Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Suffering, Arrogance, Guilt & Faith?

I've been thinking about suffering. My thoughts came about indirectly. I was talking with a Christian person who told me she has no upsetting pregnancy symptoms because she has rebuked all of those symptoms, and God gives us authority over our bodies, according to scripture. Her husband is a walking miracle...literally, he survived a car accident, which left him unable to walk for 10 years. And, today, against all physical possibility, he walks.

I was raised in a Pentecostal, Charismatic church. I know all about speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit and prophecy...and healing. I also know all about hypocrisy and false fronts and pride. And, given this experience, I practice a lot of skepticism.

My first response to being told that one simply needs to rebuke symptoms of illness and take authority over one's own body is to assume that the speaker has never really been ill, never really suffered. I had to ask myself what it means when the speaker really has known suffering.

And, so, I got to thinking about suffering. I realized that my first assumption is to think that if one has truly known suffering, one won't be so quick to judge others. Suffering teaching empathy, grace & compassion. It makes us tender to the suffering of others, more quick to help.

But then I realized that suffering very often has another effect. It can make people angry and bitter. It can harden people against the suffering of others, produce selfishness and a sense of entitlement.

But that isn't all. Suffering also has the potential to breed pride. Arrogance. A sense of having earned something. The right to judge others. Having come through suffering and out the other side can make a person pretty proud of themselves, pretty sure that they have the right answers. A person feels justified in standing by smugly while others suffer when they could just do XYZ and be done with it.

And then I felt guilty. I felt guilty for making the judgment that someone else might be arrogant and prideful. Because if I call out the pride of another, doesn't that assume some pride on my own behalf, some sense of rightness and justification in calling another out?

And how do I know they aren't right? How do I know it isn't all just a lack of faith on my behalf? A failure to to rebuke and take authority when I really should?

How do we walk the line of humility and grace...and wisdom and freedom? How do I know the truth? How do I know that I am right and someone else is wrong? How do I not accept the guilt and judgment because I don't believe that God is a God of guilt and judgment? How do I believe in a God of miracles and then not expect them?

How do I sit by and see my mother, a missionary for many years, a beautiful, strong, gracious & compassionate woman, struggle with cancer and blood disease and blood clots? How do I know whether to rebuke this illness or pray, "Thy will be done?"

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