Our society talks a lot about suffering these days. It seems like my generation grew up with bright eyes and dreams to be a generation that helped with all the hurts, only to grow up and realize that none of us are exempt from suffering. At some point, it comes knocking at all of our doors and maybe you’ve not hit that season yet, but the truth is, we live in a broken world and all of us will feel the effects of that brokenness at some point in our lives.
Here’s the thing though, we talk a lot about suffering as victims. We talk about how bad things happen to us that we can’t control: ie. Car accidents, cancer, tragedy, someone hurts us, etc. And Christians and non-Christians alike have immense amount of sympathy for that type of suffering. Yet one thing we don’t talk about well is suffering that is self-induced (suffering as a consequence for bad decisions or sin), suffering that we are pre-disposed to (mental illness, depression, addiction, gender confusion, etc.), or a combination of the two.
There are a variety of reasons why this is the case. But overall I believe that our culture has very limited sympathy because we don't classify these things as suffering and we're extremely judgmental towards those who have self-induced or pre-disposed trials. Our pull up our bootstraps mentality and our "You did this to yourself" judgmental spirits have permeated our news cycles, education systems, and is just a way of life.
These approaches can be more harmful than helpful as they dehumanize our struggles and create a false storyline that some people are broken and others whole. This is a critical realization, especially in the church where our message is ALL are broken and in need of a great Savior. It’s hard to claim that message when we are sympathetic to some struggles and judgmental towards others. Yet I've seen churches CHANGE lives by not only acknowledging ALL of our brokenness, but by removing the stigma from suffering by being conduits of grace and healing to those with self-induced or pre-disposed trials.
This is where the gospel comes in and changes lives. This is where our churches have the opportunity to be counter-cultural and proclaim a GREAT Savior!
When society says, “You messed up BIG” or “You ARE so messed up,” the Gospel says, “There is good news, Jesus redeems broken things!”
When society says, “You’re too weak! Try harder!” the Gospel says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
When society says, “There’s no hope for you!” the Gospel says, “We have this hope as anchor for the soul, firm and secure, a hope that doesn’t fail.”
When society says, “You’ll never change!” the Gospel proclaims that JESUS is in the business of changing hearts.
When society says, “You’re beyond all help,” the Gospel says, “Jesus is close to the brokenhearted and HE is a very present help in time of trouble.”
When society says, “You’re not good enough,” the Gospel says, “None of us are.”
When society abandons you and leaves you alone in the rubble, the Gospel says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
When society says, “What a waste?!” the Gospel says, “No suffering is wasted. All things are for your good and His glory.”
Yall, I’ve seen this done in my current church. I’ve seen it done beautifully, messily, imperfectly, but still attempted and accomplished! I’ve seen the church contradict the lies that society says amidst brokenness. Our churches have everything necessary to battle our tendency to mirror our culture’s response to brokenness, and proclaim in both word and deed that we are ALL in need of this good news! Restoration takes root when our churches and communities say, not only are you welcome here, but we admire your fight. You’re no second string line-up; we’re all in this together. You don’t have to hide anymore, rather, we openly carry this burden with you.
Church, we can do this. I know we can. We can be more gracious with each other and more careful with our words. We can put away pride and stop celebrating, idolizing, or striving for "picture perfect" lives. We can have safe homes and churches that have open doors, where nothing said or confessed will be met with disgust or disdain, but rather met with grace and the truth of redemption. We can do the hard part of showing up, not because we are awesome, but because Christ showed up for us.
And now to the sufferer, I don’t know your story. I don’t what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, or what you’re walking through. But what I do know is that these wounds you’re carrying, will one day be beautiful scars. For He binds up wounds and He saves the crushed in spirit. And this week especially, our Holy week, we celebrate amidst suffering. For He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes WE ARE HEALED.
My friend, He was wounded, so your wounds could heal. If you’re suffering please know that you’re not alone and you are not beyond His reach. Find a church that will walk beside you and hold up your arms when the burden is too heavy. Praying for you this week.
Side note: I’ve mentioned this before, but I love my church. And one of the reasons why I love my church is that they recognize that the Gospel isn’t for “good” people who have all their junk together. They sing, preach, and teach that the Gospel is for broken people and where there’s broken people, there’s a lot of hurt and suffering. But where there are people of God, there will be stories of brokenness, hope, and restoration. Yesterday, our pastor gave a wonderful sermon titled Leviticus 10 & 16: There Will Be Blood that pointed those who wrestle with guilt and shame over brokenness to look to Jesus. This blogpost was influenced significantly by it. If you wanna check it out… listen or watch here.