Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Suffering can be anything from traffic jams to taxes to tumors and everything in-between.

--Elisabeth Elliot


Missy said...

Hahaha! I've experienced all three of those in the last week. And not one of them seemed like suffering. But that brownie...


dani said...

When I start thinking of taffic jams and taxes as things that cause suffering I'm in serious trouble. ;)

dani said...

Then again, if I was sitting in Houton taffric in 100 heat with no A/C then I would be suffering...

Brandi said...

Missy, what brownie?

It's all about perspective...for me, having to chase down and kill a roach is serious suffering. (I'm not joking at all!) But things that are "normal" for me would be viewed by others as intense suffering.

Good thing God knows all we go through and He cares about our sufferings and appreciates any suffering endured for His glory.

dani said...

I agree, but I wonder if we don't trivialize suffering a bit...killing roaches and sitting in traffic pale considerably when compared to what Christ suffered on the cross (1 Peter 4:1). Not that many of us will ever go through that type of trial...but Christ trial should, I think, affect the way we view the little trials in life. (Although, if I had to live in a house infested with roaches, -with no way to kill them - then that would definitely be a trial!)

I think too that what really matters (as you kind of said in your prayer) is that when we are talking about going through suffering or trials it is really not the trial, but how we go through the trial that makes the difference. Our attitude and Who we are relying upon.

Here is a question – are trials and suffering the same? Do we always suffer during a time of trial? Just curious. For example, I rarely consider myself to be suffering, but often think of things as trials.

Brandi said...

Dani--I don't think it is trivializing suffering to point out that there are varying DEGREES of suffering. I believe that was Elisabeth Elliot's point. Are you familiar with her story? I'm not saying that she has experienced Jesus' suffering, (of course no one has) but she has suffered more than both of us put together...and then some!

At the same time, I do see the need to keep our own sufferings in perspective. Compared to Christ, we have not suffered at all. It is only because of His unending mercy that He takes note of our teeny-tiny trials. I am just thankful that He does. Thanks for pointing that out!

"(Although, if I had to live in a house infested with roaches, -with no way to kill them - then that would definitely be a trial!)"

For some, this would not be a trial at all. They might just be happy to have a roof over their heads or they may have grown up in "roachy" conditions, knowing nothing different. It's all about individual perspective

I agree what matters is leaning on Jesus during times of suffering. If we endure and don't cling to Him and give Him glory in our hearts...I believe our suffering is useless because the heart motive is pride which He detests.

To answer your question, I think that a trial is only a trial if it has suffering to some extent. It's not about the experience itself, it's about our feelings about it.

For example, I think of people wealthier than I am who would consider it a trial to be forced to live in a home the size of mine. Yet, many, many people would feel they had moved to a mansion if they moved into my home because they came from no home at all or a much smaller one.

It would be wrong to judge the wealthier person for considering a downsizing to be suffering just because it isn't suffering to me. Again, that would reveal pride in my, "I am better than you because I am able to endure greater suffering."

What do you think? This is an interesting discussion!

Missy said...

I think a plate full of brownies on my kitchen counter that I should not eat, but really want to, is suffering. I know that sounds trivial - but at it's root, I don't think it is. Suffering is born out of weakness. We each have our own.

I can handle a cancer threat, or being broke, an ill child - but a twinge of hunger pain or self-denial starts an internal battle that can also make those around me suffer! I think of it as suffering because I cannot overcome with my own will. It requires submission that does not come naturally. My desire and spirit are not aligned. Christ's suffering totally helps me put my suffering to work - not erase it from my mind as insignificant. I don't think of Christ's suffering on the Cross, but before it at Gethsemane (sp?) - when praying for his desire and spirit to stay aligned. He was teaching me how to do it!

dani said...

Brandi, I know Elisabeth Elliot's story. That is my point too! If anyone knows about suffering it is her. It seems odd to me that she would think that sitting in traffic is suffering after what she went through...but I understand what you are saying.
I agree that there are differing degrees of suffering and that each person will have a different definition of what it means to suffer and that we shouldn’t say that one person’s suffering (like your house example) is greater or less than our own just because we do not consider their trial to be one which should cause suffering. But, I still think that we go through a lot of little things each day that we allow to cause us to “suffer” which shouldn’t cause us to suffer. (Does that make sense?) It is about attitude.

I think that the word suffering throws me a little because the word by itself makes me think of physical suffering...such as when a dog is run over by a car and his back legs are broken. In that case we would say that he is suffering because he is in great pain. Great pain and suffering go together in my mind…roaches, traffic jams, etc. don’t usually cause great pain.

Btw, I was joking about the roaches. While I was typing I was thinking about Corey Ten Boom's story about the you know it? The fleas turned out to be a huge blessing because they kept the Nazi guards away from Corey's cell so that she and her sister were able to read their bible and share it with the other ladies. (The guards didn’t want to go into the cell or search the prisoners because of the fleas.)

I think I disagree that with what you said about a trial only being a trial if it involves suffering. We go through trials all the time…big and little... I think that we should try to go through these trials without an attitude of suffering. I hesitate to say with an attitude of joy…but something like that…”for I have learned to be content in all situations…(my paraphrase)”. For example, my toilet overflowing (again today - and very, very disgusting) is a trial...but I can choose whether or not I want to have a "suffering attitude" …whether I will view it as something horrible that ruins my day or just another thing that has happened and get over it without a poor attitude.
How I choose to respond to the trial – either with a suffering attitude or not - is my choice and it is in that choice that I either glorify God or not. But, please understand, I realize that a lot of suffering is caused by other people and this changes the picture a little although I still think we have a choice about how we will respond when others cause us to suffer.

But, I guess in the end suffering is anything that causes us pain.

Bird said...

I thik the key to understanding suffering, and to understanding what Elliot is talking about, is the whole idea of the spectrum of suffering.

Sure, no suffering ever has or ever will compare to the suffering of the cross. But does that mean we're never to acknowledge lesser sufferings? I don't think so. Otherwise we'd never acknowledge suffering at all because all suffering pales in comparison to the cross.

I think God cares very much about our suffering. He cares if you're scared to death of a roach and suffering through a trial with its extermination. :-)

He cares if you've been run over by a car and you're in unbelievable pain.

He cares about the big and he cares about the little. Acknowledging our weakness in small trials/sufferings is, I believe, part of coming boldly -- boldly -- before the throne of Grace.

He knows we're frail.

Brandi said...

Yes, Dani, the story about the fleas is awesome! I've read the book and have the movie. Have you seen it? It's really good.

I think our disputes are only really over word-usage. I use "suffer" to mean any discomfort from disappointment to great pain or loss. You reserve the term for great pain or loss.

You said, "I think that we should try to go through these trials without an attitude of suffering."

What do you mean by an "attitude of suffering?" Self-pity? If so, I agree with you. But to recognize that I am suffering does not mean that I choose to feel sorry for myself. Hopefully recognizing the suffering will lead me to turn to Jesus for comfort.

I am so sorry about the toilet by the way! Hopefully this will be the last time for a good while! :-)