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Welcome to Barb's Corner: A Blog About Caring


Your Own Personal Theology of Suffering ...

Did you know that ALL of us have developed our own theology of suffering?  Does that surprise you?  Your theology of suffering might be Biblically sound or not.  Perhaps you have never thought of it – and maybe you would disagree that you have your own theology of suffering, but let me ask you a question or two …

When you or someone you love suffers through some kind of loss, what is your reaction?  Do you struggle with these thoughts – Why, God?  Why me?  I trust you…I believe in you…I don’t understand how this could happen to me …or…Your theology of suffering may look something like this – If I pray hard enough, trust hard enough, God will answer and give me the results that I am asking for…

Let me give you some ideas of other’s theology of suffering from the Bible to get us started:

Job’s theology of suffering went something like this:  Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said…“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold….I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted….Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…..My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you…I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.”

Job’s wife; however, had a different theology of suffering – “Are you still holding on to your integrity?  Curse God and die!”

Abraham when he was tested to lay down his only son, Isaac – “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Joseph – when he revealed himself to his brothers, “I am your brother, Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Mordecai (Esther’s cousin) – “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?”

Suffering is inevitable – In this world we WILL suffer.  How might we not only endure those difficult things that come into our lives but grow and gain hope through them?

Romans 5 helps us gain a Biblical perspective on suffering – “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”



Change is Difficult – No Matter How You Dress It Up

Recently, I have found myself in the midst of many life changes – some good; some difficult; some sad; some – well, just different!  I would love to be able to say to you that I have handled each one with grace, with a smile on my face, with courage and determination.  Rather, I must admit that some have been just plain hard….and I haven’t always been graceful or smiley or thankful.

In fact, I have (maybe without even realizing it) thought I could control the change(s) and influenced the outcome.  Sometimes, truth be told, God does put me in a position to do exactly that.  I am asked for input, allowed to give my ‘two cents,’ listened to and have the opportunity to affect the end results.

At other times, however, I’m, well, just given the opportunity to grow through the changes that happen around me.  Some of those changes – maybe all of them – involve some kind of loss, and loss produces grief.   We all know at least some of the elements of grief – disappointment, hurt, anger, sadness, pain, even suffering, shock, resolution, acceptance --- and wouldn’t it be nice if these all happened in some kind of orderly fashion, a steady pattern of grieving where once we got through one phase we could move onto the next, never having to look back or have a ‘do-over’ of a particular piece of the grieving process.  Grief just doesn’t happen like that – we go in an out and circle back around through emotions and struggles.  You have heard me say more than once – GRIEF TAKES AS LONG AS IT TAKES! – even the grief that comes about due to change in our lives.

So, because God is a God of new beginnings, may He give us the strength, the help and the grace to accept the changes He allows to come into our lives and to do so in such a way that brings honor to Him and growth to us.


Ministering Through Grief

Sometimes we just don’t know what to do or to say – that is an absolutely true statement!  Every day we and those around us experience loss, change, and transition which we must grieve.  Grief is intense emotional suffering caused by loss, and while it is normal, it involves hard work.  Does that surprise you – that grief not only equals loss; it involves hard work…grief work!

Grief often begins with shock, whether it involves loss of life, loss of relationship, loss of livelihood, loss of the person’s living situation, or loss of health.  There may be emotional or physical symptoms as well.  Some people openly express their grief; others show no emotion.  Perhaps you are right in the midst of your own grief work – or you may be helping others work through their own loss. 

In the past, the model for Christians was to keep a stiff upper lip and to endure the pain and agony of the loss with little or no expression of emotion.  Perhaps even more incongruent with the truth of Scripture are those Christians who put on a ‘happy face,’ denying the pain of grief, which in effect denies the need for a Savior and a Comforter.  Expressing one’s grief does not express a lack of faith in God; instead it can lead to a deeper understanding of the need for God.  Grief is the proper expression of feelings associated with the loss of someone or something significant in our lives, and those who have lost someone close need time to rest and a person with whom they can express their grief. 

Many feel uncomfortable with other’s pain and don’t know what to say to those who are grieving.  Walking beside one who is grieving does NOT mean that you have the perfect things to say or do – it DOES mean that you are willing to walk alongside during the process, listening, holding their hand, praying.  The more comfortable you are with grief as a natural process, the better able you will be to accept yourself or others who are grieving right where they are and effectively minister to them.  And … if you are the griever, it means that you will be able to accept the listening friend who wishes to come alongside of you.

Crying, shock and numbness, nightmares, anger, guilt, irritability, restlessness, sleeplessness and loss of appetite all may be symptoms of the normal process of grief.  As we walk beside others who go through the valley of the shadow of death, God promises (from Psalm 32) that “He will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; He will counsel you and watch over you.”  You do NOT have to figure this all out on your own – God will be your teacher!  Ask for His help – and He most lovingly and most graciously will give it!


Small Does Not Mean Insignificant

“Why can’t I ‘get over myself’ … shake this gloom and doom … recognize that the things I am dealing with are not earth shattering?  In fact, many, many people around me are struggling far more than I am.”

Does the above describe you?  Do you find yourself in a funk or depression of sorts and not sure why?  Sometimes it is difficult to even pin point the root, isn’t it?  To start with, I have found it helpful to ask God to help me distinguish the root from the branches!  Unless I deal with root issues, I will become distracted with branch issues and continue to be side-tracked and unable to openly identify what it is that is causing my struggle.

Having identified the root issue, what if it is  seemingly a small one … that seems minor comparatively speaking … one that I ought to be able just to shake off?  I find these verses from the Book of Proverbs helpful.  (Bear with me in reading through Proverbs 30:24-28 …)

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise:  Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.”

All four of these examples:  the ant, the coney, the locust, and the lizard are miniscule, relatively speaking.  Yet … the lessons to be learned from each one are significant:  little strength, not much power, no identified leader, BUT focused and united and able to accomplish much!

What does all of this have to do with your funk or depression?  The issue you are dealing with, though seemingly small in scope, is NOT insignificant.  NOR are you!  These ‘small’ issues can help you to grow (“Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds – big or small – because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1).    Growth happens IN and THROUGH struggles … there is no other way to grow.  AND you – and they (your struggles) are significant to God.

I want to remind you of your significance to God – (from Psalms 139…)  “O Lord, you have searched me and you KNOW me.  You know when I SIT and when I RISE; you perceive my THOUGHTS from afar.  You discern my GOING OUT and my LYING DOWN; you are familiar with ALL MY WAYS!”

He really knows you AND He loves you and He understands every struggle.  The issues may be small – but NOT insignificant.  God KNOWS and HE CARES!



What Will Today Hold For You

            What Will Today Hold For You?, 12.15.10

What will today hold for you?  Perhaps you went to bed last night with a heavy heart or a tired body or a confused mind.  You may have slept fitfully and awakened feeling sluggish, unrested, hurried and harried and dreading this day.  Will it be a repeat of yesterday?  Might you have some of the same disagreements you had yesterday?  Are the stressors in your life going to increase rather than decrease with the added pressures of today?

As you look at your little ‘corner of the world’ and see those around you enjoying and celebrating the Christmas holiday season and looking forward to the New Year, and you recognize that you are definitely not enjoying OR celebrating, what will you do with your personal pain?

You’ve heard the expression – “no pain; no gain” – and you may have resonated with it in terms of exercise, dieting, or other such mundane life events.  I wonder if you have ever stopped to ponder this expression in the context of the Christmas and Easter seasons -- where we have the ultimate example of the gain that comes from pain – the pain of the birth of a Baby in a manger, the difficult life the Incarnate Son of God lived here on this earth, culminating in His death on the cross and the eternal benefit for all who accept the Christ of Christmas and the Risen Lord of Easter.

God is a God of new beginnings.  God is a God of love.  God is the Redeemer.  The new beginning of Christmas, with the birth of the Christ-Child, speaks to us - who fear that today will be the same as yesterday - of the HOPE that today is a new day – a new beginning.  The God of love reminds us that His love is ever new and eternal.  The Redeemer God shows us that God can and does redeem our pain.   He invades our life with people and events that direct us; He graces us with wisdom and direction.

What will today hold for you?  It is a new day – one that God has made.


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