Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CHAINS! SUFFERING!

I was reading more of Romans last night, and ran across this little theme of Paul's, so I have to talk about it.  This post is dedicated to Mary, who never failed to point this theme out in a certain memorable way whichever of Paul's epistles we happened to be studying at the time.

Chapter 5 verse 3: "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings..."  Wait, what?  Paul, what are you smoking and where can I get some?  Because I'm pretty sure I only complain in my sufferings, and I have the posts to prove it, though I'm not going to humiliate myself by linking them for you.

"Rejoice in our sufferings."  Such a startling phrase.  I want to keep saying it over and over again, because it's so foreign and ridiculous.  Typically we only rejoice in our sufferings if there's a possibility that someone's at fault so we can sue for cash.

Paul says that the reason that we rejoice in our sufferings is because suffering produces endurance.  Ouch!  I have about the least endurance of anyone you could ever hope to meet: "Eh, that's getting slightly difficult now and/or I don't want to do it anymore. What should I do? What should I do?  Well, probably the only sensible thing to do is to throw up my hands and go watch something on hulu.  After all, there should be something good, and in lieu of that, there's guaranteed to be mindless garbage that I can numb my brain with and avoid anything that smacks of work or difficulty."

If endurance then produces character, then maybe I should work on that.  Who knew that every time my dad told me that doing the dishes was character building, he had biblical back up?

I really love that Paul says that character produces hope "and hope does not disappoint us" because of God's great love for us.  I love that phrase, too, "hope does not disappoint."

I was reading the Navarre Bible, so there were some pretty extensive footnotes.  It cross-referenced several other verses as to why suffering was necessary. (Again with the necessary? But I don't LIKE suffering!)

James 1:2-4 "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness produce it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

So clearly James and Paul have the same messed up view of reality, putting "joy" and "suffering" in the same place.

Peter does a good job of making it come together for me.  I hope you can see by now that I am the biggest pansy when it comes to suffering.  I have not had any great tragedies in my life, and the greatest suffering for me has been dealing with the great desire I have to be a wife and mother, and the fact that I am not either one.  Let me tell you, if I am first-timer at the gym, God is my trainer, and suffering is my work out, this is how it goes:

Me: (after a 5 minute warm-up on the treadmill) "Wow, God! That was a crazy workout!  Thanks for all you've taught me.  We're done now, right?"
God: (No words, just smiles and shakes His head. I think He might have smothered a laugh.)

Thing is, God, like a good trainer, pushes me farther than I knew was possible.  He makes me do things that seem ridiculous.  The whole time, I keep trying to explain to Him all the reasons why I can't do this, and He resolutely tells me that I can.  I really am the biggest whiner, at least to God, if not out loud, but He doesn't stop when I want Him to.  Just when I think I've mastered a new exercise, He makes it harder.  When one group of muscles is taxed to the extreme, He starts in on another group of muscles.  And don't forget, this really is a beginner kind of work out.

So why do we subject ourselves to heartless trainers? To get results of fitness.

Why do we rejoice in suffering?

1 Pet 1:6-7,9: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ...As the outcome of your faith you obtain salvation for your souls."

Oh. Right.

A couple of the saints on suffering:

"A person who hopes for something and strives eagerly to attain it is ready to endure all kinds of difficulty and distress.  Thus, for example, a sick person, if he is eager to be healthy, is happy to take the bitter medicine which will cure him.  Therefore, one sign of the ardent hope that is ours thanks to Christ is that we glory not only in the hope of future glory, but also in the afflictions which we suffer to attain it." - Thomas Aquinas

Perfection consists "in the bringing of our wills so closely in conformity with the will of God that, as soon as we realize he wills anything, we desire it ourselves with all our might, and take the bitter with the sweet, knowing that to be His Majesty's will [...]. If our love is perfect, it has this quality of leading us to forget our own pleasure in order to please him who we love. And that indeed is what happens" -Theresa of Avila

3 comments:

  1. I am -still- trying to wrap my head around phrases like "the gift of suffering". I've been "gifted" a lot and there are times when I really wish there was a return policy, LOL. The hardest thing about suffering is that it makes it feel like it will last forever. It is easy to be caught up in the seemingly endlessness of suffering when it occurs here on earth. That's when I ahve to remind myself just how fleeting this life is and what I should be focusing on is what truly is eternal.

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  2. A return policy! I love it! Suffering is one of those mysteries of life where I can't wait to get to heaven to figure it out.

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  3. I figure once I get to heaven I won't care about the explanation anymore. :)

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