This blog is usually about family life and whatever thoughts have been ruminating in my head. Right now, family life is just fine. Peter has moved to Boston and is preparing for his wedding to Shani on May 13. Julia and I are going to a bridal shower next week in Charlotte! Anna has started her second year teaching in Japan. Philip and Kara are still living newlywed life in Chattanooga. Julia has only a few days of high school classes left. Adam says, "Hooray!!!" to that because he's the one that drives her back and forth to New Bern. She's taking an Ethics class and a Psychology class, plus a math class at home.
|Adam and Julia doing Statistics together|
In that vein, I share with you a radically different perspective (but a typical one these days) from Tim Lawrence on "Upworthy" -- "8 Simple Words to Say When Someone You Love Is Grieving." Lots of people agree with him also.
I imagine both Lawrence and Elliot would agree on these points: 1) We should be very, very careful when speaking to those who suffer and grieve. 2)It's easy to say hurtful things to them, thinking we're helping. 3)If you haven't experienced their type of suffering then you're not equipped to speak to it at all.
Beyond that, I'm pretty sure Elliot's views would be offensive to Lawrence. He says that if you're grieving and anybody says to you that your suffering is for a reason, or it was meant to be, or it will make you a better person, you have every right to jettison that person out of your life. And not just because their words are causing you more pain. Oh no! But because such words are platitudes. They are "categorically untrue," Lawrence claims.
Elliot would disagree, and I'm so happy she does! She gives real hope. Lawrence does not. Elliot avows that God redeems all kinds of suffering and grief because He is a redeeming God. Lawrence doesn't see life that way. Lawrence admits he has a more cynical view of others, since his own grieving. What a joy to read Elliot, who has had some pretty intense grief in her own life, and hear her state confidently that she is not jaded nor dismayed nor afraid! She is confident not only of God's love and plan for her in her suffering, she is confident that her suffering is perfectly designed for her by God to equip her to serve happily in His kingdom as nothing else could have done. Suffering is the tool God uses, Elliot teaches us, that forms us into the people who better hold the "seeds of the divine life." No, that's not hocus-pocus stuff. It means our suffering is designed to make us better distributors of God's life-giving food-for-the-soul: love, joy, peace, patience, forgiveness, goodness, tenderness.
Think of yourself as a container with a lid. God comes along and begins to puncture your lid, jabbing hole after hole in it. It hurts! The lid is ruined! The jar -- YOU - cannot hold anything anymore. Then he puts into you all the things he treasures, those "divine seeds" of love and joy and all the others. Then He turns your life upside down and He sprinkles them all out on people who need them.
A pretty little picture? A cute analogy? Not really. It can be real life, if you let it be. Or we can keep grieving and grieving and suffering and pulling inward and feeling angry and hurt and resentful. I speak to myself. I ask: How have I let the sufferings I've experienced change me into a better person who gives those seeds of love and joy to others? I don't just ask, Have I changed? I ask, How exactly have my sufferings changed me?
Elliot's book is full, chapter after chapter, of people who have done just this -- taken their pain and suffering and determined to use them to help others and make God's joyful, loving kingdom a reality on Earth.