Suffering? Really?

Warning: high horse, soap box, possible self righteousness w/a hint of judgement ahead

Disclaimer: if you and I have talked recently about trials and tribulations, do not assume this is about you; and yes you’re right, I have no idea what you’ve been through–but keep an open mind anyway

I touch on this now and then because I don’t have a handle on it. Doug and I have had financial and vocational disappointments lo’ these past 3 years and therefore lament from time to time on the state of our respective states. Then we watch the news or engage in a friend or family members’ crisis. And we think, “Wow. How did we get so lucky to have those kinds of storms swirl around us without being touched?”

Just heard a phenomenal teaching from the book of James.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4 NIV

Perspective. I used to be better at this–not enjoying my troubles so much as realizing anything difficult I was experiencing was no where near what others were going through. For example, extreme poverty; lack of resources–not money resources but silly things like food, water, and shelter; terminal illness; tragic loss. There is always something to be thankful for in the midst of the poo. For a variety of reasons, I started to believe my own press about my “hardship”. Yes it wasn’t as bad as it could be but still it was a strain. Oh you poor thing, how do you get through the day? And so I followed the downward spiral–woe is me, why is this happening, where is God? And it took this teaching on James, the testimony of my husband’s late Aunt Karen who lived this principle, oh and cataclysmic tragedy in Haiti to snap me the hell out of it.

James 1:1-12 gives me permission to appreciate my circumstance or at least look beyond the here and now. I am allowed to find the silver lining. I am allowed to focus on the positive without someone assuming I am in denial–or rather, worrying someone thinks I am in denial. I am allowed to sympathize with another’s problems yet lovingly encourage them to shift focus.

NOTHING I am going through now compares to the complete devastation of my home, the loss of part or all of my family, no governmental ability to assist, no community ability to assist and isolation from the majority of the world’s nations.

So when I am devastated having to use a tax refund to pay for car repairs instead of pay other bills or get a little ahead, I will be glad to at least have the a) cash, b) car. When I am saddened that I can’t take my children to Disney or even local outings, I will be glad they are healthy and safe. When I am frustrated by what does or doesn’t get paid by insurance or the most recent doctor bill, I will be glad I have the a)ability to receive health care, b) an employer with an insurance plan, c) an employer. When stressed that I have to take children to this and that activity or have busy things to do, I will be glad my kids live in an intact community doing something other than digging through rubble piles looking for their parents and friends. And can we admit that living in U.S. suburbia, we are filthy rich? I know I’ll get blasted for this but even our homeless don’t have to walk miles for well water and wonder if its clean. It may not be socially easy but there are faucets to be found.

If you listened to Scott Hodge’s teaching linked above you will understand this next concept. Aunt Karen went through family upheaval, personal illness, terminal diagnosis, and deterioration of her body before she died December 30th. One month before her death, she told Doug and I that she would be praying for US and the medical issues we were experiencing. She truly was a woman who could say, “well, praise God anyways.”


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Heather Timmins on January 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    This has been a lesson I’ve been journeying through over the past year or so. My “woe is me” attitude has held me back from some growth & healing my marriage could have used a bit earlier. Had a mini-refresher in the past day or so when our furnace failed and smacked us hard financially. The next day on the news? A house leveled by a gas explosion. I woke up and smelled the gas. I was able to open windows and avert disaster. I was able to pay the bill. I have heat. My kids are safe. Yep Heather you’re lucky to be doing fine. Granted there are many miniature disasters in lots of lives that deserve sympathy and support. But, my life isn’t one of them for now. Thank God.


  2. Posted by Tammy Helfrich on January 14, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I completely agree! We have had a rough couple of years as well, but it has been amazing to see the differences that God has made in my life through those experiences! My attitude is completely changed, and I had to learn to totally trust God, which is something I had struggled with before. I could never have learned the kind of perserverance and lessons I did, had it not been for those experiences.

    Have you read “The Monkey and the Fish” and “The Hole in the Gospel”? Those will definitely help keep your perspective in check as well. “The Hole in the Gospel” has changed my life forever. Those of us living in suburbia have so few things to ever truly complain about.

    Thanks for the great blog. I really enjoyed it, and I’m really enjoying studying James as well.


    • I am reading “The Monkey and the Fish” right now. Haven’t started Hole in the Gospel yet though its sitting on my piano! Jan Silvious has a book called “Big Girls Don’t Whine”. I got interrupted part way through it but really need to get back to it. She’s a straight shooter too.


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