Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

Philippians 1:1-11

The beginning of a letter
Compared to something like “Dear Church,”
Paul & Timothy began their words
So the people would not have to search

The words of the whole letter
Should be read through this appeal
Filled with thanks, full of hope-
That they’d know Gods’ love is real.

That God would bring to completion
All work that He’s begun
That even something like imprisonment
Cannot hold back the Son

He spoke with such compassion
Even though they were apart
He affirmed his desire to be with them
And knew they held him in their heart

A pastoral letter
From a shepherd to his sheep
Only something like prison bars
Would be strong enough to keep

Yet here is a reminder
The bars could not hold back
The Love of God revealed in Words
Strengthening for any attack

It comes as a reminder
For those of us with loving Words
To keep them unshared is something
Really quite absurd.

Isaiah 58:1-12

We pray for light in darkness
For quenching dry, parched lands
On behalf of future generations
As if we are unable to play a hand

We are desperate for something
We will gather in arenas
We raise our hands in colored lights
And wonder if God’s seen us

We’ll turn up all the volume
And follow influencers
We will even turn off everything
As if silence gives us answers

Meanwhile God has spoken
And must wonder if we’ve heard
Or if we’d simply prefer
He’d given different Word

He says to end oppression
And every form of yoke
He will unleash streams of blessing
As chains of poverty are broke

If we go out and feed the hungry
Bring the homeless into ours
Clothe those who are uncovered
Trusting He will water our flowers

It’s good to pray for movement
His Lordship He wants to prove
But remember in our praying
He’s empowered us to move

Suffering Joy

This morning, it doesn’t take long for the difficult words from this past Sunday to come whispering back into my mind… “Rejoice always.  Pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a)

The world is broken, and mourning the loss of so many young lives.  Attackers stormed a school, with automatic weapons and the indifference of knowing they too were going to die, and killed over 126 people – mostly young children.  Largely between the ages of 12 and 16, the victims were just beginning to have grand thoughts about what to do with their lives.  Daydreaming, passing notes, and looking forward to the weekend….many of their lives ended without being able to express what was really on their hearts and minds.

My prayers are with them this morning.  The community that weeps.  The parents whose homes have been torn apart. The friends who’ve lost their classmates.  The young loves who’ve lost the one they were inspired by.  The students who’ve lost a teacher.  May God bring comfort, even to those who may not be able to give name to the source.

Certainly God didn’t have any of these scenes in mind when He gave us the words of Paul to the church in Thessalonica.  Surely if God would have known we’d have things like this happening, he would have given a different command.  Something closer to, “Rejoice when you can.  Pray if you can spare the time.  Give thanks before you lose it.”  But we know better than that.  Even as Paul gave those words, God’s people had known immense suffering.  God looked across the suffering that would come to His people, and painted a picture of who we are to be…even in the midst of the brokenness of our world.

Not those who avoid it.  Not those who seek it.  But those who seek God’s presence in the midst of whatever may come.  Those who are able to suffer with those who suffer, have “compassion”, and simultaneously be comforted by a God who has promised He is with us.  Those who are able to celebrate blessings in life with the humility that sees the reality much larger than the moment.  Those who recognize that the only way we become people with hearts grounded in God’s reality is to be those who “pray continually”.  Not starry-eyed false hope that someday this suffering will all make sense.  But a solid foundation of hope that today, right now, even in the midst of brokenness and ugly humanity – there is the presence of a God who says through His tears….”I love you.  I am with you.  Listen to my voice, and receive life that transforms.”

We cannot throw extra God-presence in a box, wrap it, and ship it to those suffering from this tragedy.  But we can allow these moments to call forth transformation in our own lives.  Give yourself time to pray today.  Rejoice, as one Beloved by the Son.  Spend time both speaking AND listening to the voice of our Father who loves you.  Give thanks for the movement of the Spirit that brings New Life.

Allow yourself to feel the story, even in the midst of a day/news-hour that moves right on to the next thing.  Allow the pain in your heart to enable you to cry out to God with them….”Lord, come.  Lord….come.”  And know that He has.  Know that He is.   Know that He will…

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