These Present Sufferings

Sometimes God makes you struggle for a long time before giving you understanding as to why.  Sometimes the understanding never comes and you just have to struggle your whole life without it.  Other times the struggle and the understanding come together.  I like those times.

I have a mixture of both these days.  There are long-sufferings so old I’ve long given up hope of  seeing resolution on this earth, and then there are shorter frustrations that turn around pretty quickly.

Like today, the internet went down at work just as two groups of customers walked in.  “Perfect…just my luck”, I thought.  I made the first set of drinks hoping the internet was just experiencing a glitch and would come back on so I could take their credit card payment.  No such luck.  I took the second set of orders and apologized that it was taking so long.  When I explained that my internet was down, one of the men in the second group said it was okay, that he could pay with cash.  He then offered (or rather insisted) on paying for the first set of customers in cash as well.

This sparked a short conversation about currency, during which a lady walked in and got in line.  She paid for her drink in cash, but then decided to add something else to her order.  The second group of customers had left (the ones who paid for the first group’s order) but the first group was still there.  To pay it forward, they left cash to pay for the lady’s order before they left.  She wasn’t aware of what had happened, so I explained it to her.  She was so touched by the gesture, she left $5 to pay for whoever came in next.  That $5 is now sitting under my register waiting for the next customer who walks in.

As luck would have it, my internet returned right after the whole group left and now I’m standing here wrapping my heart around it all.  My very first thought when the internet went down was “great, of course this would happen to me…”.  But now, not 30 minutes later, at least two people were blessed because of it…something that never would have happened if I was able to take that first payment.

I wish all frustrations in life were so quickly resolved.  But God is also showing me tiny glimpses into the long-sufferings that have plagued my life for, well, all my life.  Least of which being the torments and traumas that have so mangled my inner being.  The evils of this world bother me more than most, I think.  Probably because I have lived my entire life on the losing side of them…a fact I’ve been giving God my what-fors about lately.

Today He showed me something, though.  He gave me a glimpse into the inner-beings of the so-called “winners”.  You know, the ones who always seem to have life work out for them, get what they want, somehow always get others to give them things/serve them, etc.  He showed me inside the ones who don’t have the slightest idea what struggle and suffering really is…and it was not pretty.  In fact, it was so ugly it turned my stomach and changed my mind around from “why me?” to “thank you, Lord.”

He showed me that there is a choice between an easy life with a sick, petrifying soul or a difficult, suffering-filled life with a purified one.  Each soul can either submit to the purification process, which means submitting to suffering, or they can reject which case Satan is right there, dressed like an angel, waving a “This way to the easy life!” sign.  And most people follow that sign…that road is wide, after all.

But given what He showed me, I’m happy choosing the difficult life.  Injustice bothers me more than anything in the world, and that’s not likely to change.  But God showed me something – that those who have it so easy never make it to the mountaintops of God’s presence.  Why?  They never develop the legs for it.  So many people sell their spiritual heritage for ease and for comfort.  They get winded and turn back to their comfy chairs and baby bottles at every inconvenience…how could they ever survive the storm that is our Lord’s presence?  And it is a storm.

So I stand here again and thank God, even for the sufferings I don’t understand.  Why?  Because I know it is producing in me a strength that will one day be able to withstand the all-consuming fire that is our God.  Our perfect, omnipotent, fire of a God.  And on that day I know that I will bow at His feet having accepted the sufferings from his hand (not always gracefully, but accepted nonetheless).  And I’d rather do so as a weather-beaten warrior than a whiney little baby.

So thank you God, even for the sufferings I don’t understand.  Because I know that in you, no suffering is wasted.  Give me grace to trust you more, and more than anything….come.  Lord Jesus, come.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18






The Lies We Tell



So many lies.  Lies we live in, lies we believe, lies we speak.  Perceptions we cling to with no more truth than the fairy tales we make up, with egos and feelings creating the constructs that support our lies so we can live with them in peace.  We invent realities that conveniently cater to the most selfish, lazy, ignorant parts of ourselves and then we lie some more to negate responsibility for the damage they create.  We focus on everything but the sickness in our own hearts.  We are lazy, we are selfish, we don’t like seeing truth, and we’d rather discredit it and the people who speak it rather than move beyond our own ignorance.

We cling to our lies with our lives.  We love our fantasies about who we are and what the world is like.  We harbor them, foster them, and we protect them.  At best, we avoid the people who don’t follow along with them.  At worst, we seek to discredit them.  We either take the cowardly way and become passive aggressive, or we outright destroy them with gross displays of power and dominance.  Both are equally sick and evidence of our disease.  The slightest break in our self-deception, we turn into ravenous lions ready to spill blood at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes only moments after we’ve portrayed ourselves as innocent little kittens.  How deceived we are.  In one way or another, we kill the seers and their truth in order to protect our lies…our self-image…and the made-up constructs that keep us safe from admitting fault or taking personal responsibility.  In our most authentic core, we are murderers and liars.

We wonder.  We wonder why the God of the Old Testament was “angry” and why the God of the New Testament had to die.  We do not see that every ounce of His anger is just and that we are this sick from the moment we are born.  Jesus died because He spoke the truth to people who did not want to hear it…people who held the power to put Him on the cross to shut him up…and did.  It was the only way to create a possibility for us to be cured and God wanted that more than his own comfort.  Without the cross, we would be lost in our sickness forever.  Because of the cross, we now have a choice…a possibility to be cured.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

~Luke 14:26, 27 & 33

Whoever said that salvation is free was not being very clear.  Perhaps we did not pay for God to create the cure, but it will cost us everything we have to get it.  It costs our flesh, our comfort, our pride, our self-indulgence, our laziness, our cowardice, our lusts, our greed, our egos, and our false self-perceptions.  It costs our safety and our security.  It costs us being “right” and it costs us every worldly thing we love.  He loved us enough to tell us the truth about who we are, even though He knew we’d kill Him for it.  Even though He knew that most of us would look the other way and not believe it.  But He still did it, because some of us would be broken by the truth instead of hardened by it.  Some of us would struggle in our pain and reach out to Him…desperate.

He did it for the some who would desire His salvation and for them, He promised that His work on the cross would be enough.  And it is.  It is the hardness of His love that breaks the lies we tell and believe.  And it’s softness that, once broken, will reconstruct us with the skill and precision of a surgeon.  We will be made new, but it will always come at the cost of the lies we tell.






Sifting Friendship


“A friend loves at all times,

and a brother is born for adversity.”

~Proverbs 17: 17

A funny thing happens when you go through long seasons of suffering.  Some people you think are friends suddenly disappear while others become harsh and cruel every time you’re in pain, as though they need you to fake happiness in order for them to be okay.  A lot of people you lean on for support will either disappear altogether or bite you in return.  Those people both create new wounds and infinitely deepen the original one.  But then, miraculously, some people show up who you never imagined would care at all and love you in ways you don’t expect.

Long seasons of suffering do tend to weed out the people in your life who don’t really care.  It exposes their motivations for being in your life and sometimes those are really selfish.  I’ve learned that in seasons of pain and suffering, true friends will rise to the occasion, stand next to you, and fight for you no matter what, but it isn’t always the ones you expect to do so.  Suffering doesn’t have a lot of upsides, but proving who your friends are (and aren’t) is one of them.

The last few months have brought me more than one surprise as people who called me “friend” suddenly disappeared into thin air or became evasive and unavailable at every turn.  Others who I didn’t think had a reason to care, suddenly stepped in and showed more love than people I thought were closer friends.  The sifting process is still taking me by surprise and forcing me to “let go” of people I believed were friends, and open myself up to people I never would have seen before.

One effect of going through suffering is no longer being able to relate to what now seem such ridiculous and petty “problems.”  Though for legitimate pain or sufferings, my heart is far softer and more compassionate than ever before. But for those whose life feels entirely unjust and unfair simply because they had to wait in line for 30 seconds longer than normal, or didn’t get to see their favorite band play for the 18th time…I have a very distinct reaction of disgust.  Listening to the endless complaints from my own entitled generation has recently become my new definition of hell. But for the broken, for the hurting, and for the hearts that have really been wrecked…those are the people whose companionship I seek.

It isn’t easy, but I’m realizing that I’d rather have one true friend (or none at all) than a million fake, shallow, or entitled ones.  I’d rather live in solitude and silence than have to listen to the insufferable commentary of people who think they have all the answers, or whose every minor discomfort is viewed as “suffering”.  I think what I’ve learned the most over the last year is to stop assuming who my friends are and to always be open to change.  It doesn’t seem to take much the relationships in my life to completely rearrange, so it’s best not to grow too attached to where they currently stand.

Despite the ever-shifting sands of friendships, I do have a constant and steady friend in Jesus.  Thick or thin, high or low, rain or shine – He is and has always been my rock in every storm.  He is the one in whom I seek comfort, counsel, guidance, and restoration.

“But they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  

~Isaiah 40:31

Lord, give me strength.  Bring to me the broken ones in need of your comfort and love and give me the wisdom and courage to love them well.  Amen.