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Like most people, Christians usually deal with suffering by trying to get rid of it. Most of the time Christians start by asking God to remove the problem that causes the suffering: cancer, heart diease, loss of a job, a strained marriage, overweight (I once knew a fellow who, every time he decided that he needed to lose weight he would "fast and pray." It never worked. Using praying for personal gain--pardon the pun--harms the spiritual life).

And yet God often does not remove the adversity. A young lady of my aquaintance was diagnosed last year with a benign but inoperable brain tumor, an astrocytoma. She might live long enough to raise her five-year-old daughter to adulthood. It's still there. It hasnt't grown, but it's still there.

What happens in a case like that, where God does not remove the problem? Some of us give up on God. Having threatened him with not believing in him if he didn't act right, some of us carry through with that threat. That'll show him. Some try the "try harder" approach, praying more, praying differently, having other Christians pray for us. If we get our part right, the thought seems to be, then God has to come through.

This isn't helped by all those TV people who tell us that if we only send them enough money, God will have to "bless" us. "It's right there in his word! God is bound by his word! He will send you EVEN more!!"

God's job is to relieve Christians of all their burdens when and how they ask him, I guess.

Yes, the Christian life is a fairy tale, complete with fairy God Father and happily ever after.

Too bad such people who want to believe that don't read the Bible. There's a reason that Jesus told us sternly to "count the cost." The cost is high. It is our entire life.

God's people have often encountered adversity and suffering. Take the Exodus. This is supposed ot be the pattern of God delivering his people, and at first glance it seems like it. God's people, through no fault of their own, are enslaved in Egypt. Life is hard--oppressed, no freedom, in exile and wanting to go home, harsh labor, and subject to their children being killed by their Egyptian slavemasters.

Then (swelling movie music) Moses appears, proclaims the Lord's mercy and their deliverance. The people rejoice. And then life gets harder. They have to work more for the same number of bricks. The Hebrews grow angry with Moses. This isn't deliverance. Then the plagues come, one by one, with who knows how long between plagues. All the Hebrews can do is watch. Then they have to obey some pretty bizarre orders--a lamb's blood on their doorposts. Well, they've seen something of this God's power, so most of them anyway obey. They've learned to trust enough to obey, and they survive.

That trust is the key to the lesson they needed to learn.

Well, they leave Egypt rejoicing, until they get to the shore of the Sea. IF they were where many scholars think they were, there was desert to their south, army garrisons to their north, the sea in front of them, and Pharaoh thundering up behind them. This wasn't deliverance--it was murder. And the people again grow angry with Moses. But then God opens the sea for them and closes it on the pursuing Egyptians.

Whew. They are delivered once more, and Miriam and others sritke up a band and sing a song.

But then they have to face the desert. This is the Promised Land, Moses? Are we there yet? They have to face more adversities: thirst, hunger, heat, sand, and snakes. When they get to the border of the Promised Land, they refuse to go in. "There's giants in them hills!" So they must wander and live in the wilderness for forty more years.

When they finally do decide to go into the Land, they must face determined military opposition.

Life gets harder before it gets easier, and all that they once took for granted they must recognize actually comes from God's hand. Every time they face suffering, they think it was better in Egypt. But the more they live in the wilderness, the more they learn about God's faithfulness, the more they learn that God can be trusted. Without trust, they cannot live for God or for (or with) each other. In order to be a true people of God they must first learn to trust in God. "Experience keeps a hard school, but a fool will learn in no other."

When they finally enter the Land, God gives them some rather strange marching orders: circle the city once a day for seven days, then circle it seven times and then shout and blow the trumpets.

And they actually do it. That's how far they've come in learning to trust him.

And so they can live in the land--oh, they have a long way to go yet and much hard labor still lies ahead of them. Moab and Philistia are not going to be exactly good neighbors. And they have yet to learn that other gods will only get them into trouble, but they will learn that, too, even though it will take a conquest and an exile to learn it.

That's why the Christian life is not a fairy tale, In a fairy tale the characters face a problem, overcome it, and then go back to life as usual. The adversities in a Christian's life are not meant to let us go back to life as usual. Life as usual is what brought the adversities on to begin with.

We live in and for self-interest. Teh cries for deliverance that the people of God offer up to him are out of this self-interest. They complain about having to find straw, about not having water, not having bread, then they complain about having too much bread and no meat. then they complain about Moses's leadership. they complain about everything.

Yet God delivers his people. This is the lesson of God.

But he does not deliver them so that they can go back to life as usual. God saves them from their suffering--not always as and certainly not when they'd like him to--in order to change them. He wants a people who will obey, to know that all things come from him and that nothing matters as much as obeying him.

But we do not change willingly. We only change when it becomes harder to go on than it is to stop. Israek is forced to confront it servile nature and instaed change to trust in God and live and risk in him.

So it is with us. Since no one has been more loved by the Father than the Son, we can expect that some of his experiences--and he did suffer--will be part of his love for us, too. For his desire is not that we have a life without suffering, but that we live a life transformed.
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Melesi: the only thing I see to disagree with is the last little about about the 'father and son'. No one has suffered more than the God of this Earth. Not even Jesus. But on to other things:

I too have been thinking about the suffering of earth, and I wondered 'why'. This morning, the answer came to me. Technology. If from the beginning God had made peace and kept it, we humans would not have aspired to technological advancement. We would be peaceful, but intellectually stupid, confined to earth for all eternity.

God set aside a time for all things to complete themselves. Life has a purpose, that is knowledge. And now that we have gained it, it is time to usher in the peace that will last so that humanity can prosper as a unit, technologically as well as spiritually.

Peace to you

Ps: I almost posted this to my web site, I thought MBM had written it, would have linked it to him here. But when I saw the 'father and son' bit, I checked again and it was you. You know, I would post it with some slight modifications. The theme is good and could be informative with the right reply behind it. Smile


Freedom Revolution to Establish the Egalitarian Deporment Of Mankind.
The suffering argument or theory is old. What about Jesus saying "I came that you may have life and have it more abundantly". That is the same old tired argument that has kept our people in a role of subservence since we were forced to immigrate to this country. We expect to be poor and never get any better. Give me a break! God wants us not to be poor, but not to want or need for anything. That goes for both physical world and spiritual world.

Well, that depends.

What does it really matter that a statement or concept is "old"? Don't we exalt some very old things, calling them "tradition" or "time honored"? How can some things being old be a good while other things being old is a bad?

From your response I would guess that it really isn't the age of the concept that you find objectionable, but your perception that it is like the concepts (if they really existed) that kept us enslaved or submissive for all those years. I say "if they existed" because the existence of the Underground Railroad seems to tell us that we really didn't accept this concept. we siply dealt with it the best that we could considering the power to change it that we didn't have.

And that seems to be your point. You don't like the argument because it seems to you as though it encourages a mind-set that will keep us from achieving all that we can in the face of opposition.

Do I understand you right so far?

I don't think that that is true. Jesus's words do not contradict themselves. They may be paradoxical, but they are not contradictory. "Love your enemies" is a very real Jesus-teaching. He also angrily chased the moneychangers and sellers out of the Temple. The lesson about being longsuffering in the face of suffering is not contradicted by "I came that you might have life...abundantly."

It depends on what you think he meant by "abundant life."

I think it is clear that the "abundant life" is one that trusts in and obeys God. What is a possibility in what you wrote (it's a possibility, now, not established as fact, so correct my conclusion if need be, but don't think that I say that it is so) is that you are saying that if I believe in God or not I still have the right and the moral duty to do as I see fit, what is good right now for me. "Abundant life" is the one that I make and that I enjoy. But that's contradicted by most Biblical teaching.

If that's what you say, then, yes, we do disagree.

The moral problem with what you appear to be saying is that it's the very attitude that the Bible repeatedly shows to result in moral evil. Once I start deciding that I can do as I please or even do as I see to be right for me or for my people (whoever that is--family, neighborhood, school, church, country, race), I have to also decide just what that good is. And without God's standard of right and wrong, we become "all sail and no anchor."

In fact, that's just what we are now. Most people I think would agree with you Yssys, and see where that has got us. Not just our color, but every color.

Now, don't exclude the middle and say that what we did years ago was not right, either, therefore what you have said has to be right. The case may be that neither is right.

The point of my post was to tell us again that God's point and aim for us is not comfort but transformation. He wants us to be a changed people, and changed in the way that he shows us to be right. that is, to be a people who trust him and not our own hands and minds.

That will mean quite a bit of work. If I understand yor post right, you seem to believe that the way I pointed out is a quietistic way, where we do nothing and trust in God.

But that's not trust. It's sloth. Trusting in God's way and taking his suffering as it comes means that we do not do according to our own thoughts but according to his word. It means that we are patient and understanding and kind even when we try to affect that change that we know is good for us and for all. To trust and to work is the way that I'm not sure you're accepting. We pray and vote, we give and trust and speak out in public. We just don't do it as everybody else does, nor for their reasons. We do it because it's what God wants us to do.

What does he want you to do?
Melesi, maybe if you were not so dogmatic you would see the answer to your question was in what Yssys wrote. You asked how could some things old be good while others things being old is bad. There usage is what makes them good or bad. Yssys clearly said that this old slave teachings is what made us subservient for many years, and I could not agree with her more.

"We got to organize ourselves, We got to mobilize and there can't be no confusion in our collective solution, If not for ourselves, then for our kids, because we know who our enemy is!"

DPZ "for the hood"

More to come later!

Your Brother Faheem

I didn't quite ask that, really. What I said was that the age of a matter does not determine that matter's goodness or badness. That some things are old and yet good makes her opening comment, "The suffering argument or theory is old" irrelevant. My response to that was a polite, "So? Old things can be good."

I partly agree with you, for you said that it is not the age of the matter that makes it good or bad but rather the use to which it is put. I think you are mostly right here, keeping in mind that good things can be badly used. That makes the use of the thing bad while the thing itself can still be good. What did Abraham Lincoln say to the temperance union meeting, that alcohol is not a bad thing but the bad use of a good thing? That happens, too.

Now, you are quite right--and Yssys is, too--to say that old slave teachings were evil. But that's not because they were old but because they were and are in themselves bad.

But this issue of suffering patiently is not part of that teaching. It's about self-centeredness and willulness, about ridding ourselves of the pride that exalts ourselves above God and tries unsuccessfully to make us "captain of our soul and master of our fate." Which of course, we really aren't, either eternally or here on earth, if community means anything at all.

You see, we have a problem sometimes with contradiction. On the one hand we say that we are to be community-minded, yet on the other hand we loudly proclaim our right to make our own decisions.

We can't have it both ways.

What God offers us is the right way: Be gentle with others and ruthless with yourself. "Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me," Jesus said. "Think of others more highly than yourself," Paul said. This is the key to the "abundant life" that Yssys referred to, without knowing, I'm quite sure, what that "abundant life" meant.

My point in my response to her was that she and I were talking about different concepts and from different motives. I spoke about a spiritual life that leads to spiritual, emotional, and physical freedom. She spoke it seemed to me from a fear of the future that will keep people just as enslaved--even if to a different master--as our parents were so long (and not so long) ago.
The issue of suffering patiently is the root of slave teachings. Telling slaves that they suffer here but when they get to that big place in the sky all will be good. You can change it as you please, but there are those like myself and Yssys when we here such teachings we know and understand that you are trying to repackage slave teachings to mean something else. I understand what you are saying but I can not separate the idea of Christians teaching men and women to suffer patiently from Slave teachings, I believe they go hand and hand.

"We got to organize ourselves, We got to mobilize and there can't be no confusion in our collective solution, If not for ourselves, then for our kids, because we know who our enemy is!"

DPZ "for the hood"

More to come later!

Your Brother Faheem

That's not the teaching of suffering patiently. That's a parody of it. To suffer patiently is to put yourself in the right position in the world and not to exalt yourself from pride. IT's to see the world and yourself in it as you and it truly are.

It is not to do nothing. Jesus didn't do nothing, yet he suffered patiently. The prophets didn't do nothing, yet they suffered patientlty. The apostles didn't do nothing, yet they suffered patiently. King David didn't do nothing, yet he suffered patiently--usually.

The opposite of suffering patiently is to do as our wants and feelings dictate, not as God says. Suffering patiently admits others' dignity and place, and especially it admits God's rights and place. There is such a thing as God's will. I know of no place where God tells us to wait for that "pie in the sky" that you do not seem to like. That's seems to be a good conclusion, for God doesn't seem to like that attitude, either.

This is not a "slave teaching" no matter how you might want to repackage what I am saying--and you are doing that. This is a teaching of strength. For proof, just try to love your enemy as see how much strength that takes. Use your head to find the best way to help your neighbor even at cost to yourself and see how much strength that takes.

These are not "hand in hand" with slave teachings. In fact, it is quite the opposite, for it does not brook evil yet it recognizes all people's rights and needs and selfhood.

It is the right teaching.
Originally posted by Melesi:
Like most people, Christians usually deal with suffering by trying to get rid of it. Most of the time Christians start by asking God to remove the problem that causes the suffering: cancer, heart diease, loss of a job, a strained marriage, overweight (I once knew a fellow who, every time he decided that he needed to lose weight he would "fast and pray."

What's interesting is that people have a tendency to over-spiritualize their situations and problems when often times the problem has to do with cultural lifestyle [i.e., incredibly poor eating habits, a myriad of social problems, societal stress, oppression, and discrimination, work-related stress, unnecessary and unproductive conflict and competition, environmental toxins, self-neglect, and other lifestyle-related issues]. To ask god to "take away" a problem implies that she or he has inflicted the problem upon you (and/or the group to which you belong) in order to perhaps "teach you lesson." I do not subscribe to this kind of relationship with the creator. Whatever problems that people experience has more to do with how the group is living, which include but are not limited to, the ways in which you treat and prepare your food, the quality of the air, water, soil and other resources that you consistently intake and use, and of course the manner in which you interact and relate to one another. All of these factors determine a human being's quality of life and how it will be lived.

[This message was edited by Rowe on February 25, 2004 at 09:28 AM.]

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