Suffering is unavoidable in this life. Despite the cons of a lot of wacko preachers who promise you the moon and the stars (for a donation), you can depend on the words of Jesus. “In this world, you will have trouble” ~ John 16:33. ANYONE telling you if you follow their program, you will no longer suffer is (1) trying to sell you something and (2) disagreeing with Jesus.
I’ve thought a lot about how to deal with unavoidable suffering. At Epiphany we are even in the middle of a study on the book of Philippians, to explore how we can learn to be content when suffering breaks into our lives. However, here, I just want to share with you 5 stupid reasons we suffer. These 5 are all avoidable, but I’ve dived in head first into every single one of them. In a future post I’ll talk about 5 good reasons we suffer.
5. You are way too big on yourself.
You think what you are doing is so important, you stay in a situation that is just terrible for you, or the people you love. This is just pride. Learning to take God seriously means we are freed up to take ourselves lightly and chill. If you haven’t learned that, maybe you’re doing it wrong. Are you suffering today because you’re too big on yourself?
4. You haven’t learned to listen.
“Nobody understands me!” Nobody? Really? Maybe you haven’t slowed down enough to listen to what people are saying. Listening is one of the most difficult skills to develop, but one of the most important. Sometimes we keep hitting our heads against the wall, and not paying attention to the door right next to us. Are you suffering today because you haven’t learned to listen?
3. You are living in unrepentant sin.
I remember the story of a notorious woman in our old neighborhood, when we lived in Africa. Her world included adultery, prostitution, performing illegal and unsanitary abortions, murder, witchcraft and constant manipulation. However, she would share in tears that she was devastated she could not see biological children live with her. Then our friend bravely challenged her, telling her “how can you expect anything good to come out of your life with the way you are living?” The Bible and personal experience both teach us that we “reap what we sow” (Galatians 6:7). Are you suffering today because you are living in unrepented sin? Or is your life the living embodiment of Social Distortions’ song “Bad Luck”?
2. You don’t have boundries.
It’s funny how the same action from two different people can come from opposite motivations? Take for example the instruction Jesus gave us on how to throw a party. “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” (Luke 14:12-14)
Now what if you took to heart Jesus’s instruction to not let ‘repayment’ or climbing the social ladder be your motivation, but did exactly what He says, but your motivation wasn’t primarily to love, but to be loved? When you find yourself taking care of everyone and your own life is falling apart.. when you make promises on the fly with everybody but break promises regularly to your own kids.. You have lost ability to have the stability God wants for you. God wants you to not be like some weed tree that shoots up fast and is easily knocked over by the wind, but a redwood. Are you suffering today because you don’t understand how to have boundaries and take care of yourself?
Ignorance is the cause of a massive amount of suffering in the world. One day some good friends of ours were at the pool, and a maintenance guy was about to fasten a metal bar into the side of the pool as a safety rail. The only problem was, this was in a part of Africa, where being a worker at the local pool, didn’t mean you went to school, the pool was full and he was half in the water, along with a bunch of kids swimming and was about to drop his corded drill into the water to fasten the rail! Unfortunately, the saying ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’ is dead wrong. Electricity is real, and water is a terrible conductor of electricity whether you went to school to find that out or not. There are tons of areas in life we need others to guide and enlighten us in.
No matter who you are, or how good your education and upbringing was. For example, there are surely some relational, financial or spiritual skills that you could still learn, and would make your life better. Are you suffering today because of what you don’t know?