Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘pain’

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

In Life and Culture, Suffering on October 27, 2014 at 8:56 am

suffering article 2

“I couldn’t serve a God who allows such evil and suffering.  If one has the power to affect change, how could that one not use it?”

This is the argument of many when the discussion turns to the presence of evil and suffering in the world.  If God is all-powerful and all loving as the Bible portrays then it does not jive with the presence of evil and suffering today. Or does it?  Some would argue that if God is powerful but chooses not to help then He is not all loving.  If He wants to help but cannot then He is not all-powerful.

Is it really that simple?  Nothing ever is.

The truth is that the presence of evil and suffering in the world is the result of choice by both God and you.  God, by His own choosing, has allowed all created thoughtful beings to have a choice.  Because of the allowance of choice He took the risk of evil and suffering.  If we can choose right, then we can also choose wrong.  Man, by his own choosing, chooses wrong and faces the consequences of choice.  Thus, evil and suffering is present because of God and Humanity.

Evil

One argument is that good and evil, light and dark, and so on are all in a balance.  Because God is good there must be evil to balance:  Yin and Yang.  I believe both are present but not in equality as some would insist.  Evil is present because of choice.  Lucifer chose.  Eve chose. Adam chose. You chose. I chose.  There is the evil that I do.  There is the evil done by others to me.  One is my responsibility, the other is not.

 

Suffering

No one likes to suffer!  The issue is that we demand it removed from our lives.  The problem is that suffering is a part of life, whether we want it or not.  How could I know God strength apart from my weakness; His provision apart from my poverty; His compassion apart from my pain; His wisdom apart from my ignorance?  All that we suffer can point us toward God, if we let it.

 

Not Everyone is Ready for the Truth

Every time I think about this my mind goes to Jack Nicholson screaming at Tom Cruise .  Often when people are in pain or suffering, they are not ready to hear the truth but need to feel the love of God through you.  Please don’t use these statements.

  • God works things out for good…
  • It will all work out
  • God has a reason and you must trust
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
  • There is a purpose for this you will see

When we do it makes us and God look hateful and mean.  Instead, just listen and love for a while.  When the time is right, the Holy Spirit will lead you to share more.  Resist the urge to pontificate and just be polite.


Why Do We Suffer?

The Bible does give us a few reasons, when we are prepared to hear them, as to why we experience suffering.

  1. For our own sake. As mentioned earlier, how could we know God apart from our predicaments?  We learn who God is (Psalm 46) and to trust Him more (2 Cor 1:8-9).  We learn to obey God and become more like Jesus (Romans 8:18-29).  We mature (Hebrews 12:1-11).
  2. For the sake of others. At times, God allows us to grow through difficult times because he wants to reach a lost world or encourage brothers that surround you.  Allowing you to go through something for this reason shows great confidence that God has in you.  Because of how you will react, the Gospel can be seen by others.  The power of transformation that has occurred in your life will shine bright in dark places.  (Phil 1:14 and 2 Cor 4:7-12)
  3. To share in the sufferings with Christ. The mini-series Band of Brothers expresses the truth here.  These men bonded together partly because of being placed in the same division.  Yet, the strength of their bond increased as they suffered together.  There is no better way to stay bonded with Jesus better than to share in suffering with and for Him. (Phil 3:9-10)

 

Dealing with evil and suffering is about perspective.  We don’t have God’s, so we must trust Him.  Will you?

When the Pain Overwhelms

In Journey on January 15, 2014 at 9:58 am

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Over the years I have been in a lot of hospitals with friends, family, and church folk.  I have been in numerous homes with families in crisis.  As is customary, I pray with the family at some point while I am present.  You would think that would be easy, right?  It is obvious what needs to be said, right?  Here are a few components normally desired by any who are there:

  • Tell God to heal them.
  • Remind God He is the Great Healer and can/should do this.
  • Do it right now.
  • Invoke Jesus’ name.
  • Say Amen.

I am certainly not making light of anyone’s pain. I have had my share of it personally also.  I simply believe that we set ourselves up for a fall emotionally and spiritually.  Consider what is actually being said.  In essence, as a minister, we are presenting our case in such a way as if we were in charge.  We “ask” God to heal/help in the problem, but aren’t we really telling Him to fix it right now?  We try to twist His arm with Scripture to get God to do our bidding in our time and to our satisfaction.

When we face problems we tend to follow this certain course.  What if that is not God’s plan?  If we have expressed our heart and we are not OK with anything else then we will be frustrated, angry, and bitter if it does not happen.  Even if it does happen, we will then have an over-inflated view of ourselves and be more insistent the next time.  The bottom line is that we are not in control but want to be.  When pain or circumstances hit us hard we feel out of control.  We go to God and explain the problem and express the solution we want.  The perspective we have is all about us.

Did Jesus ever face this?  Yes He did.  Look at how he dealt with God on the matter.

“Now My soul is troubled. What should I say — Father, save Me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name! ” Then a voice came from heaven:  “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again! ”

Jesus was having to deal with the weight of what was coming.  The pain and torture were undeniably on His mind!  What did He ask for here?  Jesus asked the rhetorical question for all, even us, to hear loud and clear.  Everyone believes you should ask to be saved from whatever problem you are in.  Jesus disagrees.  He recognizes a few things we must also if we are to have peace with God and with our circumstances.

Jesus recognized there is a higher plan in play.  God’s plan is far beyond our understanding.  He has a course of action set in motion to reach a lost world with the Gospel, see them respond in faith, gather the faithful in the end.  Jesus’ moment was but a twinkle in time.  He submitted to the higher plan regardless of the current pain.

Jesus recognized there is a divine perspective to be understood.  Jesus was all God and all Man.  We don’t understand that except to say that the humanity of Jesus was seeking asylum from this pain.  Yet, He chose to view things from 30,000 feet rather than 3 feet.  It is amazing how things look different from that altitude!

Jesus recognized there is power in going through pain.  God could receive all the glory because Jesus’ attitude was right.  He wanted God to receive the glory in His life, in his pain, in his problems, in his death.

How should we pray?  While there is no magical formula, there are a few components that might be spiritually more accurate.

  • Thank God for the blessings you do have.
  • Thank God for the relationship you do have.
  • Share your pain and desire to see healing however God chooses. (Taking a believer to Heaven is a form of healing.)
  • Pray that God would receive glory through the process.
  • Ask God to bring peace and assurance of His presence and plan.
  • Ask God to help you with perspective.

These elements keep our perspective in check and position under God.  He is the commander (Elohim).  He has a plan based on our faith covenant through Jesus (Yahweh).  He has everyone’s best interest in mind and is compassionate to your plight (Adonai).

Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely.
He sees and knows all the way you have trod;
Never alone are the least of His children;
Have faith in God, have faith in God.

Have faith in God when your prayers are unanswered,
Your earnest plea He will never forget;
Wait on the lord, trust His word and be patient,
Have faith in God. He’ll answer yet.

Have faith in God in your pain and your sorrow,
His heart is touched with your grief and despair;
Cast all your cares and your burdens upon Him,
And leave them there, oh, leave them there.

Have faith in God though all else fall about you;
Have faith in God, He provides for His own:
He cannot fail though all kingdoms shall perish.
He rules. He reigns upon His throne.

Drill, Baby, Drill!

In Chrisian Life, Faith, Suffering on November 4, 2013 at 11:19 am

Drilling The Sunset

All over my area you can see oil rigs in the process of set up or tear down.  In both cases, the promise of oil is definite.  It seems the oil boom is on again and times will be good for everyone! In the pasture behind our house a few months ago came three large vehicles all in a row.  We had felt rumbling in the house all morning but were not aware of what it was.  Then we saw the trucks pull up and stop, then the rumble came.  They moved 100 feet and stopped and the rumble came again.  These were the seismologists taking readings.  Someone thought there was something valuable underground and decided to do a little research.  If conditions seems right the drillers will come and set up a new rig to drill down for the oil.  Once the drilling is done, a pumper is put into place to continue to retrieve the oil and pump it to a storage facility.

I was recently reminded that the pains we face in life can be handled in a similar way.  Not every pain is bad.  Not every poor circumstance is awful.  There are times that God allows pain in order to deepen faith.  Sometimes God puts us in awkward, or painful, positions to test our resiliency.  Often, we cannot see this during the trial.  But, to increase our joy and deepen our faith it is a good practice to do the research and drill down for the “black gold”.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

Research – All companies begin with research.  The pain you are in is probably not isolated to you.  Others have faced these circumstances.  Others have experienced this pain.  What have they done?  How have they fared?  Did their faith deepen?  Did God speak to them?  What happened?  When looking for examples of others, be certain to speak further with those whom you find to be what you desire to become.  If you want to be bitter, that will be easy.  If you want to be better, do the research.  Find those who are better as a result of the pain or poor experience.  No one should blindly start drilling without having done the research.

Drill – Once a suitable site has been found a drilling company will be hired to drill a hole  through the earth until it finds oil.  Not all drilling sites will find oil.  However, those who have done the right research are more likely to find oil at the bottom of their pipe!  James says that we are to let endurance have its full effect.  In other words, do not stop in the middle.  What company begins to drill and stops in the middle?  Other than those who go bankrupt, none.  What if you drill and find nothing?  Look around the area.  Most companies, if they find a dry hole, will drill close in the area again because the cost of research has already been spent.  Was the pain for you or for someone else?  It is possible that God allowed the pain to help someone else.  Are you willing to be used by God?

Pump – Now that you have found God’s hand in the process, let the joy pump into your soul.  Letting endurance come to its fullness is like pumping the reservoir as long as possible.  The pain you once felt because of ignorance can now be replaced with peace and joy.  The circumstances you are in now can be seen in a different light and with a different perspective.  It is no longer about you, but about how God is working in and through you.  Let the Holy Spirit do the work to deepen your faith.  Let the Holy Spirit work in you for the benefit of someone else.

Deposit – The royalty checks begin to come in at this point for the company and for those who have mineral rights on the land.  You can cash your spiritual checks of joy, love, peace, and patience also.  God will begin depositing these and other items into your life.  Whether it is coming to terms with the movement of God in the past or being inspired about a current issue, God will bless you with His presence, power, and peace!

Drill, Baby, Drill!

Getting Paid

In Chrisian Life, Decisions on July 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

calendar_payday

Do you remember your first job?  My first job was at Wendy’s.  My favorite part was every two weeks when I would get paid.  The first check seemed to take the longest because I had to work two weeks before getting the check.  That felt like the longest two weeks.  At 17, I hadn’t completely learned the process of work then get paid.  Oh, how I have learned it since!  Every day I would clock in and work my shift and then go home.  I did that for 10 days and couldn’t wait for payday.  When I opened the envelope I was, as many have been, surprised at how much was taken out before it got to me.  I didn’t really care because I had money.  For the first time, I had money I had earned without the help of my parents.  It was a glorious feeling of freedom and maturity.  I took my girlfriend out to dinner and movie that next day to celebrate!!

Getting paid is a common occurrence though we may not consider it often.  We receive wages for everything we do.

  • Money is the most common way of getting paid.  We work and we receive money for our efforts.  This one is obvious.
  • Pain is not a pleasant consideration.  However, the wages for our actions come in many forms.  Depending on what your actions include, pain is quite possibly what you will get paid.  The poor relationship and the choices involved leave emotional scarring that can take years to remove.
  • Guilt and shame are also two forms of payment.  The sin that so easily entangles us will pay you in this way. God created us to live for Him.  When we sin, and we all do, we fall short of God’s glorious purpose for our lives.  Guilt and shame leave their mark on our hearts and minds.  While this is a form of pain, it is vastly different.  These wages lead to alcoholism, abuse, cutting, and more.  We fight to feel alive because the wages of sin are death.
  • Peace and joy come to those who follow after God and invite the Holy Spirit’s influence in and over their lives.  This is a gift of God given toward you as payment for faith.  Once you were at war with God, but now peace has come.  These are the best checks!
  • Cleanness is one way of speaking about sanctification.  Our scripture teaches that this is the wage you earn when living by God’s standards.

We all receive wages for every action.  You have the choice to make as to which ones you desire to earn.  God does not force you either way but leaves the choice up to you.  I have earned from both sides.  I assure you that God’s wages are much more beneficial and long-lasting!

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from allegiance to righteousness. 21 So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification —and the end is eternal life! 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.       – Romans 6:20-23

Neuropathy Treatments

In Church, Cleansing on May 9, 2013 at 11:16 pm

neuropathy

Neuropathy comes in many forms.  I recently studied about this problem because of a family member.  A basic understanding is that a set of nerves is not communicating properly.  This can lead to loss of feeling, loss of limbs, extreme pain, and possibly more.  In one case, the patient was experiencing severe abdominal pain.  After much testing and prognosticating, the doctors decided that it was a result of intestinal neuropathy being exacerbated by abdominal migraines.  This issue in this case was that the pain being felt was exaggerated by the nerve pack and telling the brain a higher pain amount than what was likely the reality.  Pain was real and being felt, however the communication was exaggerated.  The severity of the pain was causing normal life to come to a grinding halt, coping mechanisms to falter, and appetite to lessen.  Once this was discovered medicine was prescribed and would take a couple of weeks before taking effect.

I have served in the local church for almost 20 years.  I grew up in church as a deacon’s kid and then pastor’s kid.  I have seen my share of pain and dysfunction along the way.  This research has shown me a few insights into local church life worthy of sharing with you today.  I pray that you will read these and begin making changes in your life and your church.  One of things that we all ask is how something comes to be.  What triggers neuropathy, pain, attendance drops, or church splits?

1.  Poor Nutrition.  It is not too difficult to understand that what you ingest into your system makes all the difference.  A healthy diet creates a healthy person.  A steady diet of junk food, fatty foods, etc will cause many and severe problems.  This works spiritually as well.  A healthy diet of scripture creates a healthy spiritual life.  You will be able to withstand viruses and sicknesses more readily.  A church that lacks solid Bible teaching from the pulpit will become weak and lifeless.

2.  Trauma.  Sometimes a body can face a trauma that triggers this problem as well.  Carpal Tunnel is generally acquired in those who have repetitive motion.  Someone who does the same thing over and over can cause nerve damage.  How true that is in our spiritual lives!  There are good habits (reading scripture) and bad habits (gossip, lying, cheating stealing, cussing) can cause trauma to tissue and nerve endings.  Those bad habits can cause damage which, in turn, creates great pain.  A church can face trauma of a bad departure of a minister or factions divided over personal preference issues.  A person facing unrequited love, or death, or wreck, can be traumatic and trigger the pain center.  Coping mechanisms can help ease the stress and anxiety.  Lowering these has shown to ease the pain.

3.  Tumors.  As a tumor grows it will lay against a nerve and create damage.  What is there in your life that is creating damage?  Why leave it in?  Is the presence of this tumor more important than the damage it is causing.  Churches have tumors too.  At times it might be programs or ministries that lay on the budget or burn human resource.  The tumor might be a person or group of people.  Is losing them hurt more or less than the damage they are causing by their presence?  Soon the pain will explode and become uncontrollable.  In the end, there is permanent damage which could have been avoided.  Removal of the tumor is an obvious fix.  The potential damage by removal is less than if it remains.

Spiritual Neuropathy should not be minimized.  We tend to deny.  We like to disregard.  However, aggressive treatment is required to avoid irreparable damage.

 

Is Hope Dead?

In Decisions, Family, Grief, Trust on April 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

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Is hope a simple-minded myth?

In just a 24 hour period I experienced an earthquake, read the news about the Boston bombings, talked with someone whose parent is dying and discovered another marriage crumbling.  How do we cope?  How do we handle the stress?  To whom do we turn?  Too often we turn to the couch of a physician, the doctor’s office for pills, the bed of another, or the bottle to ease the pain.  Why wouldn’t we?  Someone planted bombs in a marathon to maim and destroy the lives of hundreds, if not thousands.  The one who has nurtured you your whole life lies in a bed waiting, and possibly planning, on dying.  The marriage that outwardly seems to be so wonderful is rotting from within.  It is no wonder that we pop pills and drink ourselves to that uncaring oblivion.  We must find a way to ease this pain we feel.  We are determined to replace pain with pleasure, hurt with happiness.

Why hope?  It seems to do no good.

I would expect many to feel this way who have never tasted the goodness of God or have been hurt by those who represent God.  Trust and hope are tied together in a neat little package that some wish were separated.  How can I hope for something where there is no trust?  How can I hope the bombings and killings will stop without trust in the government’s ability to handle or control this situation?  How can I hope for healing when I cannot trust that God will do what I want?  How can there be hope in a marriage where trust left years ago?  Hope is fleeting.  Hope is failing.  Hope is futile and for the simple-minded.  We realists live above this unnecessary emotion right?  Logic wins in that world, but love loses.

We hope because it raises our vision from today to tomorrow.  We hope because the pain of the past is replaced with a promise of a preferred future.  We hope because down deep we still know that God is bigger than us.  God has our best interests in mind even though our feelings claim fault.  We hope because that is all we have.  Hope brings warmth.  Hope brings vision.  Hope raises the spirit.  Though all else seems to fail, believe there is hope.

Believe.  Hope.  Pray.  Live.

1 Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish: 2 I called to the Lord in my distress,and He answered me. (Jonah 2)

 

4th Quarter Living

In Chrisian Life, Faithfulness on April 12, 2013 at 9:36 am

4thqtr

A few years ago I started noticing a trend in football and other sports that have 4 quarters.  At the end of the third the teams and spectators would all start holding up their hands with the number 4 showing.  Coming from a certain sports team I thought it was a bear claw or tiger paw or something.  I asked around, with my hand up of course showing the “4”, what it meant.  Some of the parents of the players told me it was a reminder that the game does not end after the third quarter.  If you want to win you have to play all 4 quarters.

Well…yeah!

You have to play the whole game.  The team cannot just sit down and wait for the clock to tick off the final time.  The opposition would run wild and win the game no matter what kind of lead you had.  After 3 quarters your lungs ache, your body hurts and your muscles cramp.  There is no quit, though.  We cannot stop after 3.  We play until the end of 4.  As Mike Golic put it one morning, “There is a difference between injury and pain.  You play through the pain.”  Wouldn’t it look silly for the 4th quarter to start and your team not be on the field?  Coaches would be fired.  Players would get berated and possibly booed.  Cheerleaders would have nothing to do.  What cheer do you pull out for that?  Maybe the fans would start holding up fabricated benches instead of fences to promote D-bench instead of D-fence.  How odd would that be?  How different is it for people to quit parenting, quit serving God, quit trying to be better?

You have to train for the 4th Quarter.  The off-season is critical for the regular season.  If at the first sign of pain or breathlessness we quit we will get nowhere.  If I am going to train, I must train through the pain.  The reality of strength training and conditioning is that during the training you will actually tear the muscle apart.  Through food and recovery the body adds muscles in gap.  You train, tear, feed, recover, repeat.  Over and over you do this so your body is prepared for the 4th quarter in the regular season.  Champions never take time off.  They have changed the term off-season to training season.  Parenting doesn’t stop after they turn 18.  Marriage doesn’t stop because it gets hard.  Serving God doesn’t end because someone hurt your feelings.  Train and play through the pain.

Play for the Prize. When your boss yells at you, mentally raise your hand and show 4 fingers rather than the one some of you do!  When your friends talk bad about you, raise your hand.  When someone hurts your feelings, focus on the 4th quarter.  When God allows something that is different from what you wanted/demanded from Him, keep going.  When your body hurts and you have lost a few steps, the game isn’t done.  The prize isn’t handed out to those who start and quit.  The prize isn’t handed out to those who try hard but fail to complete, or intended to finish.  The prize is given to those who finish.  The game may look bad at halftime (mid-life crisis), but every good coach will tell you to focus on the game plan and go win the game in the 4th.

Live on.  Serve strong.  It’s not over yet.  Champions play all 4 quarters.

1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

Hebrews 12

The Runaway

In Chrisian Life, Decisions, Journey on April 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm

running-away-from-home-laura-corebello

All Tommy wanted was to continue to play.  It was a sunny summer afternoon and he had “stuff” he wanted to do.  His mom came out and told him it was time to come into the house.  She had lunch and chores he had to do.  He definitely was on board with the lunch part of that offering! He came in and washed up for lunch.  After he ate his sandwich and drank his milk, his Mom lowered the boom.  He needed to clean his room and take out the trash.  He argued that the day was so pretty he needed to go back outside.  She refused and he stomped away.  She tried to help him understand the balance of play and work but Tommy would not hear it.  He flat didn’t want to do what she wanted.  He was so angry.  It seemed they did not understand or care about how he felt on the matter. Running upstairs, he began pulling together the necessities:  a blanket, a stuffy, a pillow, and some other odds and ends.  He informed his Mother that he was running away.  He left the house and took a walk to the tracks.  While he was out there a fierce storm was blowing in.

How many of us have done something like that in our lives?  The prophet Jonah did also.  God came to him and told him that as a prophet of God he needed to go to Nineveh and preach against them so that they might repent before disaster might strike.  He refused.  He left and tried to runaway from God.  Unfortunately, there is no place we can run that we can also hide from God.  God brought a storm that shook up the sailors and caused great fear.  The way they responded to that storm is often how we respond to the hard times we face.  What storm is God bringing to get your attention that you are going the wrong way?  What warning signs has He already given and is still providing that you ignore?

Those on the boat responded in 3 ways.  Which one do you use?

1.  Seek after other gods.  In great fear, the sailors began crying out to their gods.  They were seeking help from the wrong place.  An affair won’t fix your marriage.  Throwing money at your kids won’t make them love you more.  Alcohol cannot drown out the pain anymore than higher doses of medications can.  However, these are the ways we try to fix the storms of love, family, pain, and grief.  The most common storms are found in these categories.

2.  Try harder.  The sailors, after being told to throw Jonah overboard, still tried to fix the problem on their own by rowing harder.  No matter how hard they tried they could not fix this problem.  There was no reaching the shore.  It was as if the very hand of God reached down and held the boat in the water.  We make greater commitments.  We go to conferences and counseling.  We increase visibility at church.  Trying to be better is like the sailors rowing harder.  The Lord does not want your outward dedication.  He wants inward consecration.  A broken heart and spirit before God in complete submission to His leading is the only way to make it out of the storm.

3.  Confess need and find relief.  Finally, the sailors cried out to God and threw Jonah overboard.  Had they simply done what had been prescribed from the beginning they could have had peaceful waters sooner.  Is it not the same in your life?  Seek the Lord while He may be found.  Confess your need and fall into the arms of God.

Tommy toughed out the rain.  He was wet, but he had his pride!  Yet, when the lightning and hail began to hit close he decided to throw himself overboard and get back to the house.  As he entered, his mother had a dry towel and a warm smile.  Maybe she wasn’t that bad after all, he thought.

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