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Redeemed by our Suffering or Imprisoned by our Suffering

    

    All of us suffer. At some point in our life we are hurt by adversity or abuse, abandonment, brokenness, bitterness, betrayal, resentment, suffering, pain, etc.

     We are hurt. Badly hurt. We murmur. We gripe. We moan. We blame. We complain endlessly to any one who happens to come our way. We refuse to take charge of ourselves over our unfortunate circumstance. We are locked in. It is so easy to be imprisoned by our hurt and suffering.

     But, we always have a choice. No one can take away our choice---our right to choose. Surely, there is there another way to respond to this hurt? Surely there is another way other than being imprisoned by our suffering? Can we convert our suffering into something useful for ourselves and others? Yes, provided we change our mind-set.

     First acknowledge the hurt. Write down all and in as much detail as possible the effect of the wounding on us. Then set the boundary conditions, such as: I will not allow the person to verbally abuse me by walking out of the room or I will not allow this adversity to mar my life.

     Secondly, nurse ourselves to health by grieving over our hurt and befriending our suffering. Know all we need to know about our suffering and then step over it. At some point, we need to forgive our-self and the person who hurts us and move on. When we do, we redeem our suffering for ourselves and others. We become a better person because we have suffered. Having been through the suffering we become more understanding. We become more compassionate so we can offer help and comfort to others in need. This is only possible if we learn the lesson not to bear grudges which imprison our mind but choose instead to redeem our hurt or suffering through forgiveness. We choose to love and not to hate. Suffering is then turned by God’s grace into a compassionate strength.

    

     The passages below are taken from Ken Gire’s book “Reflections on the Word,” published by Chariot Victor publishing in 1998.

 

Reading the Word

     Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4 NASB)

 

Reflecting on the Word

     Look back at those hours which passed over your life so calmly and contentedly. . . If the whole of your life had been a succession of hours like those, do you know what would have become of you? You would become selfish, hardhearted, lonely, without regard for higher things, for the pure, for God---and you would never have felt blessedness. When did it first dawn on you that we men don’t live unto ourselves? When did the blessedness of compassion bring comfort to you? In suffering. Where did your heart come close to those who were so distant and cold to you? In suffering. Where did you catch a glimpse of the higher destiny of your life? In suffering. Where did you feel God was near to you? In suffering. Where did you first realize the blessedness of having a Father in heaven? In suffering.

                        Albert Schweitzer

                         Reverence for Life

 

Responding to the Word

Dear Jesus,

     Thank you for the hard and sometimes uphill road I have had to walk in following you. I am stronger because of it. And we are closer because of it. For all the good things that have come to me along the way, I thank you.

     But I have to say, I wish it were an easier way,

          a shorter way,

          a more scenic way.

     I wish the road didn’t have to go past the garden of Gethsemane, with its darkness and loneliness and tears.

    I wish it just went in endless circles around the seashores of Galilee, and that walking with you were more of a serene stroll in the sunset.

     Help me to understand that Gethsemane is as necessary as Galilee in the geography of a growing soul.

     Help me to remember that even though you were a son, yet you learned obedience through the things you suffered.

     Paul talks about entering into the fellowship of your suffering. I do so very much look forward to having fellowship with you, but honestly, Lord, the thought of having to suffer to experience it stops me in my tracks.

     Help me, Lord Jesus, to want your company more than I want serenity, and to love the fellowship with you more than I fear the suffering necessary to enter into it.

                                  Ken Gire (74-75)

 

 

     The passages below are taken from M.J. Ryan’s book “Attitude of Gratitude,” published by Conari Press in 1999.

 

     Do the Work of Forgiveness

     There are many ways to victimize people.

     One way is to convince them that they are victims.

                             —Karen Hwang

 

     Nothing blocks feelings of gratitude more than anger and resentment. That’s why the practice of gratitude requires the work of forgiveness. We can’t feel grateful to our parents for what we received from them when we are still angry about their abuse, self-involvement, insensitivity, alcoholism, or neglect. Nor can we receive the gifts of a relationship that has ended when we still feel hurt over betrayal, angry over deceit, sorrowful over abandonment.

     Nor should we. Trying to force ourselves to feel grateful when such strong negative feelings exist only compounds the injury. We have been hurt. Let’s not deny our woundedness on top of everything else. Healing, in the form of acknowledging the grievance and grieving the loss or wound, needs to happen first.

     However, there comes a time in the process of emotional resolution for forgiveness. For only forgiveness can move us out of the victim stance and free us to move on. Depending on the kind of wound you have suffered, this may be deep psychological and spiritual work. No one can talk you into it. No one can do it for you. Only you can come to the place where you want to forgive.

     What helps the forgiveness process is to understand that resentment is a second-hand emotion, a cover for underlying feelings that have never been expressed. That’s why it is useful to do a practice called “A Damage Report.” In a letter (that you never send) to your abuser, write down all the effects the wounding had on you, in as much detail as you possibly can. Don’t hold back. Then create a boundary, something like: I will get up and leave the room if someone is verbally abusing me; or, I will not stay with anyone who is abusing drugs. This will help you develop trust that you will protect yourself against such circumstances and people in the future. Then write a note of forgiveness to yourself for not having stated your boundary before, and a note of thanks to the other person for the learning, so that it won’t happen again.

     If you really take the time to express fully your needs and pain and state your new boundary; chances are you’ll begin to be grateful for the lessons the wounding has taught you, whether it’s to stand up for yourself, to be kinder toward others, to stop drinking, whatever. At some point you realize that you are a better, stronger, more loving person than you might have been if you hadn’t been so hurt, and you recognize the gift in your particular suffering. In that moment, you move from victim to victor, from victor to venerated teacher.

     Forgiveness leads to gratitude, and not just gratitude in general but, in a beautifully healing movement, to an outpouring of appreciation for the very things that caused such pain in the first place. Thus is our suffering redeemed. (103-104)

 

 

     The passages below are taken from Ken Gire’s book “Reflections on the Word,” published by Chariot Victor publishing in 1998.

 

Reading the Word

     Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22 NASB)

 

Reflecting on the Word

     To forgive for the moment is not difficult. But to go on forgiving, to forgive the same offense again everytime it recurs to the memory---there’s the real tussle.

  C.S.Lewis

  Letters to Malcolm

 

Responding to the Word

     Lord,

     How often do I forgive?

     I’m asking not for an answer, only for an opportunity to come clean.

     How often do I forgive?

     “Search me, 0 God, and know my heart.”

     How often do I forgive the gossiper in my life?

     How often do I forgive the exaggerator? The out-and-out liar?

     How often do I forgive the talker in my life? The interrupter?

     The person who sits around like a bump on a log and says nothing?

            How often do I forgive a boss who’s demeaning?

     A co-worker who’s competing for my job?

     How often do I forgive my mother, for all she did or didn’t do?    My father, for all he said or didn’t say? My brother? My sister?

     “Try me and know my anxious thoughts.”

     How long is my mental list of hurt feelings?

     How far back does the account of “wrongs suffered” go?

     “And see if there be any hurtful way in me.”

     How many people do I mumble to myself about, mentally rehearsing the scene where I tell them off and expose them to the world?

     How many times do I hear bad news about someone who’s hurt me, and I’m glad because, after all, they had it coming?

     “And lead me in the everlasting way.”

     Forgive me, 0 God, for all the times I haven’t forgiven. For all the times I’ve only partway forgiven, or grudgingly forgiven, or self-righteously forgiven. Lead me into a better way of living, which can only be found in a better way of forgiving. Help me to forgive others the way you have forgiven me.

     Not for a moment but for a lifetime.

     Not seven times. . . every time.

                                  Ken Gire (100-101)

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