The end of a year can bring a sense of closure to difficult times.
But we all know that the next year will hold more, different ways to suffer.
The most comforting thing for me to remember as I reflect upon this unpleasant truth is that God, too, has suffered.
We are not alone in our pain. Therefore, we can face it.
Have you ever encountered a book and given it more than once chance, hoping that it would get better with the passage of time?
I’ve given this book my on-and-off attention for over a month, and I’m crying “Uncle.” I made it to page 155 of 902 tiny pages on my iPhone.
If you’d like to listen in on intimate conversations among perfect strangers and experience dozens of pages of stream-of-consciousness rambling, then you’ll enjoy this book.
Unfortunately, Mr. MacDonald struggles to get to his point and loses me along the way.
What makes this experience even worse is that the author expects us to acknowledge the importance of going deep in our spiritual lives. Richard Foster is right, “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
The author may be deep, but I’m unwilling to watch him dig any more to get there.
Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for writing this unbiased and forthright review.
One of the most famous and important descriptions of Jesus is found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
Jesus’ suffering is described in great detail.
In Proverbs 11:15, we’re told to be wary of lending money and cutting deals with strangers.
Leviticus 24:20 is notorious. People complain that, followed through to its logical conclusion, “the whole world will go blind.”
But nobody denies the necessity of a criminal justice system, and this law was intended to limit punishment, not perpetuate it.
If you allow one comparable punishment for a crime, then the felt need for justice is fulfilled. It is appropriate to suffer through a proportional human consequence for sin.
The first time the word “suffer” appears in the Bible, God is standing up for Cain, first murderer in history.
It doesn’t describe Adam and Eve’s pain, and it doesn’t refer to Abel’s murder.
Rather, God is reassuring Cain that his enemies will suffer if they take vengeance on him. It’s a word of caring in an impossibly difficult situation.
On January 1 of this year, I wrote about my spiritual goal for the year, understanding prayer more so I’ll pray at least twice per day.
I find it interesting to note that as a result of discovering the practice of Praying the Hours–an ancient liturgical discipline of reading through daily scripture passages and scripted prayers–back in February, I was able to pray at least twice per day for a majority of the past year.
My sense, although I don’t have data to prove this feeling, is that the times I prayed 2-3 times daily I was more successful in my family, at church, and at work. The times I didn’t pray, I became less efficient at work and perhaps less patient at home.
So although I didn’t “pray at least twice daily” as I wrote way back on New Years Day 2011, I did pray more this past year than any other, and I’d like to continue this practice in the future.
I found that my lack of attention to prayer was less a lack of belief and more a lack of structure. Learning about the Hours has transformed my spiritual life, and this end-of-year reflection is a great reminder to continue this practice in 2012.
Surprising that the next topic in the Navigator series is a one-week study of suffering.
I have a worse headache than usual, but I’ve had a great day with family. Christmas this year has been fantastic.
Maybe there’s value in considering this topic at the end of an old year.
Because we’re guaranteed some type of pain in 2012.
A bit awkward for an optimist like me, but I’m curious to see what suffering insights are in the Bible this week.