Dealing with Suffering

Posted on 2007-08-09. Filed under: Quotes, Thoughts |

Here’s some quotes from Hiding From Love regarding hiding. This is a big concept in the book as the last three chapters have been on it. These quotes are from the first chapter which discusses how we deal with suffering. This chapter has really made me think about past and present relationships and both how I have been hurt in them and how I have hurt others. Relationships are so not logical. But, if we accept that, we can try to examine them and see what is happening and why.

Even though it’s a “post-Fall” concept, some hiding is necessary. Many Christians feel that they should not only endure whatever is thrown their way, but even volunteer for more pain, because they view that as “suffering for Christ.” This is not a biblical view. Much suffering we experience is neither for God’s glory nor for our good. Without some types of self-protection, we suffer in destructive ways. There are good and bad reasons to withdraw from pain.

Primarily, emotional pain comes from problems in our relatedness to God, self, or others.

Let’s define suffering as what we experience when a need or wish goes unmet.

What we do with the suffering we encounter has to do with the meaning of the pain we’re in. There are some suffering experiences we are to embrace joyfully, and some we are to resist with all our strength.

Just suffering is our teacher. …Some of the things you and I feel distress about are the natural consequences of our actions. These aren’t punishments from God as much as they are teachers and friends to us. Suffering can help us train for life.

Our suffering is inevitable when we don’t pay attention to our psychological symptoms, or deal with the hurt part of the heart. In other words, these sorts of troublesome emotions and behaviors are friends saying to us, “Here’s a problem – start working on it.” When we don’t pay attention to emotional pain – and treat it appropriately – then, as in the effects of physical pain, we will suffer the consequences.

Preventable, unjust suffering raises the question of love versus justice. Think about your daily encounters in which you have an opportunity to suffer or not to suffer. …These and countless other situations provide us with the choice to allow ourselves to experience some sort of distress. A second “distress” is determining whether to keep quiet or confront; to allow irresponsibility or to prevent it; to suffer pain or avoid it. Some people say, “Christians should just ‘take it.'” Others say, “We must always confront injustice.” Actually, it’s not that simple, no matter which side you take. God says a great deal about suffering voluntarily, and yet also a great deal about refusing evil. The pivotal point between these two worlds hsa to do with two aspects of God’s character: love and justice. The principle here is this: Wehn our need for justice exceeds our ability to love, we responsibly withdraw. This “responsible withdrawal” is helpful hiding.

There are times when the heart is empty or injured and has nothing to give. In these times we need justice, in the form of support away from suffering, in order to become reconnected to God and others. This reconnection lifts us out of deprivation and need and into a position of gratitude. When the heart is full, it indciates that we have received love. At this point, allowing another to inconvenience us would not damage our heart. Our ability to love is enhanced beyond our need for justice.

Love, joy, and gratitude are the fruit of God’s Spirit of grace. They are the results of being loved; they’re not something we can choose at will. …If we’re allowing ourselves to suffer because of fear, obligation, or guilt, we can’t respond from a loving position: as John says in his first epistle, perfect love casts out fear.

To feel unloving … is not a sign of pride or being unspiritual. It’s the heart’s way of saying that we’re disconnected from relationship in some way. There’s been a break in our need to be rooted and grounded in love. Helpful hiding is the opposite of forcing ourselves to suffer resentfully. It takes wisdom to know how much deprivation we can take in a relationship before real damage occurs. The biblical solution is to withdraw in order to protect the soul. This means knowing when our need for justice is greater than our ability to love. In this context, withdrawal is not selfishness, but responsible stewardship.

The ability to set limits requires knowledge of the state of our heart. We need to know which parts of ourselves are more tender and in need of more grace.

The more loved we are, the more we’re able to withstand suffering from a loved position. We can endrure more deprivation in the present if we’ve had enought consistent, warm, accepting attachment in the past.

The “love versus justice” principle may be frustrating for some Christians who would like more defined “rules of conduct” about suffering. They may feel anxious without specific guidelines for the particular kinds of situations in which they should or shouldn’t allow themselves to suffer. Rules certainly make some aspects of life easier. But allegiance to them indicates a fear of error, not a mark of love. People who love know they’ll make mistakes. But they also know they’ll learn from them and mature through them. Jesus taught in principles. Principles require a degree of maturity in discerning how to apply them. Jesus’ summation of the entire Law in loving God and people was a slap in the face of religious tradition. Tradition had taken the place of a relationship with God.

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