter the trial, no matter the sorrow, we find temporary peace. Our peace comes from the inescapable truth that good things are coming on the horizon. No matter how hard we try or want it, earth will always have some level, some amount of pain. And yet, just like the light from the empty tomb overpowering a wooden cross, God's blessing isn't far away either. One day we will be with him in comfort. One day we will have our permanent peace.

- Chris Johnson

Monday, October 11, 2010

Meet the AnimAimers

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Burden Lifting God

Numbers 11:10- Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the LORD, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” 16 The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.

I hate that Moses was so frustrated (but it helps me know that it’s okay to be frustrated). I hate that he was so tired from carrying those people that he was asking God to take him out (but it helps me know that it’s okay to be honest with the Lord).

I love that God heard him in his frustration (it helps me know that He hears me when I cry out in frustration). I love that God gave him a solution and let Moses know that He recognized his pain (it helps me know that He gives me solutions as well and recognizes my pain).

I was carrying some burdens. Those burdens included but were not limited to: family, guilt, resentment, confusion, pain, loneliness, sin, heartache, insomnia, and addiction. I felt a lot like Moses when he told God “the burden is too heavy for me”. Much of my burdens were the result of poor choices … they were my own fault.

But you know what? God still delivered me. He heard my cry and He reached out … and took that load off my shoulders.

Had anyone asked me how any one of those burdens should have been handled I would have had my ideas for solutions. I don’t know that I would have chosen God’s solutions if He had asked. But He didn’t really ask … He just answered. Answers came through: divorce, confession, forgiveness, Bible study, prayer, surgery, moving, quitting a job, starting a new job, faith … and learning to trust a group of folks that would eventually help me carry the burdens that were still too heavy for me to bear.

- Paige Foreman