"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27 ESV
I am reading through a book written by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes called, 'When God Weeps' (It's got a picture of Jesus holding a cute little lamb on the cover). Joni has some wonderful insights into suffering and we should tap into her writings in order to broaden our understanding of suffering. We who live in America, are living in a society that has been under the spell of Western Christianity, for a variety of reasons. One is a false belief that if we believe in God properly, we can reach the American Dream. Some people believe in the 'Prosperity Gospel' which believes that if we have enough faith, we can get what we want, or, we can speak things into existence that don't exist already. In other words, we can use God and His word, in a way that is similar to using a Genie bottle. When the person dies of cancer, or the baby that was born defective dies, then we are told that we didn't have enough faith and that's why the person died. We feel guilty and condemned, not only from ourselves, but from others who we are in fellowship with.
This is why it is so important to know the Scriptures. The more we understand Scriptures, the more we will see through false teachings. We in America, or in any prosperous nation, need to understand the Scriptures thoroughly.
I want to write a couple of sentences from 'When God Weeps'. It follows the verse on the top off this page. Here is what Joni has to say,: "But we hem and haw. This is so ironic since so many of us fault him (God) for allowing suffering to be the world's status quo. (The quo wouldn't be so status if we got off our duffs and followed his lead.) But we shuffle along, so slow to move. Often we are disobedient, listening to pride or prejudice while refusing to do anything. Suffering then breeds and spreads like an insidious virus. It could be held at bay, halted, and eradicated in many instances, but misery foments because most often we do nothing to stop it. His hands and feet fail to alleviate suffering because we have 'lost connection with the Head." (Colossians 2:19)
I have to wonder if we have been duped into believing things without even realizing what they are. I know society teaches us to make life as easy as possible. We are taught to take the easy way out of things. When problems are too difficult, we check out. We don't realize that working through difficulties is actually a gift from God to work in us sanctification. That concept is foreign to our thinking.
Joni's paragraph says a lot of things. She knows that for the most part, we fault God for the suffering in the world. She points out that we are slow to move. We shuffle along. Suffering continues to spread like a virus, yet, we can do something to help stop the spread. Why is it that nothing seems to be happening? She continues and gives an answer to the question. His hands and feet (the church, the body of Christ) fail to alleviate suffering because we have 'lost connection with the Head (Christ). How did we do that? Maybe we never had a connection in the first place? That's possible. There are many people who are false converts. They call themselves Christians, but they bear no Christian fruit. They are trusting in a prayer they prayed, or a pledge card they signed to prove they are saved. They made a 'decision' to follow Jesus, but never understood why they should follow Him in the first place. I think the other reason we have lost connection with the Head is because of 'becoming weary in well-doing'. We put in and keep sowing, but the reaping doesn't seem to come. At least in our time table it doesn't. So we lose heart. God's timing is not the same as ours. We need to keep that in mind.
Whatever the reason is, we need to become connected, or reconnected with the Head. Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches. We have to be attached to the vine in order to bear fruit. In order to serve God effectively in a way which produces eternal results, we have to abide in Christ. God wants us to develop a strong relationship with Him. If we lose our focus and become distracted, we won't bear good fruit. God intends for us to bear much fruit. This brings glory to Him.
If your heart doesn't really care about bringing glory to God, perhaps you need to check your heart. Has God done a work there? What was your vision from God when you first came to know Him? If your heart is cold, ask God to give you a new heart. Let God be your vision. It is not easy, but it is worth it. It will cost you something. Are you willing to let go of those things that are hindering you or holding you back from selling out to God? (I have to ask myself these questions too. I am not above sinning or losing out with God). What is more important to you that you want to hang on to, that is keeping you from turning to and trusting in God? What will you have to give up in order to have the faith that God wants to give to you?
My only last thought is that I believe we are part of the body of Christ and should be functioning as such. We don't go to 'church' just to listen to a sermon and check the box off indicating we made it to church that Sunday. We are participants in what God wants us to do. We are not spectators. God wants to use everyone who is part of the body of Christ, in His service. He wants us to minister to the homeless and the widow. He wants us to preach the Gospel to people (for more info got to Everyday Evangelism . Some of us will be called to be pastors. Some will be teachers. Others will serve people in the church and the needy in Jesus name. There was a song out years ago, and the words went like this, "I'm excited, I'm excited, I'm excited in the Lord (sung 3 times)....When you walk with the Lord, you don't get bored!" I think this is true. If a person is walking with the Lord he or she shouldn't be bored! There's a lot to do! There's a lot to live for! You weren't created to just grab all the gusto in life that you can, for 'tomorrow we die'. God created you to bring glory to His name. Even if you are in a wheel chair, or in a nursing home, God can still use you for His glory. If you want more details on that, I recommend that you read Joni's book, "When God Weeps" ! You won't be disappointed!
If you realize that you don't have a right relationship with God, please go to The Gospel Conversation or Are you a good person? for more information.