Suffering

Entering the Rest of God

Posted in Personal, Suffering on July 8th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 3 Comments

One of the books I’ve been reading is a commentary by Edward Fudge on the New Testament book Hebrews.  While scholarly, it reads more like a devotional book, which is what I’m using it for.

Last night I was reading the portion of the book that deals with Hebrews Chapter 4, which talks about entering the Rest of God. The point that jumped out at me was that we enter this rest only when our work is done.  Just like God worked for six days creating and then rested on the seventh day, our work will be ongoing until it’s done and then we will enter God’s “Sabbath” rest.

Perhaps the reason this jumped out at me is because several friends are struggling with seemingly unending times of difficulty.  John Dobbs wrote about the stormy days that he and his family have been going through.  In addition, just before I was reading Hebrews last night, I had read a note from a friend about a new difficulty their family was having to deal with — on top of other ongoing challenges.  And just to be honest, I’m a little worn out myself by some of the challenges we have been dealing with.

So here are some thoughts that occurred to me as I reflected on this portion of Hebrews:

1.  This life can be difficult.  We can look back and see how God has gotten us through difficult times in the past, and know that He will do the same in the present and the future.  But these difficulties wear us out.  We get tired — physically, mentally, and emotionally.

2.  Sometimes God relieves us of a difficulty.  A week ago, the doctors had given up hope for John’s father-in-law.  This week he’s at home recuperating.  My dad doesn’t require chemo or radiation for his bladder cancer.  You have similar stories you could tell.

3.  Sometimes God doesn’t remove the difficulty and challenge from our lives.  Our daughter Sara continues to suffer from a number of medical conditions that can be temporarily disabling, in spite of fervent prayer by so many.  You have similar stories in your life.

Our tiredness from dealing with these ongoing difficulties and challenges, however, does serve to make the Rest of God seem so much more desirable.

Rest is a wonderful thing to look forward to after our work here is finished.

“An Individual Could Hear Me Crying”

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Illness, Suffering on May 30th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Be the first to comment

I received this the other day from my friend Allen Thyssen.  Normally I wouldn’t just cut and paste, but this article is so good I want you to get to read it, and it’s not possible for me to just link to it.  I’ve done a little editing to make sure the folks involved can’t be identified.

The following posting was made by the daughter of a cancer patient who is currently in ICU.  It is a touching testimony to the value of a ‘ministry of presence.’  Please pass it on as you see fit. (Allen)

Update…well we are about the same.  We are just waiting to see if the liver will decide to get to work.  As we sit here with broken hearts we see just how merciful God is.  Even with all of this going on we received a good word from an unsuspecting source.  We were going through a difficult time and I guess this individual could hear me crying.  He comes up and says “I know I am a total stranger but I just wanted you to know I am here for you”.  Then his first question was “does your father know the Lord?”  We then began talking and he said “if we spent as much time praying for lost people as we did to keep the saved here with us…what a different world it would be”.  This fact has been evidenced by dad and his life.  If you remember, just a few days ago dad was witnessing to his nurse.

We then learned his grand-daughter has been fighting cancer,  and in the last 7 years she has had 11 surgeries.

While his grand-daughter is in ICU facing additional surgeries he took the time to reach out and comfort me.   I want to take the time to thank this man.  I don’t even know his name but God sent him to comfort me at just the right time.

Final Words Are Words to Live By

Posted in Illness, Suffering on May 28th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

Deathbed confessions carry more weight in law than normal confessions.

That’s because we believe that a dying person has nothing to gain by telling a lie, and everything to gain by telling the truth.

The same logic also makes us pay special attention to words spoken to us from a dying person.

Lots of people became acquainted with Debutaunt (Deborah Greer-Costello) during her battle with cancer through the internet.  She blogged extensively about life and her illness.  Through her suffering, she attracted legions of followers, many becoming true friends who never met face-to-face in this life.  Deb often requested prayer, and her requests were quickly relayed through Twitter.

Here’s a handwritten note relaying one of those requests on Flickr.

Deb passed from this life on May 18, 2009.  But she had her final say — posted today by her sister Steph on her blog.  She knew she was dying, and she had a lot to say.

Give yourself a blessing today, and read Deb’s final post.

Do you have a compassion defense mechanism?

Posted in Personal, Suffering on May 13th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Be the first to comment

Do you have a compassion defense mechanism?

You may think this is a strange question. But stay with me for a minute.

What’s your gut reaction when you’re given an opportunity to be compassionate, but either suspect or are warned that entering the situation may be painful or physically difficult to experience or emotionally disturbing?

Lots of us have a built-in defense mechanism that tells us to run the other way, to avoid the pain, the difficulty.  I think it was instilled in most of us in childhood by parents trying to protect us from seeing things or being in situations that were uncomfortable.

It’s probably even one of your life commands:  Avoid Painful Situations.

Some choose to disobey that life command, and all of us are thankful they do.  EMT’s respond to grisly accident scenes.  Doctors and nurses provide care for people suffering terrible diseases.  Palliative care and hospice folks help individuals and their families live their final months and days with dignity and good quality of life.  People like Mother Teresa care for lepers.  And the list goes on.

But never fail to understand — these folks that choose to show compassion pay a price.  As they encounter the pain of others, they experience their own pain.  And they are limited in how much of another’s pain they can encounter.

I know a number of these people.  I’m thankful for them.  They’re my heroes.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Posted in Suffering on December 2nd, 2008 by Jim Hughes – 3 Comments
WHY?

WHY?

This question is almost as old as time itself.

And attempts to answer it have filled pages and books and libraries.

So you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I can’t tell you why bad things happen to good people.  Or why good things happen to bad people, which is sort of the same question.

What I do know is that good things happen to both good and bad people, and bad things also happen to both good and bad people.  I know it from personal experience, as do you.

But I also know it because the Bible tells me so.  The Bible tells stories about real people in real situations, and by reading these stories, that’s exactly what we see.

There’s even one whole book in the Older Testament about horrible things happening to a very good man.  Not just one thing, but a whole collection of bad things.  This good man, whose name was Job, had good friends who thought they had the “Why” of all this figured out.  So they explained the “Why” to Job.  Only they were wrong, totally wrong.  How do we know?  Because God himself told them so.

Their explanation was basically that bad things happen to people who do bad things, and that therefore, Job must have done bad things.  God said that isn’t the way things work here on Earth.

Jesus said the same thing in the Newer Testament.  It rains on the just and the unjust.

That’s the way it works here on Earth.  Bad things happen and good things happen.  To good people and to bad people.

So “Why?” is not the question to focus on.  How we handle life when stuff happens is what matters. That’s the lesson of Job.  And that’s the lesson I learn again and again from people I interact with who’ve had bad things happen to them.