27 February 2008

I'm Down

by Frank Turk

I'm not much of a complainer in my personal life – mostly because I have kids who are way better than I could have possibly raised them, I have a wife who is infinitely a better person and a better spouse than I am, I make a decent living, somehow blogging has panned out for me as a way to write thing which people will then actually read, and most importantly, I have a savior in Jesus Christ.

Now, many segments of the blogosphere will read a post which begins like that and simply write it off as hash – because, frankly, they are actually complainers. Life is very hard for them, Jesus doesn’t turn out to give them what they think they want, and so on. And people see that as transparency, somehow – that if one can vent one's disappointment or talk about how hard they have it today, that's real emotional honesty, and we should raise a glass to the thick hide it takes to tell people that COMPONENT X of my life makes me sad.

And I bring this up because the last 10 days for me has been frankly emotionally and spiritually draining. I'm down. I'm really down. How can you laugh when you know I'm down? How can you laugh? When you know I'm down?

Ahem.

So should I blog about the valley of the shadow of death? I mean – as I have tried to find a way to summarize it, the last week has looked a lot like the first chapter of Job, sans the marauding Sabeans and the donkeys. And, thankfully, the boils.

Do you really want to read about that? Would it be edifying to know that my week was as bad or worse than yours was?

Let me suggest something here, and then try to work it out: these are important things, and they are the things we think about every day. But is thinking about them – and listening to the litany of my immediate state of woe – edifying or uplifting? Or is there something else we should be comparing all that stuff to so that when that stuff happens, we don’t find ourselves shipwrecked?

Job says this about that:
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ... Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ... I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
That's Job – who probably went through worse that I did this week, and who, all things told, probably went through worse than you did. In his view, when he turned to God, and God answered him, it is himself he despises for thinking that God owes him an answer.

Now, why is that? Is it because it's none of Job's business and God will simply do whatever it is He does and none of your loose lip can change that? I think that's a completely hollow view of what Job realizes here, and that for two reasons.

The first reason is that God demands that Job's friends repent through Job for their sins. That is, while Job says that he did something wrong by asking God, "why?", his friend are actually in need of a sacrifice and are condemned by God for telling Job, "this is all your own fault, dude." That is, the explanation that Job is a sinner in the hands of an angry God doesn’t cut it because that's the explanation Job's friends give, and God labels that chatter "folly" which kindles up his "anger".

But the second reason is in Job's response here: the things at stake are too wonderful for Job to understand – even the Message admits that Job was sort of overwhelmed by the wonder which is in beholding God first-hand and seeing one's plight in the face of the living God.

Now, to tie this back to my original thought – which was my lousy week – of all the things in the list in my first paragraph, only one really qualifies as a "wonder". And while some of you may be influenced to think it is my Wife, and you'd be right from a certain perspective, the only real wonder on that list is that I have a savior in Jesus Christ.

"Yah yah yah," interrupts the internet detractor who struggles with depression, or the evangelican who stopped by because he was between Max Lucado books. "You Calvinists. The only thing that matters is Jesus Christ. Everything is so Jesus-centered that it's not any actual Earthly good, and you white-wash suffering and pain to the place where the problem of evil is itself invalidated because you say, in effect, there is no evil. It's all good because God makes it all good. And if that's what you're getting at, you make me sick because my wife is dying from cancer, she cannot be cured, and you can't convince me that her pain and my suffering are not evil."

Yeah, no. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that Job, who is still scraping his boils with a piece of pottery, and who has nothing left in this world, has asked God for an answer as to the question, "why me, Lord? Why me when I have never done anything to you?" And his answer is that suffering is real and it also shows us something about God we couldn’t otherwise know.

Job says, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you." It seems to me that Job says that the answer to his question is not a fancy theology of the problem of evil, but that it is finding God there in the midst of the problem.

See: my problems this week are my problems. I own them, I wear them, I bear them. This is my life. It is real. I know it because I feel it. But there is a wonder which I could not see if I did not see this pain: it is the wonder that Christ is my savior. And he's not just a savior who hands out lollypops and lemonade and cake: He's a savior who has willingly suffered so that He would save.

You know: Christ had to pay taxes (Mat 17 – the temple tax). Christ had arguments with people – in fact, very important people came looking for Christ to have arguments with him specifically for the purpose of making him look bad (Mark 12 – about divorce and the resurrection). Christ's friends betrayed Him (John 18 – Peter denies him). Christ's mother thought he was crazy, and wanted him to stop preaching (Mark 3 – not just his mother but his whole family). Christ had people using him for a free meal under the cover of seeking a religious sign (John 6 – feeds 5000). Christ's friend died from being sick (John 11 – death of Lazarus). Christ Himself was unjustly accused and convicted of violating the law, and was given the death penalty (Mat 26:57- the trial of Christ).

Let me say it plainly that Jesus had it rough – and this is a wonder.

Christ suffered in this world in every way that we suffer today, and He knows what we are going through – not as an observer, but as the book of Hebrews says, as a High Priest [who] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same dark stuff we do.

Now, if you see that with your eye, and not merely hear it with your ear, how do you feel about your complaints? Are they magnified, or does Christ – who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be horded or clung to, but made himself nothing (an insignificant speck), taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross -- trade you beauty for your ashes, and pour out an oil of gladness for your mourning?

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture. So when an airplane crashes into your new car, or you have to go and mourn at a funeral without your spouse because of a birthday party, or your money suddenly seems really tight, or you have to fire someone because of someone else's incompetence, or you yourself are fired because of someone else's incompetence, you may be suffering. I would say that if these things happen to you, you will suffer. But Christ has suffered more and you get that benefit. That is the answer God gives you, which I think you couldn't see from the chaise lounge whilst sipping the drink served in a coconut with the happy paper umbrella. You can only see it from this place, where we suffer.

And that makes looking at the rest of this stuff a little easier, I think. I hope you think so, too.








31 comments:

VcdeChagn said...

Or to put it succinctly....

Sure beats Hell...

Whatever you're going through...sure beats Hell.

Credit to Mark Lowry for that one.

Our church has been going through some crazy stuff as well. Half our church is sick, our hospitals are too full to take more people, our Worship Leader's mother fell and died, it goes on and on. Through it all, God is faithful.

Terry Rayburn said...

Praying for you, brother, while you re-feed on the Bread of Life.

4given said...

I needed to read this today. Thank you.

“When one knows that his times are in God’s hands, he would not change places with a king! No, nor even with an angel!”—Spurgeon

“It is a glorious thing to have a big trouble, a great Atlantic billow that takes you off your feet and sweeps you right out to sea— and lets you sink down into the depths, into old ocean’s lowest caverns, till you get to the foundations of the mountains— and there see God and then come up again to tell what a great God He is and how graciously He delivers His people...”—Spurgeon

SolaMeanie said...

As a dear friend of mine once told me, "If you haven't spent at least a few moments of each day in Hell, all in all it's been a pretty good day."

It used to madden me when I was going through difficulty and someone would tell me it's all about one's point of view. I can sort of understand that now. Anyway, I hope to always offer a compassionate ear when someone is paddling through very rough water.

Dan said...

Frank,

Prayed for you today and whatever it is you are going through.

He is faithful,

Dan


Dan Kimball

rebecca said...

But there is a wonder which I could not see if I did not see this pain: it is the wonder that Christ is my savior.... He's a savior who has willingly suffered so that He would save.

Yep. And I wouldn't have known that in the same way 7 years ago that I do today. So, yeah, I think I really can say I wouldn't trade places with anyone else: king, princess, whatever.

And PS: I think it's chaise lounge, or even more correctly: chaise longue

dec said...

"For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.

"But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."

centuri0n said...

rebecca --

That's what I typed, but blogger is stupid.

Bill said...

Very powerful Frank.
Thank you for sharing it.
It really does make me wonder why Christ would choose to become a man and suffer and die for me...

Its like I tell my kids:
We wouldn't know what joy was if we never experience sorrow.
I believe true Christian maturity is when we can truly thank God for times of suffering.

God bless you brother.
Bill

Jerry said...

I have
been writing
about similar things from John Flavel's "The Mystery of Providence" this week.

Stefan said...

Well, I'm still learning what it means to live as a Christian. I agree that the grace and mercy of God towards His adopted children shines so much more brightly in the midst of darkness. It may be darkness that we did not bring upon ourselves (as in your or Job's case, Cent), but it may also be darkness that we stumble through due to our own stupidity (as I have learned in my own life). In either case, there are lessons (albeit different ones) to learn from our Father.

Stefan said...

...And I'll pray for you and your family.

donsands said...

Teampyro is on an excellent roll. Another excellent post, with true truth, which truly helps encourage the heart, and renew the mind.

Storms come and go, and come again. We need to keep on encouraging one another, for the storms may become even worse for the Church in America.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Yes, well worth writing. Thanks, Frank.

Otrclassic said...

I've had a bad 6 months to a year. First my Dad took sick, then my mom did and they both died 6 hrs apart eight months ago and if that wasn't bad enough my power wheelchair completely broke down and left me struggling to get around in a manual one. It's enough to make one yell at God and laugh at the same time, not funny laugh but ironic laugh.

Through all this I know God is still in control. Do I get depressed? You bet and I've even wanted to die. But despite all that God is God and he has a plan, what I don't know and don't need to know. All I know is that God is in control.

~Mark said...

*hugs Frank*

-the prayer is of course offered-

8-)

As I read this, I'm listening to J. Vernon MGhee talk about Job.

Hmmmmmm...

Matt said...

Thanx so much for this post Frank. I have gone through an incredibly difficult 6 months myself. I'm in a situation that I prayed to get into, and I felt God's providence and leading all the way here. Now that I'm here and I've achieved my lifelong goal, I'm miserable. I'm struggling with anxiety and depression. I'm wondering why I wanted this, and how I can now move on.

Through it all, the thing that gives me hope is my fairly recent conversion to Calvinism. I don't know how I'd be able to bear this if I didn't believe that God was in control and that my situation was part of His perfect will. If it was all about me, and if my choices moved God, I would feel utterly helpless, and as though my suffering would serve no eternal purpose.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Matt

donsands said...

Oh Yeah, isn't this an old Beatles tune?

"I'm down. I'm really down. How can you laugh when you know I'm down? How can you laugh? When you know I'm down?"

centuri0n said...

aha. Someone born prior to 1982.

The song title posts are a new motif of teamPyro. However, you have to be sharp to get them all.

Evie said...

Yes Christ did suffer for us and took our punishment for us and yes, as you said, we can see that more clearly when we go through suffering as did Job. But you only lightly touched on a very important aspect as to why we must suffer. — CHRIST LEARNED OBEDIENCE through the things that He suffered and so must we. See Hebrew 5:8-9.

Suffering can bring out the worst and/or best in us.
After C.S. Lewis' conversion, he also grappled with the problem of suffering and wrote of his wife's early death. Lewis records his intense bereavement, including his anger and doubts about everything he had written and taught about God. He wrote in such a raw and uncensored manner that originally he released the book under the pseudonym name of N.W. Clerk, so readers wouldn't associate it with him. (He referred to his wife Joy in his book as "H," for Helen which was her middle name.) —

But Lewis turns a major corner in coming to grips with his suffering. He admitted a shattering, but liberating personal truth, which was - "these things are sent to try us.”
He came to realize that (quote) — “God always knew that my temple was a house of cards and God's only way of making me realize that fact, was to knock it down…Nothing less will shake a man like me out of mere verbal thinking and notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses.”

An important aspect to suffering I believe is the refining process that God’s wants to produce in us. As David Kupelian said, — “The magic of redemption is in the air when we suffer with patience and humility, without anger, allowing God to transform us at our core, into the giant oak.


PS I enjoy your articles very much (if that is any consolation) - because they make me think.

Morris Brooks said...

I Peter 5:8-9 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resishim, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

So should you share, yes, indeed. For it is and enouragment and example to others that one of their own is seeing his suffering through to its appointed end, suffering as a Christian, suffering according to the will of God, while entrusting God his soul to his faithful Creator in doing what is right.

This is part of what Job saw of God, that God was doing what was right in allowing him to suffer, and that not only was His purpose not thwarted by Job's suffering, but in Job's suffering His purpose was being accomplished.

Theophilus said...

Life "in the crucible" sure beats death on the cross.

I thank you for your [insert a synonym for frankness].

Thank you also, for drawing our attention not to God in a general sense, but to finding God specifically where you least expect to find Him, in the midst of the hurt. Pat answers, even if they are phrased in a Reform- friendly manner, profit nobody.

This post brought to mind the account of the 3 Hebrew Youths in the fire, with the 4th in there with him.

I will pray for you before I continue with my day. The same goes for the rest of the Pyro faithful. We bear one another burdens. Or are supposed to.

The Doulos said...

Interesting. I just last nite posted on a friend of mine having a really nasty week, and how God provided some key truths from His Word, unwittingly through me, to provide the right perspective. You can read it here.

terriergal said...

Centurion -- when you admit you're suffering it gives the rest of us a chance to empathize, offer advice, help...bless you in some way -- or whatever. So... as long as you're not complaining about bad drivers or loud movie talkers or the fact that eating a candy bar puts five pounds on your hips...I'm OK with that.

:-)

Everyday Mommy said...

Yes, I think so, too. And, I'm so glad you posted this one Frank.

That Christ condescended to live a life on this earth so that we would know He experienced our trials...blows me away.

Praying for you.

M. Stevenson said...

Psalm 33:13-22

The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; From His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works. The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name. Let Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, According as we have hoped in Thee.

Frank,

I hope these verses (along with 2 Chorinthians 12:6-10) are an encouragement to you as they have been for me during my own times of difficulty. God is faithful to His Word. I pray that in it you will continue to find His comfort.

Merrilee
a.k.a Enoch's wife

Gene said...

I thought I was suffering lately until Jayden was born. He’s my great grandson who was born two weeks ago. He was born a drug addict. He’s suffered for two weeks and has months more to suffer if he survives. I’m not sure he can ask GOD for help so I’m doing it for him. I never thought a person could pray without ceasing until now. Gene

centuri0n said...

Gene:

I will pray for Jayden, and for his parents, and for his grand-dad.

Jim Pemberton said...

It occurs to me that no matter how spiritually mature we are, suffering is that great equalizer that God uses to sanctify us further.

"Blessed are those who..."

Jon from Bucksport said...

Cent: This is really the best short piece on suffering I have read since I last perused the poetry of Cowper. Thanks for sharing--it brought tears of joy to contemplate these thoughts. I often need reminder that life is all about God. May the God of all comfort be real to you this week!

mark said...

if only i could say i agree, and have all these dark clouds clear in the morning. thing is, they probably will still be there tomorrow, and the day after, and the next. i pray that i see it, though i may not be in that chaise lounge, and what i'm sipping is bile on a mug. but for what it's worth, thank you. this is way better than any feel good ( and this is why the blog is linked