Tolerate Pain for Growth

“In the world you have trouble But, take courage I have conquered the world.”  Jesus (John 16:33)
 
          "Pain plunges like a sword through creation. Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable and never idle."   (Underhill)
 
          We truly live in a pain-phobic culture. How can we embrace the true reality of suffering in ways that are spiritually and psychologically healthy?

    Harry Schamburg says: “we can’t prevent the problems of sexual addiction in the church if we don’t change our message from ‘how to feel better now’ to the unpopular biblical theme that ‘the sufferings we now experience are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’ Paul (Romans 8:18)

          I believe that there is a great deal of poor thinking about suffering and the role of pain in life.  

“Suffering never saved anybody. Not your suffering. Not mine. Not even Jesus’s suffering saves in and of itself.  Rather, it is the way suffering is faced that makes the difference between whether pain, sorrow, difficulty, deprivation, and/or challenge become part of our souls stretching or shrinking!” (R Morris)

          Being a counselor, I have listened to many stories of suffering where; one family is sideswiped by the unexpected birth of a child with a catastrophic handicap, drawing them closer together in mutual support. Their hearts are stretched: “It’s changed our expectations about what’s important in life,” the father says. Another couple greets an infant with a lesser handicap with a resistant bitterness: “It’s like our lives were suppose to end up in southern California and we got hijacked to the Arctic Circle!” The couple separates, their marriage relationship too strained to continue.

          It’s not our place to judge, we do not know the mystery of their hearts. But we cannot help observing the different outcomes. Those who survive and grow more resilient in times of suffering somehow find inner resources of acceptance, endurance and patience to deal with their trials. Simple acceptance of their limitations leads to quiet thankfulness where they see life as a series of challenges to be faced. Suffering was something to be dealt with, lived through, learned from, and redeemed.
    
    On the other hand, victims see life as a tale of repeated, undeserved woe where chronic complaint is justified.
One stance shrinks our soul while the other surly expands it.  Christians often speak loosely about “redemptive suffering.” I am becoming convinced that there is no such thing in the Christian message. This is not a mere debate over words. I do not believe that suffering itself contains some hidden divine spark. There is nothing in the Gospels to support that Jesus ever deliberately sought suffering, indeed, he seems to do everything possible to relieve it. Christ shows us the way to suffer redemptively.

          Making this distinction between Christ’s redemptive way of meeting suffering and suffering itself is a crucial one for psychological health and spiritual formation toward wholeness.

          “There is an ancient, dark, masochistic undercurrent in some spirituality that sees some sort of spiritual power in pain itself.” (R Morris)

          Beliefs throughout history have tied this belief to getting the attention of the gods’. (See I Kings 18:28). Whatever such ideology encourages in behavior, “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” is not about self-inflicted pain. We share in Christ’s sufferings when we participate in his way of meeting suffering and it’s sources, as we pursue, with him, the incarnation of the dream of the Kingdom.

          How did Christ do this? And why is this part of the Christian journey so confusing? In Hebrews 12:2, it says that Jesus “endured the cross”… How?  “For the joy set before him”…. Because he was rooted in goodness deeper than the suffering, so even in the midst of suffering he was deeply anchored in the goodness of God.  I believe this was Jesus’ secret of facing life in this wild, wonderful, and terribly difficult world… and ours to follow!  Grounded in such goodness we can face any adversity, drawing on the Grace of a world larger than the suffering.
 
                                      By His Grace, HUD   

To Be Fully Mature - Fully Alive


“…Here’s what I want you to do…  Get out there and walk -– better yet, run! –- on the road God called you to travel.  I don’t want you strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere.  And mark, that you do this with humility and  discipline -- until we are all moving rhythmically and easily with each other  -- efficient and graceful in response to God’s son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

         No prolonged infancies among us, please.  God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ – who’s very breath and life flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.”

PAUL – The Message

         How good is your Memory?  Last time I wrote in “Inside CAI”, I was arguing that that the church as a whole does not deal with doubt or confusion very well.  And, I believe that this is a necessary process in our lives if we are going to grow up – be able to experience the raw-ness of life, and truly enjoy the freedom, I believe Christ died to provide, - by being fully mature and fully alive. 

         At that time, I argued that we are masterfully designed to grow, and there is never a lack of development needed in our lives.  However, we somehow seek a status that will not foster such growth.  So, even though we move through various developmental phases, we seem to return to the “proven and comfortable” where we have a sense of control, rather than face and walk into an unpredictable future where only God stands, and where He bids us come. 

COMMON DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES
I. Chaos
II. ‘Stable’
III. Puzzlement
IV. Connection

I. CHAOS - is characterized by Autonomy –  Independence.
PRODUCT:   A sense of being “self-sufficient. 

II. ‘STABLE’ – is characterized by External – Institutional.
PRODUCT:  A sense of being “in Control”.

III. PUZZLEMENT – is characterized by Questions/Confusion Doubt.
PRODUCT:  A sense that somehow “There is More”.

IV. CONNECTION – is characterized by community exposure. 
PRODUCT:  Experience of true freedom and joy.


These are certainly not linear, yet the first three stages are a necessary launching pad for the forth stage.  Two ideas are necessary here:

1.)    The fourth stage is where “whole” life truly takes place and where, I believe, we are designed to live.

2.)   We are often deceived into thinking that the first three stages are all that life really offers.  Let me explain…

          Real community or “connection”, (stage 4) depends on maturity for its existence.  Last night at church I heard a sermon on “change”.  It was seen as an optimist might see, yet I believe “change” or transformation is a move, usually ‘away’ from something:  i.e.  We ‘change’ to remove some form of discomfort  (it matters not what) – and we use the first three stages of development as our sole options-/resources, to grapple with said irritant (discomfort).  By switching back and forth in our stance in order to defend or self-sooth, all three stages are necessary in/for our development.  Yet, in order to grow, one must face his/her shame, through exposure, in order for true ‘community’ to work…so that can true growth can take place.     Unfortunately, few in a population get to this stage.

DOUBT

The place where post moderns begin –

easy to get stuck here – by never asking a/the ‘truth’ question –

therefore, no tether to work toward or from –

no need to face being finite -

Life forms an open bottom box: Put something in – return later –there’s nothing there…  I’m… lost/loose.  There’s no possible growth here.

“TRUE” Community demands that a person can be exposed!  This forces us to push away from a learned ‘default’ behavior/option of switching back and forth through self-protective choices…all of which bring short term relief, yet prevent the access to true transformation.  This exposure, I believe, is what we are designed for, and of which our deepest longings nudge us toward.    (read: “Eternity in Their Hearts” - Eccle. 3:11).

The Rareness of experiencing “True Community”, prompts questions:

        l)   Are we blinded so as not to move toward this?

        2)  Are we somehow programmed to capitulate (default) to the lowest  

        comfortable denominator?

        3)  Is joy so elusive that the arduous-ness of the task defeats us   

        before we even begin?  (so that we turn back).

        4)  Is our fear of true freedom so strong that facing it becomes

                  unthinkable?

         5)  Does exposure feel so ‘out of control’ that its demands stop the

                  process of growth?

         6)  Are we, as natural risk takers, (church planters are high in this :o),

        still so drawn to the illusion of control, that we move toward

        reflected light rather than the SON?

ANSWER THIS:

DO YOU WANT TO WALK IN LIFE “FULLY MATURE – FULLY ALIVE”? 

Paul says we will only do this through humility and discipline.  “My assumption is that you learned Christ, that you paid careful attention, and have been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus…so, we do not have the excuse of ignorance…”  

Here’s to Growing!

By His Grace,  Hud

Spacious

Spacious

As I sit to write this I am aware that many do not believe that Jesus has anything to do with this season, much less that he is God and Lord over all.  Being PC can be unnerving when there is precious little room for anything more than opinions, which after all are only yours and certainly not to be brought into question.

So Merry Christ-mas to you. 

My fervent prayer for this coming year is that your life will be “spacious.”

Tolerate Pain for Growth

Tolerate Pain for Growth

“In the world you have trouble But, take courage I have conquered the world.”  Jesus (john 16:33)

”Pain plunges like a sword through creation. Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable and never idle.” (Underhill)

We truly live in a pain-phobic culture. How can we embrace the true reality of suffering in ways that are spiritually and psychologically healthy?

Harry Schamburg says: “we can’t prevent the problems of sexual addiction in the church if we don’t change our message from ‘how to feel better now’ to the unpopular biblical theme that ‘the sufferings we now experience are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’ Paul (Romans 8:18)

Thoughts About The “Gospel” We Teach!

Thoughts About The “Gospel” We Teach!

     “The devil hath the power to assume a pleasing shape.” -William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 As I have mused about this question that we are focusing on, I believe that it will aid the reader if they know what meaning I am assuming with certain terms, (really only one, the ‘Gospel’). After looking and reading some variety of sources and then checking all 99 references in the NASB 1995 (New Testament only), my definition of the gospel is this, Jesus. Now what I mean by this is, I believe, that the relational aspect of this message/truth is bound up essentially in the call to relate (if you will) directly with/to the Christ. How this takes place is as unique as each individual person.