Monday, July 13, 2009

From a favourite theologian

Emerging Pastor

Too much to stand under

First some scripture.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

At the moment, someone quite close to me is suffering greatly, it is one reason that I have been sparse of posts, my time is required elsewhere.

When I say suffering greatly I mean hardship far beyond their ability to endure and even to share with those close by. To my friend life is not worth living, the light at the end of the tunnel has been extinguished and there is only darkness all around. They have asked me on more than a few times about the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13, "if God wont give me more than I can bear, then why am I suffering so much". It is heart-rending and heart-breaking.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 offers some consolation to us when we read of Paul and his companions enduring even more than they can handle but such consolation can sometimes fail even the strongest of people when they are worn down by years of recurring illness.

But is this what Paul was talking about or is he specifically talking about trials relating to building faith?

I think they are one in the same. It doesn't matter if it is the struggle of a missionary in a hostile field, the struggle of sin in ones life, or the struggle with illness and pain. All three test, tease and strain our faith in God. So how is it that a person can get to the point of wanting to give up under the strain of illness and what does that say about God?

It's easy to blame the person. You might say that they don't have enough faith (and if you do I'll punch you in the throat), or that they are not seeing clearly at the moment (which they are obviously not, but that's not at all helpful), some might even hazard that they are being punished for sin (another throat punch worthy offence).

Not to blame the person, but to help them, I recently had this insight. "God may give us only what we can bear, but often we take on so much more". We pile on the worry, pile on the anxiety or make poor choices with what is presented to us.

Sometimes when faced with trial and trouble we do the exact opposite of what Peter asks us to do "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) We add to the heavy burden by not opening up to others or contemplating the worst case without defining the worst case.

In his letter to the Galatian church Paul urged: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2) Let's not let our brothers and sisters carry the heavy load by themselves. Let's help with their burden and help them to point their anxiety to Christ.

This post is not very refined or eloquent, it is from someone taking up the strain and praying for others to help.

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