Cyber Book Club–Chapter 14 Suffering Faithfully is Fighting Too

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Bonhoeffer’s London apartment http://www.dietrich-bonhoeffer.net/leben/london

In Chapter 14 of  Bonhoeffer: A Biography, Dietrich heads to London to take on the pastorate of two German congregations. He desired to keep his hand in practical ministry. While there, many concerned British and German thinkers wondered how to fight the Nazi take-over of the German church with the appointment of Muller as it’s leader or Reichsbischof.

In the midst of their concerns and plans, Dietrich seemed to foresee a time when the only work in the fight against Nazism would be the work of suffering faithfully.

While Hildebrandt, Niemöller, and Jacobi were thinking about how to defeat Müller, Bonhoeffer was thinking about God’s highest call, about the call of discipleship and its cost. He was thinking about Jeremiah and about God’s call to partake in suffering, even unto death. Bonhoeffer was working it out in his head at the same time that he was thinking about what the next move should be with Heckel and the church struggle. He was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, wherever that might lead. In the letter to Sutz, he said, Simply suffering— that is what will be needed then— not parries, blows or thrusts such as may still be possible or admissible in the preliminary fight; the real struggle that perhaps lies ahead must simply be to suffer faithfully. . . . [F] or sometime [the church struggle] hasn’t even been about what it appears to be about; the lines have been drawn somewhere else entirely. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Bonhoeffer was somehow thinking prophetically, that somehow he could see what was ahead of him, that at some point he would be able to do nothing more than “suffer faithfully” in his cell, praising God as he did so, thanking him for the high privilege of being counted worthy to do so.

Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: A Biography (p. 196). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

When has suffering been the chief work of your life?

Is there someone you know suffering right now?

How can we come alongside fellow Christians who are called to a time of suffering so that they can be faithful and comforted in their struggle?

Glory by Way of a Cross

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Holy Week is fast approaching– leading up to our celebration of Resurrection Sunday, more commonly known as Easter, the zenith of the Christian calendar. During this week nearly 2,000 years ago, Christ secured glory for Himself, the Father, and most amazingly, us.

Pastor Wil Owens takes a close look at John 12: 20-36 and unveils for us how Christ’s agony on the cross “leads many sons to glory”. Click on the link below to listen. Enjoy and be encouraged!

“Following Jesus means we walk the same path He walked, the way of the cross. We take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. But it also means we will enter His glory with Him, for where He is, there will we be also. How do we live that out day to day, in the middle of the crisis, in the midst of the trouble? We keep looking to Jesus. Heb 12:2 – “looking to Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…” He endured the agony because He fixed His eyes on the certain, set, guaranteed glory! That’s how we endure as well.” –Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

 

Walking Towards Sunday: The Better Question

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Why?

It’s a question that reverberates down the halls of human history. Every single soul to have ever lived eventually sits like a child looking at a broken plaything–wondering why things so beautiful, like peace, health, and hopes, could be so easily broken. When the shards of our dreams lay scattered at our feet we lift our voice with millions of others who have wondered as we do…and cry out, “Why?”

And when God doesn’t show up to make a full explanation we do different things. Our trust may crumble, we may shake our fist at Him, curse Him, and say all sorts of things about Him…He must not be good, or all-powerful, or care, or maybe even exist. Some of us just sit and wait, tears falling.

All of us will walk through dark tunnels of suffering. But the older I get and the longer I live in faith and love with Christ the more I realize that the answer to the question of why something happened matters less and less. Our personal ground zero may be just a charred patch of earth… but look up! What is there that wouldn’t have been there without the suffering and without the grace of God?

Can you see something beautiful above that spot of desolation? Something you and I could never have built?

Christ making us more than we were before….

Christ making better able to comfort….

Christ giving us empathy for others…

Christ cementing our hope in His promises…because we have finally seen His faithfulness.

And that’s when we realize, a better question to ask is, “What is He doing?”

That suffering happened suddenly becomes less important than what is happening.

Seeing what God is doing takes good old-fashioned TIME, however. Experiencing God’s faithfulness can’t be rushed. It is the pilgrim’s reward. He promises to make springs for us in our desert journey.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7

The problem of suffering is a Gordian knot. Man will never be able to prevent it, solve it, or even be able to explain it. And one meager blog post can barely touch the surface of it. What we can do is accept that Christ promises that He is in control of it, uses it only to help us in the long run, and gives us strength to bear it.

May these verses encourage us ask to the better question —What is He doing?

And who knows? In doing so, God may even allow us to see enough of His work to guess at the answer to the other question–Why.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”  Romans 5:3

Elizabeth Hiett

What Happens When a Blind Man Sees?

Photographer: Elijah Hiett Instagram: @elijahhiett427

Photographer: Elijah Hiett. Instagram: @elijahhiett427

A whole lot. People get mad. Accusations fly. Those one rely upon turn squeamish. But light shines. A body is healed. A heart becomes courageous. And a Savior comes to comfort.

Are you suffering? Are people blaming you for it? Is your family turning their back on you?  Do you feel ostracized by those who should be supporting you? Have you felt Christ’s comfort yet?

If you are seeking answers, take the time to listen as Pastor Wil Owens unpacks Christ’s most exceptional miracle and helps us “see” what we can expect to experience when we meet Christ and accept His healing touch. So grab a Bible if you have one and enjoy this special two-part series on John chapter 9.

No matter how formidable, convincing, emotional, or heated the arguments of man may be, let us remain steadfast in the truth of God’s Word. What matters most in this life is not what others may think about us or do to us or declare about us, what matters most in this life is what God declares about us, what God has done for us, and what God has to say to us. –Teaching Pastor Wil Owens

EBH

Walking Toward Sunday: Running into Ugly and Finding Beauty

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I was not born pretty. Some people probably considered me ugly. At least one health professional suggested that my parents could “send me away”. In any case, the illusion that life could be a safe, comfortable experience shattered that first day of my life when even the bottle failed me and I had to be fed with a dropper. My cleft lip and palate stamped the reality of the harshness of our world front and center on my face. It did one thing to me and one thing for me. To me– it prevented me from forming any delusional reality that life is easy or simple. For me– well, it landed me straight in the arms of God.

Psalm 22:10 is a verse that resonated with me from the first day I heard it:

” On you was I cast from my birth,

and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”

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So this little girl born with an amazing amount of black hair and large, blue eyes had a big problem long after the surgeries were done and the medical files closed. Was life safe? Was life beautiful or was it ugly?

As I grew I formed a sneaking suspicion that it was both. But, by gum, I would try to stay as close to the beautiful side as possible! And I feel like I have done that fairly well. I call it charm. You know, a small house can be thought of as “cottage-like”. And “slightly old” mixed with “inexpensive new” can become “shabby chic”.  A crack in the wall becomes “old-world charm” and rusty wheelbarrows can be remade into planters. Seeing the beauty and charm in things is a great skill to learn.

But what happens when you run into something truly ugly?

I don’t do well with that. It makes me very nervous. Like an exasperating Rubik’s cube (which I could never solve) some things in life cannot be twisted or turned into something “charming”. For most of my life I had seen some of these difficult things from a distance, mostly as a nurse. The range was wide: poverty, loneliness, dead babies, twisted bodies, alcoholics bleeding out, addicts in cardiac arrest dying. But that kind of ugly I could walk away from. A question always haunted me as I drove home to my safe, small home with my wonderful husband and four healthy children. “What will I do when I can’t find the beautiful or charming side to a situation? What happens when something truly “ugly” comes to me? Something I can’t charm my way out of? And make no bones about it, I knew that Ugly comes to everyone.

And then it did.

Two years ago, Ugly came. It came into my living room. It came into the lives of my children. It came into our pocketbook, into my health, into my “charming, little world”. It’s been almost a year and the journey is still on. And I am ok with it. It is Christ’s work, to help bear another’s burden. But my heart is breaking.

Oh, the grief! Dear Lord, where is the beauty? I can’t twist this anyway that makes it look better! If there were just some beauty here, I could bear it! I could bear it!

And then a still, small voice.

But maybe you are the beauty in this.

I paused.

I had never considered this option.

Beauty can be brought by someone outside a situation, for the sole sake of the person in it and change the reality of their suffering. It is so simple. So elemental. So Christian. My friend, caught in the vortex of something ugly, gazes into a mirror and I on the other side, through Christ’s help, touch the opposite side of the looking glass. My compassion, no, Christ’s compassion, beautifies what she sees. And it her suffering becomes bearable. She is reminded that she is loved by Christ. I still see ugly. She sees God working. I feel joy to know that she sees God. Later, I will see beauty. But I feel joy.

What a strange, sweet irony it is that a little girl born into trouble, and shying away from it all her life, should find out that, if she let God do the work, she could be the conduit to bring beauty in the midst of something very ugly.

I’m not so afraid of the ugly side of life anymore. As I show love to others and bring beauty into their suffering, someday someone will do the same for me. Christ will make sure of it.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

1 John 4:11-12

me3Elizabeth Hiett

Walking Towards Sunday: Grief and Suffering at Christmas

Bouguerau, "The First Mourning" 1888.

Bouguerau, “The First Mourning” 1888.

Job 5:7 ”  but man is born to trouble
as the sparks fly upward…”

On the outside of things, suffering, grief, and Christmas don’t seem to go together. But when one really thinks about it, Christmas holds its truest comfort for the hurting. Christmas in all its glory and in its deepest meaning is for the suffering individual and for the soul in despair about his sin or the sin of others. It is for those who are experiencing the fallenness of this world firsthand–for those who need answers and for those who need hope.

Sickness, family troubles,  or the loss of a loved one changes the way we celebrate Christmas and the sadness we feel is real and valid.   We miss the child or spouse who should be seated at the table, we miss conversation with an aged grandparent whose mind is clouded by dementia, we miss the strength to play after-dinner football because the chemotherapy wiped out our energy. And it’s ok be sad. Even so, the message of Christmas remains the same and can comfort us on the slow road to healing if we are willing.

For those of us struggling in such ways, Christmas is for us. It is for us because, at Christmas, we remember that God became incarnate, took on flesh and joined humanity in a stable amid the mucky mess of a world caused by our sin. God took on real human form to take on real human problems.  Christianity is not a cliche, feel-good, band-aid-type weak attempt to make emotionally needy people feel better about the world. It is a solid, real answer to mankind’s deepest griefs and our worst problems. By His power and because of His incarnation and subsequent sacrifice for our sins through His death on the cross, consider all that He accomplished:

  • the forgiveness of our sins
  • an eternal, joyful, productive life for those who want to follow Him and be with Him forever
  • eventual healing from all sickness
  • the banishment of evil before the renewal of this earth
  • His support, love, and guidance for the remainder of our earthly days, so that this life will be abundant as well
  • additional family members in other Christians (because big families are awesome!)

So, if you are suffering or grieving, allow yourself to feel it. But also, surround yourself with the great symphony of Scripture whose music circles around the moment in time when God took on human flesh. Christmas is God’s magnum opus.

An absolutely great place to start is to listen to traditional Christmas music. Pandora has a radio station titled “Christmas Carol Radio”. Christmas carols can bring so much joy and remind us of the true purpose for celebrating Christmas. I had the awesome chance to attend a Messiah sing-a-long last week and it was so comforting. Handel’s work starts in Isaiah and ends in Revelation. You could you-tube it, get a hot cup of tea or cocoa, and let God’s mighty story of your redemption surround you this Christmas season.

Not suprisingly, the first words of the Messiah are:

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. . .” Isaiah 40:1-3

P.S. Just to make it easy for you, here’s a link to listen.  Here’s another link for the lyrics.

Merry Christmas to you all,

Elizabeth