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Suffering = freedom

November 28, 2010

I told Sondra that I meant to write about this a few weeks ago, but I’ve been kind of out of it the past few weeks, stressing out about silly things like money (well, the painful lack of) and letting that overcome me with grief.

The church I grew up in has a new pastor, and let me tell you, as a teacher, he is infinitely better than his predecessor, although he’s still no Michael Hidalgo. Anyway. I’ve only been to church a few times since he’s taken the helm, but I appreciate his lessons. He, like Michael, is not afraid to talk about the fact that we are broken human beings and that the goal of Christianity isn’t to become perfect, but to accept our brokenness and live humbly as such.

A few weeks ago, his sermon was about suffering. He talked about how there is a huge misconception in the world that belief in God means that you won’t know pain and suffering, when, in fact, it’s the exact opposite — you are guaranteed a life of pain and suffering by choosing to follow Christ.

Naturally, the sermon got me thinking about my own suffering, especially in the past, oh six years or so of my life, which, I’ll be honest, has felt like nothing but suffering at times. I was actually reading my journal last night, this current edition being the one I started in 2006 when Alissa was about 2 months old. I don’t write in it as often as I used to, since I blog a lot and such, but there are four recurrent themes from the past four years:

1. Me wishing Alissa’s dad would have a change of heart and desire to know what a truly amazing gift she is. I’m happy to say that is finally happening.

2. Me pining for Kevin.

3. My desire to grow my photography business.

4. Me stressed out about how thin my finances have been stretched.

Funny thing on that last one. Nothing’s changed except my address. And that is infinitely maddening. The good news is, I haven’t yet drowned, I’m still treading water and the horizon is looking good. I think mostly because I’m so tired of being where I am that I am determined to make a dramatic change — sink or swim.

The whole message was terribly interesting, especially when the pastor quoted from Psalm 88 (which he points out is the only Psalm that ends with a negative tone) and he shared with us vs. 18: “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.”  This entire Psalm talks about suffering and not being able to see the face of God and not trusting in His salvation and I really loved it because that is life. That is how most of us feel every single day that we are faced with adversity…like we’ve been left there to suffer and die. Then he talked about Christ and how his life was led with nothing but pain and suffering, and he took on the ultimate sacrifice of pain and suffering for us all. But that sacrifice didn’t guarantee us to be free from it, just that we would be saved despite it.

Funnily enough, this sermon didn’t really help me to be more accepting of the suffering in my own life – I hate it tremendously – but it did allow me to grow in one respect. My (seemingly) insurmountable goal of being better with forgiveness. You see, the only person that has ever hurt and betrayed me that I have been able to unconditionally forgive has been Alissa’s dad. I think because in my heart, I understand him, I don’t really know, but it has been incredibly easy to forgive him for not being there.

But some of the people in my life that have hurt me, the very people sitting in that room at church that morning, I have struggled with forgiveness for many years. That morning, as I sat there and thought of the suffering I did as a teenager and young adult, the suffering that those very people judged me for, and though of how that suffering pushed me away from church, but brought me closer to God, I forgave all of them. It felt pretty darn good too. It felt even better when I went to the funeral of one of those church members yesterday and walked into the room genuinely glad to see all of them.

It’s funny to me that suffering can bring peace and freedom to your life when you least expect it. But I guess that’s just how it’s supposed to be.

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