Tag Archives: human suffering

How Can God Be Good If People Suffer?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

One of the keys to peace and mental health is to stop trying to control what is out of our control. Anxiety has been kicking my backside recently. When I remember to let go and let God, there is more calm. 

An ancient question stems from our human desire to control everything – even our image of God. The often anxious perception that we should not suffer if God is good, is based on knee-jerk reactions to human pain.  We demand that if we cannot stop evil and struggles, then God should! 

I’m coming from the premise that God is always good, no matter what. As a student of the Bible, the biblical statement* that God understands our troubles rings true to me. That does not mean I have all the answers. If that were possible, I would be equal to God, and he would cease to be sovereign.  

How we know Jesus understands when we hurt and cry.

Jesus endured the physical and emotional frustrations of celibacy and singleness. More than that, he understood what was in every person’s heart, so he entrusted himself to no one. He grieved over deaths of loved ones.  His heart stung when family members rejected his message and misunderstood his purpose.

Friends deserted him at the worst moment of his life. One in particular betrayed him to death! He suffered mental agony, knowing his enemies would torture and crucify him.  HIs greatest sorrow no doubt was on the cross, when he sensed that God, his father with whom he was one,  had turned his face away.   

Jesus could have envied others who did not suffer, but he did not. He focused on eternity.

Is God good when life seems unfair?

Asaph was a songwriter and musician. He was so talented that he answered directly to the King. His job was to lead the entire nation of Israel in worship of God at the ancient Temple in Israel.

One of his songs even made its way into the Bible. Psalm 73  is about his suffering and jealousy of those who did not struggle. Worse yet, these healthy and happy people lived with values Asaph could not respect.

He described them this way. “They wear pride like a jeweled necklace  and clothe themselves with cruelty.  These fat cats have everything  their hearts could ever wish for!.”**

Sound familiar? Dissatisfaction, frustration, and anger often come from expecting our version of fair.   

Sherry lost her childhood to abuse and neglect. As a Christian believer, she wondered why God had not protected her. Praying, she said, “God where were you when I cried?”  A gentle reassurance spoke to her heart. 

“I cried too.” 

Like many of us, Asaph and Sherry temporarily forgot God’s nature of Goodness.  He does not guarantee our joy but teaches us how to find it and live in it forever. 

  Focusing on permanence

Physical health, friendships, family, financial success, emotional well-being, and more seem to promise happiness in the present.  Some of us experience that, and many do not. No matter what we find, happiness (and pain) in this lifetime are temporary. 

One of Jesus’ followers 2000 years ago authored a book.  He encouraged his readers to place their priorities on eternity. He wrote, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” ***

Whenever disappointment and outright suffering come my way, it is this focus on eternity that keeps my eyes off self-pity and on hope. Difficulty teaches me how to get out of bed when life hurts. Strength gained through adversity is why purpose guides my choices despite even severe loss. 

Meet Paul

  • Unjustly imprisoned on several occasions
  • 5 times flogged with 39 lashes 
  • 3 times beaten with rods
  • pelted with rocks nearly to death
  • in 3 shipwrecks, one time spending about 24 hours in the open sea 
  • In constant danger
  • often went without sleep, food, or warmth

In my opinion, this qualifies him to speak on suffering and God! Paul was one of the first Christians in the first century A.D., and a traveling preacher. Remarkably, his focus was an eternal one. 

He wrote, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” ****

Wow. 

We know God is good when our eyes are on the truth of who He is. 

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

*Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

**Psalm 73: 6-7

***Matthew 6:19-21

****2 Corinthians 4:18

-eye pic by KIMOLOS on rgbstock.com;  glorious sky by MICROMOTH at rgbstock.com

Maundy Thursday: Finding Comfort Despite Agony of Spirit

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Agony of spirit. It behaves like expanding foam, filling our bodies to the point of explosion, pressing against frantic hearts, making nearly useless our gasps for air, and squeezing unseen walls within our brains until there is no longer space for more pain. It has to come out.

Looking for Relief

Some of us lay in bed unable to act, staring at nothing, questioning our will to live.  Lashing out against ourselves or others may release some of the pressure. How much energy we have to do so  varies because after fighting to survive for hours, days, months, or years, we are tired. 

Some of us try to talk it out. Others who have no one to listen, dig deeper into the cavernous despair of unchallenged negative thoughts.  There is prayer, which much of the time does little to immediately relieve intense anguish, yet provides that unfailing rope by which God holds us near to himself. 

That may be the only comfort we know for a while. 

Jesus prayed in his agony

Jesus, on the night before his crucifixion, had yet to be arrested or betrayed. He knew what was coming though. For hours overnight, he wept and moaned in such agony of spirit that his sweat was like blood.

There is much debate over whether he feared the cross, or if he was heartbroken over the momentary separation from God he was about to endure. Was he sad for his mother, family, or friends?  Was this the last temptation by Satan – to run from the mission Jesus had left heaven to complete? 

He begged God, “If this cup could pass…” Which cup? Since I do not believe emotions are ungodly, it is not confusing to me that our sinless Savior agonized over all the above and more.  Powerful claw-like emotions grasped for his mind and permeated his body. For Jesus, they poured out in tears and pleas to his Father for comfort.

Comfort, not escape

“Not my will, but yours.” Jesus surrendered once again to the only One who had ever been true to him, who loved him without measure, and who had always held his devotion. Heavy of heart, disappointed, and tormented,  Jesus clung through prayer to the unfailing rope of God’s love.

Agony of spirit does not leave us quickly. Trauma and later memories, injustice and abuse, great loss, suffering, and shaky wellbeing drop us to our knees. Nonetheless, we can rest, exhausted, in the embrace of God who hears us in our panic, depression, desperation, and mental torture. He never, ever abandons his children. 

Today’s Helpful Word

  **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

top pic from scottmluddell @rgbstock.com; Jesus pic from http://www.LumoProject.com

 

 

If God Is Good, Why Did Mass Murder Occur at Church? 4 Thoughts

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Probably the biggest issue we struggle with in times of senseless loss is when innocent people, especially children, suffer or die. Half of Sunday’s victims were children. They were murdered in church, of all places.

Does God see this? Does he care? Is there something else at play? 

No one, not even the smartest and most studied theologian in the world can answer why bad things happen to specific people. Here are four responses to that heavy question I believe apply. 

Free Choice

Mass murders are evil. God as revealed in the Bible is the antithesis of evil. Mass murders happen because this world is sinful, and many, many people use God’s loving gift of free choice to hurt others. We have options that either lead us toward the goodness of God or away from it. Most of us do both to varying degrees. That is why we need a Savior – Jesus, God’s own Son – to find forgiveness of sins and learn to do what is right. 

Lack of Knowledge

Sometimes we do not stop the evil among us because we do not know what to do. Domestic abuse is evil. The fact that the shooter in Texas committed domestic violence should have been enough for people around him to wise up and take precautions. Unfortunately, as a world society we are quite ignorant about what to do with abusers. We do not understand the nature of abuse.

Abuse is always about power and control. Always. It escalates, and does not diminish over time. It is not a “bad day” or “one time event.” Abusers feel entitled, manipulate our emotions, and will play whatever role we need until we offer mercy.   We are unwise to ignore that only years of consistent change in an abuser’s worldview can give us faith in his or her character. Rarely does an abuser change.

Satan

No one can say, “The devil made me do it.”  God’s enemy is out to destroy all that points to God, yes. He is even described in the Bible as a lion prowling the earth seeking whom he may devour. However, we choose between God and his plan or Satan’s ways. 

Satan is behind evil such as we saw in Texas this week. Keep in mind, his end is assured and has been prophesied since the first humans sinned. He does not win the final spiritual war. 

God Cares

We know he does if we believe what the Bible says about his character. 

He seesPsalm 33: 13 -15
The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.
He hears the cries of the innocentPsalm 9:12
For [God] who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
He hates murder of innocents – Proverbs 6: 16-19
There are …things…that are detestable to him: …hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil…
Judgment is coming Psalm 37:7-10
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. … For those who are evil will be destroyed… A little while, and the wicked will be no more…

Testimonies from survivors of the Texas mass shooting reveal a focus on the eternal, and trust in God.  In that little church, they taught and listened to the words of Jesus, such as these incredible sentences in Today’s Helpful Word:

Today’s Helpful Word

Matthew 10:27-31

“Don’t be afraid of those who can kill only your bodies—but can’t touch your souls! Fear only God who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t worry! You are more valuable to him than many sparrows.”

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below).  NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

Superficial Treatment for a Mortal Wound

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-24784637-praying-businessmanAnyone can recover from Major Depression. Anyone.

Just as mental illness will affect 1 in 4 persons this year without prejudice, so recovery does not depend on religion, gender, social status, race, lifestyle, age, education, financial stability, or any other divider of persons.

My message to those who struggle emotionally has been, “Stay alive! There is hope!” To supports and potential supports I’ve said, “Learn to understand! Be present without judgment!”

Myriad educational resources on the topics of mental illness, suicide prevention, addiction, and abuse have come to my attention. None has come up with a solution to school shootings, mass murder, inexplicable traumatic events, war, or any other human atrocity.

Have we settled for less than the complete answer to our pain and hopelessness? The human race is suffering from a mortal wound. We can learn to think more clearly, behave effectively, and manage our emotions. What we cannot do is change the state of our powerlessness over evil.

Hope has to be eternal if we are going to face this fact with peace or joy.  When I attempted suicide, pain was defining my life’s value.  Past and present suffering served as ‘proof’ that the future held no good worth facing inevitable agony.

I was wrong.

Value in living is found in something far greater than me or my few years on earth. There is a divine plan I can choose to participate in or reject. God made a way for eternal hope, a forever-with-him-in-paradise hope. He sent his son Jesus, who professed publicly to be the only way to God, truth with a capital T, and our source of life itself.

Through his utter absence of wrong-doing as both fully God and fully human, Jesus became the only one ever eligible to take the punishment for human evil by paying with his life. Because of his compassionate love for us, we can choose to believe and celebrate our future. Will life get easier? Not likely.

Yet our mortal wound will be forever healed.

******

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from qualitystockphotos