Monday, March 7, 2011

Is it suffering or just life?

Just some thoughts that I'm processing:

I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that our life the past two years hasn't been easy. I joke that we are on a six month rotation of disappointment, although it isn't really funny.

Our first robbery happened in May of 2009. It was hard because it took away our sense of security and made us feel vulnerable in a way we hadn't before.

In December of 2009 we encountered what I like to call the "big robbery." This one hurt in ways that I still have not recovered from, and I'm not sure that I ever will. It occurred in the middle of the day and obviously took all day because they just helped themselves to everything of value in our home. For a while I was scared to come home by myself, scared to leave the house alone, I was just wounded. One positive result of this particular situation is that I now am more careful about what we "need" because it is all temporary and not just in a super spiritual "you can't take it with you" kind of way.

Continuing on with the regular rotation, we were broken into again in August of 2010. This one I like to think of as God showing off. You see, I had really been reading a lot about spiritual warfare around that time. The best part of this story is that we were broken into, but nothing was taken, even though one of our friend's laptop computer was a few feet from the window that was compromised. I think that through this one Satan meant to discourage us (and it sort of worked), but we felt protected by something (or Someone) greater than our alarm system. This happened right around the time when were were beginning the application process for adoption and were just starting to talk with people about it.

Now I know this is crazy, but just last month I realized that it had been about 6 months since our last 'disappointment.' I actually began to get nervous. I began to notice myself being more careful about leaving our valuables in plain sight and leaving the lights on in the back yard.

So when all of the stuff happened with the adoption last weekend, I was upset, but in the midst of my tears I kind of thought, "Well, we were due for something like this." I have come to expect for things to not come easy for us. Whether it is the 'perfect' job that I have to leave because I just can't support it anymore, or the negative pregnancy tests among all of the excited phone calls of my expectant friends (we were adopting anyway), or getting robbed again, when we are not the only intentional neighbors around here; I have come to expect disappointment.

This is starting to sound like a pity party, which was not my intention, so let me get to the point/question.

Lately I've been thinking about suffering, meaning biblical suffering. On Sunday the sermon was about "The Cost of Discipleship" and in a Bible study I'm in we have been reading through 1 & 2 Peter

1 Peter 4:12-13 "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed."

Van and I have talked recently about our seemingly harder than normal life and we realized that all of these things that bring suffering into our lives (our choice to live in the inner-city, our choice to adopt) are choices we have made because of Christ. We live where we do in an effort to be like Jesus. He loved on the poor, so will we. We are adopting because "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (Obviously each of these are only the beginning of why we made these decisions.)

So, here is the question: Our hardships, are they suffering, or just life? I find it hard to think of these things as suffering for Christ because no one is attacking me or persecuting me because I claim the name of Christ, but I'm beginning to wonder. So, what is the cost of discipleship in the land of the free?


tglodjo said...

I'm so glad I found your blog. I am constantly encouraged by your words.

Jill said...

do you remember me? was once in your sos group and we're still friends on facebook which is how i found your blog. i'm one of those ones from fay, ar. go hogs!

recently heard a prof from pittsburgh seminary say that we are elected/called/chosen not just for salvation, but for SERVICE and SUFFERING. because in service and suffering we're joining in/united with Christ's mission and work... (i'm not saying it quite as well as he did, and regardless of your thoughts on "election" i think the point is still the same...) yes, you're suffering, but also yes that is just life- the christian life- if you're following christ and joining him in his mission. and i say this not having suffered much in my life, but i'm so thankful for your faithfulness and for the reminder you give about what's important, what's lasting, what matters. all this to (try) to say: be encouraged! i think you're right where you need to be.

Angie said...

I know exactly what you are saying when you ask if this is really suffering for the sake of the Gospel, since your suffering is not obviously and directly linked to your identity as Christian, as in other parts of the world. However, I think it is linked.

Scripture is also just as clear about the "many trials" that will come upon us for the testing of our faith. These trials also are "for the sake of the Gospel" in this way - when people see us live with a hope that is based upon Jesus in the midst of (even) "just life" trials, the Gospel is commended to them.

I would still categorize your situation as suffering. Everyone in this world suffers. The questions is - which trials cause us suffering? I often say that some things in life are hard and other things we make hard. I think if we live by the Spirit, and as our faith is refined over time, we find that fewer things in this life are truly worth suffering over. Some things are irritating, difficult, painful, etc. As we become less self centered and more Christ centered, I think the things that cause Him pain will cause us pain. That, to me, is what you are experiencing. And, I do agree that for some reason God wills for some people to walk through a greater amount of suffering. It's not easy to understand or explain, but it's something I have observed.

And it helps to call it suffering because then we are emboldened to walk through it as one who IS suffering for the sake of the Gospel - that it would be shown in our lives. 1 Peter 4:16, 19 "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good."

Ashley said...

God literally directed me to this post. I was actually just in the middle of posting my own "sufferings" on my blog, when I detoured and saw your blog in the newsfeed. Wow. I can't tell you how much I needed to hear your story. Wesley and I are in the midst of our own struggles, and I keep asking God "Why?" continuously. But really, shouldn't we expect these trials based on that verse? But it's still hard for me to understand and accept. In my human mind, I think living like Jesus should equal blessings. And it does. But not always in the way we see them. I have no doubt that you guys are a blessing to those around you in your community. The very fact that you've remained there amidst these struggles I'm sure is speaking volumes. But it's difficult to see that when it feels like you're being targeted constantly.

Thank you so much for being vulnerable enough to share your story. It is such an encouragement to me, and exactly what I needed to hear. Love you, and praying for you guys!!