The Care and Feeding of the Heart: Will Suffering Make You Bitter or Better?
Today’s menu at the Training Table takes into account a very brief, simple, and declarative statement that I used in the Preface of my book The Weeping, Window, and the Way.
The statement is also of the most complicated and polarizing [in a good way] sort because it delves into a realm of life and death that is one of the most universal yet personal and yet the most suppressed and taboo realms of life: Suffering. That nasty and unavoidable reality of living in a horribly broken and fast-decaying world.
And why an all-powerful and all-loving God could allow such widespread and horrible suffering to occur at all?
There is a whole host of birth, life, and death issues that are left without sufficient answers when we avoid laying a foundation about the reality of suffering. And these myriad, simple, yet complicated “issues without answers” do not simply go away when unattended to, dear friends.
They are simply compartmentalized within our heart and have a largely negative influence on every aspect of our life—whether we will acknowledge it or not. Please carefully consider the quote from a Pastor Tim Keller sermon below. It is one of the most important and influential declarations about living life amidst unavoidable suffering there is.
“There are only two kinds of people in the world. Both are sufferers. There are the people who build their trust on things beside God so that when suffering comes it takes away the sources of their joy so they become sadder and sadder, and madder and madder, and worse. And then there are the people who suffer, but who seek to build their trust on God, on the basis of his infinite suffering for us on the cross, so that God becomes the source of their joy. When suffering comes in their lives, it drives them into deeper joy. It drives them more into God. And so suffering makes them better and better, and more like Jesus.
There are only two kinds of people in the world! They’re both going to suffer. There’s the kind of person that suffering makes worse, because the source of their joy being taken away. And there’s the kind of person who suffering makes better because the suffering is pushing them towards the one source of joy that is not subject to circumstances. Jesus Christ suffered not so that we might not suffer, but rather when we suffer, we could become more like him!” (The Sufferer, Sermon by Pastor Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NY, March 7, 2004)
Questions for Reflection
Which of the “two kinds of people” am I?
How has my life experience of suffering helped formed my opinion of who God is… and what he’s really like in general, and to me?
Upon what foundation have I built my trust of anything in my life [and my eventual death] upon?
When trials of any kind come into my life—a paper-cut of daily disappointment or a knife-wound of loss to the heart—am I driven to deeper joy, trust, and betterness, or deeper disillusionment, cynicism, and bitterness? Why?
Is my life primarily controlled by life’s everyday circumstances or other’s opinion of me, or a form transcendent belief and faith that provides me a shelter from any sort of storm or the flip-flop-flailing mind of man?
What is most freeing or most scary about “GoingDeeper” into reality and life’s issues for me?
Who in my life might I trust and hang with to help me more deeply reflect upon questions of this kind?
Thank you for seriously considering today’s meaty fare at The Training Table today, Beloved of God. It is so worth your spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical worthwhile, that I couldn’t be more blessed if any one of you race-runners for Christ were well fed… and more ready than ever to be of some nourishment to other people in your life!