I am different than a lot of people. When things are consistently falling apart in my life, I don’t only like to hear from others that are having train wrecks in their own life, but from those who are actually making it. Though I have become increasingly skeptical of people’s own interpretations of how things are working together for good in their world, I can set aside my skepticism in order to live on their side of the block for a short time and be encouraged. It is a sort of emotional self-preservation. I like to think some people are not only making it, but living the “victorious Christian life.”

I like neat clean stories of how such-and-such terrible thing happened, but look at this wonderful thing that came out of it. Stop there! I don’t want to know anything past this point. I will not follow-up on you. I will not read your blog and don’t call me and give me updates. I don’t want to hear your story in a year or two. Why? Because I know what is going to happen. That wonderful thing that came out of it is going to turn, disappear, or show its dichotomous reality and the story of victory will turn to a story of sorrow. The clean version is all I need.

I suppose that I should not try to live in such a fantasy world. I know that reality is much different. I know that most people are like me and are still waiting for something good to come out of something bad. I also know that we normally never see that something good. Well, at least not today—at least not in the way we think.

(Warning: Stop here if you are desirous to have one of those stories today. There are plenty of other Evangelical blogs out there from people who feel pressured into always manufacturing a victorious-yay-God interpretation of their life. I don’t have one. Not today).

No, I am not in a bad mood, down, or depressed. I am not even really trying to get something off my chest. I just think this is something that needs to be integrated into our God-talk more often so that many of us will not be disillusioned waiting for something good out of something bad.

I suppose the first crack in my all-too-typical posterboy Evangelical naivety came over ten years ago when I was in seminary. It was the first year. Everything that happened was the hand of God moving me and my family into bigger and, most importantly, better things. Ninety-percent of our livelihood came from our home church supporters. I had a part-time job as well. Though things were tough, I was determined to give part of our income to the Lord. “First part for the Lord, then we use whatever is left,” I would tell my wife. When the finances got really bad, my wife encouraged me to use the money to pay the bills rather than give to the Lord. “Nope. First part for the Lord, then we use whatever is left.” I remembered all the stories. Something about shovels and the Lord’s shovel being bigger. Oh, and then there is the “You can’t out give God” thing. However, things did not work out so well. I kept giving and the unpaid bills kept their unpaid status. “You just watch the Lord work,” I would tell my wife. “It will be amazing.” Yep, it was amazing. Soon I had to start borrowing money from people in order to make up for the financial hole I was putting my family in. Nothing “good” was coming out of this. It was at this time that I began to rethink some things. Sometimes there is a point when your interpretation of Scripture just does not work out in real life.

I love all the stories about how God comes through just at the right time, and I even still believe some of them. However, “coming through” is getting pretty subjective.

There are so many things that I am still waiting for something good to come out of it.

Still waiting for something good to come out of my sister’s death. From my perspective, in the things that are most visible, there has not been too much good. We have not seen her son Drew in six years. Mom never recovered. My sister still cries. And my dad cannot forgive himself. And I still don’t know how to help people out of that type of depression.

Still waiting for something good to come out of my mom’s aneurysm and stroke. Mom was 56 when she had it. Its been four years. Hope has turned into a nightmarish reality. She  will not recover any more. She can’t speak. She can’t walk. Can’t move her left side. Can’t see out of her right eye. Most of the time she has the demeanor of a four-year-old. She sits in a chair all day watching the same movies over and over again. She has gained over fifty-pounds and we can hardly move her without our backs going out. I know she wants to die, but she can’t. In truth, it seems as if my mom died four years ago and was replaced by someone else. Yes, we love and care for this someone else very much, but it is not the same. I wait to see the change God works through this. I try to manipulate things into a positive, but there is really not much to find. Its all bad and getting worse.

Still waiting for something good to come out of me and my wife’s differences. Kristie and I are nothing alike. Personality wise, we are from different planets solar systems. This not only causes friction and misunderstanding in our marriage, but it also keeps us from being close in so many ways that we wish we could be. They say opposites attract, and I am sure that this is the case in many people’s marriages, but it is not really the case with us. Our opposites detract. While we love and are committed to each other, our relationship is clumsy and awkward. There just does not seem to be good coming out of the differences.

I could go on, but I will spare you.

Denise Spencer has written about this speaking to the atypical “Christian” experience she had with Michael (the Internet Monk’s) death. It does not get any more real than that.

I suppose that this is why I don’t really like popular Christian music, but I do like country (. . . waiting for boos to stop). Christian music is simply too cliché. It does not seem to live in the real world, Christian or otherwise. They seem pressured to talk about victories in life while ignoring the nagging elephants that don’t make sense. However, country music has it all.

Speaking of country music, Alan Jackson sings a song that sums up my thoughts pretty well.

Here in the Real World:

Cowboys don’t cry,
And heroes don’t die.
And good always wins
Again and again.

And love is a sweet dream
That always comes true
Oh, if life were like the movies,
I’d never be blue.

But here in the real world,
It’s not that easy at all,
‘Cause when hearts get broken,
It’s real tears that fall.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the Bible. I believe Romans 8:28. I believe everything that God has ever said. I simply am not so confident that I always understand him.

I am still waiting for good to come out of so many things. I would wager that most of you are as well. However, so many times I must simply be content that God knows what he is doing, even if he does not show me how it works out. I guess that is part of trusting him here in the real world.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    36 replies to "“Still Waiting for Something Good to Come Out of It” or Here in the Real World"

    • cherylu

      Michael,

      As I have crossed the lines of life from young, to middle aged, to senior, I have realized more and more that what you say is true, in the real world we often don’t see that “good” we are promised–or at least understand it as good.

      I think the Christian world often tries to make the Christian life out to be the first two thirds of Hebrews 11–you know, all the storities of wonderful victories. But it seems to me that the Christian life is often actually more lived in the last third of that chapter–the ones starting at verse 36 where everyhing isn’t a proverbial bed of roses. I am not saying we experience all of these things literally of course, but much more figuratively.

      I think the church today has basically forgotten the Scripture that says “through much tribulation we must enter the Kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

    • Jeff

      I like country music too … you should listen to some Merle Haggard … if you want the real deal 😉 … that is more from my Father’s era but I listened to a Songwriters tribute to him called Tulare Dust song writers tribute and I thought man this guy is doing more ministry in his songs than most contemporary Christian artists. Listen to his theology in “I can’t hold myself in Line” … or his grief in “Kern River”. Every good Oklahoma boy should have some Merle.

      Anyway … Life does get tough and some things just don’t seem to have answers (understatement). That is why I wonder why we try so hard to be so certain we have every detailed theological point cornered and right on this forum.

      I refer to my wife and my journey as before and after the train wreck … 😉 … the story is way too long … but honestly we’re doing real well now. Relationships can get better, you can get joy in small things when the big things are causing problems. I think sometimes the things we pursue just keep us in bondage. Earnestly seeking God is the way out of the mess … not seeking knowledge mind you.

      There are wonderful moments of revelation along the way when you converse with God or just start listening to other people talk instead of trying to always be the one talking. There are some awesome people out there … some are in a good zone and others are not … but almost all have been through some trials … often difficult ones. Christians that have been through a tough deal seem more compassionate to me. My wife certainly is.

      Listen to Lucinda Williams too. Some contemporary Christian artists are good too especially when they get real like when they pour their heart in art out after trials … listen to Stephen Curtis Chapman after losing his adopted daughter in an accident … or Amy Grant while struggling in her marriage. The bottom line is … don’t bail when things are tough … they do get better. Our ultimate hope is in Christ.

      I…

    • I have long ago given up on simplistic cliches and easy answers. I am convinced that Romans 8:28 is true (because God said it). But I am also convinced we will not see how it works except in eternity. Sometimes people can look back and see why something happened, but more often then not we can only trust God. We live in the midst of a spiritual war zone and it is not till the battle is over that we understand the big picture from God’s perspective. And to comfort someone with the idea that they will soon see all the reasons for things can be a cruel comfort.

    • John A. Taylor

      Michael,

      Great post!

      I’ll fess up, throw away the cliches, speak truthfully.

      In this real world, I’ve had far too much pain, too much disappointment, too much that I don’t understand. At times, pat answers taste bitter in my mouth.

      Like you, I believe everything that God has ever said, but I cry with hunger for unrealized dreams.

      Yet in those moments, when I taste of God’s goodness, when I stand with understanding, when I’m full of expectation, the sweetness leaves a deposit of all that He has promised. My heart grows stronger, I stand a little firmer, and when the dark days come again, I hope a little more for it all to make sense in the world to come–when Heaven and Earth are perfectly united once again.

      It’s then, that I realize that real faith is often born in the bitter furnace of heartbreak and disappointment, when God doesn’t bring healing, when God doesn’t give answers, when I cry out, “God I don’t understand!” Only to hear silence, instead of the answers I seek.

      Yet somehow I recognize, that if this real world can’t hope in Christ, then it has no hope at all.

      So I pray, I cry, I rage, I believe.

    • Dale

      You hit a nerve for me. I’ve basically stopped going to church for many of the reasons you outline. I can’t take the people anymore. I’m tired of the cliches, the always-happy music, the misplaced umbrage. There is one teacher there that teaches theology. Real theology with none of the overly optimistic and cliched sermonizing. And he’s leaving.

      When things are bad in my life the last place I look for comfort is the church. They have no words that help and in most cases cause me more pain because of their seeming indifference. Most of the relationship advice I’ve been given has been wrong. I can count the number of times the question “why did this happen” has been answered on one finger.

      Not sure what I’m going to do because my faith in Christ is as strong as its ever been.

    • Steve

      Mike the Mad Theologian expressed my sentiments exactly. Maybe we are entering into a season where we can begin to “get real” with each other. Otherwise, Michael, I read your blog each day. Thanks for “being real” with us.

    • Michael T.

      I’m always reminded of the story of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14 when he said to his armor bearer “PERHAPS the Lord will act on our behalf.” Of course in that story the Lord was with them, but Jonathan didn’t know that was going to be the case nor did it have to be the case. We act and we live life as best we can and sometimes it turns out right, sometimes the Lord is with us and acts on our behalf, and sometimes we fail miserably and bad things happen. Why??? I don’t know. We know so little about the whole of reality we can’t even begin to theorize why. I too hate the normal Christian cliches though that try to make everything so sterile and easy. Reality is this life is a mess and it is truly sad that most the time Christians can’t be real enough with each other to support each other in these messes, not with cheap cliches, but by joining those who are suffering in their suffering.

    • bethyada

      I am not certain I expect that everything bad that happens will automatically have a good, and that it happened for a good. Now it may be for some things, but many things are just bad.

      Off course can bring good out of bad situations, but that doesn’t mean all bad ends up good; nor does it mean that if good does happen the bad wasn’t really that bad.

      I guess that I appreciate it when God brings good, and if I see finally see a good result in a previously bad situation I may be glad for the result, but only on that side of it, I don’t like for bad otherwise, I guess all I hope for is God’s final justice.

      We are not immune to pain, and many die still hoping. While I do not wish for suffering, I would like to hope more in God’s goodness than in his good for me in this life.

    • Lucian

      Well, I got just the right thing for you:

    • Jeff

      Cool video Lucian … and I could relate to Denise Spencer’s link (in Michael’s original post) too. I lost my father to cancer three years ago and I too wanted the visible “moment of peace” in his last days or just a peaceful passing. My dad wasn’t the internet monk but he prayed Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer every night during his two year long battle.

      I also heard stories of others experiences where it was more story book outcome. I don’t doubt those stories … in fact I know some of them were true … and I even know some who have been healed from cancer … but it wasn’t to be our experience. To be honest, I won’t say I was mad at God … but more like disappointed that God wouldn’t let that be our experience.

      Right after my father passed away, I was taking a month off work to regroup and my best friend from childhood wandered back into my life and was very ill too. He passed away 2 months after my father. Then my brother in law passed away suddenly. I kept asking God … what is going on? Silence …

      Even with all this (and more) and even going through the experience of my wife’s major bout with depression … I still believe God is good and still have hope, have had some wonderful moments in my family since these tragedies and have wonderful memories that I will cherish for the loved ones I’ve lost.

      I know others have had even more difficult experiences in the same time period and I can say that I don’t know how I’ll be when facing some of the challenges some of my loved ones have experienced.

      BTW Jeremy Camp is another contemporary Christian artist that did a great album after a very painful experience (losing his wife to cancer).

      I really appreciate your blog Michael … please keep posting … and thank you for your transparency and your desire to teach.

    • Lucian

      Christ performed many miracles, but the *purpose* of His earthly life was the Cross. If Christ had not risen, then our faith is vain, and so is our preaching: and you can’t have the resurrection without the Cross.

    • Charlie

      I have noticed that we Evangelicals are quick to try to work out a redemptive ending to the bad things in life. I personally think Paul was engaging in some hyperbole in Romans 8:28.

      I’m terribly sorry about your sister’s death. Suicide has horrible consequences on survivors. My dad killed himself when I was 9. In my very young mind I viewed it as a personal rejection of me, which led to depression and hopelessness as a teen and my own thoughts of suicide. But a direct result of my father’s death was that my mom moved the family to another state. And in that new place, I came under the influence of a youth minister who led me to Christ when I was at the very bottom of my black hole.

      Looking back on my dad’s suicide with almost 50 years of perspective, I’m certain that I am following Christ because of the chain of events his death began. I also feel that I have gained some first-hand perspectives about the family dynamics of suicide and the experience of depression that *may* have helped me listen more effectively to others who have gone through similar things. At least, that’s my hope.

      Is that the sort of good Paul was talking about? I don’t know. I do know that God is sovereign, and God is good. Beyond that, there’s a whole lot of mystery.

      I tend to think that the Evangelical church has focused its message so heavily on the redemptive qualities of our faith that it has avoided the reality of suffering and the terrible consequences that evil has on our world and our personal lives. That theological distortion may be what drives us to try to force happy endings on tragic events.

    • Susan

      Here’s the link to Dan Wallace’s article entitled, Do all Things Work Together for Good? http://bible.org/article/do-all-things-really-work-together-good-romans-828-its-context
      I think it offers excellent insight into the good which God has in mind.

      And Michael, now I understand why you liked reading my story!

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      @Susan: I was just thinking of Dan Wallace’s article. Helpful stuff!

    • Earnie

      Wow! Believe it or not, that was encouraging.
      Though my wife and have made it through 12 years of marraige primarily strained due to her chronic illness, that means nothing anymore to the church.
      You see, we “sinned” my not becoming parents.
      Apparently, being faithful where we can doesn’t matter, we’re disqualified from ministry, friendship, etc.
      I suffer with PTSD from the gulf, bt I still manage to work and serve my wife at home.
      At least God sees.

    • Earnie

      By the way, we’re about to complete the “Intro To Theology” DVDs which is a pretty big accomplishment when you realize due to her illness we can only watch 30 minutes at a time.
      Thank God for Michael’s generous sale, without which we would never had been able to afford the set. Though we’re broke and friendless, we’re getting a top-notch theological education.

    • Vladimir

      I’m not sure the dichotomy is valid that there is a demarcation between “the victorious Christian life” and the real world. Rather it becomes one of perspective and end goals. Solomon perceived this in Ecclesiastes.

      I’m going to read my Bible now, remain “horney” with no acceptable outlet, be content with and thankful for my underpay and underemployment and rest in Christ my risen and eternal Sovereign.

      Vladimir

    • mbaker

      My most hated ‘yay, God’ line is that God uses such things ‘to build character.’ That presupposes two things:

      (1) That the person bad things are happening to at the time either didn’t have enough character in the beginning, and needed more, so therefore God has to hit them out of the park repeatedly with His big, bad circumstantial baseball bat.

      (2) That we are somehow not getting ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is.

      I’ve been through enough things in my own life, that I will share honestly about the outcome, but not brag that I’m a ‘better person’ because of them. I’m not. Maybe just a bit more compassionate toward folks going through it, that’s all.

    • mbaker

      And I should add that life, Christian or not, doesn’t always turn out as we plan, or would hope we deserve as his chosen people. God’s still sovereign, and while I accept that He is with all my heart, I still don’t hold with the modern belief, that He, (as no respecter of persons), singles some out and not others to go through bad things. Otherwise we could not accept Him as a God of love, who wants to save us rather than punish us.

      I do agree with the scripture that he works all things to HIS own good purpose, for those who believe in Him, just that doesn’t always necessarily happen as we think it should here on earth.

    • John From Down Under

      Ah…what a gem this is! You now officially have a permanent fan across the Pacific who’s not even a Calvinist! Over here we would affectionally call you ‘Mick’.

      While others may find this post gloomy and (from the charismatic stripes) probably faithless, I find it extremely liberating! In Philip Rieffs words, “the psychological man wants to be pleased”. This type of man (or woman) may say ‘you’re just playing it safe to save yourself from disappointment and hurt’.

      We don’t have to talk ourselves into happy endings and a romanticized walk in the sunset. Real life doesn’t always end like a Hollywood movie. Trying to morph our experience into an idealized (or idolized) state is not a mark of biblical faith and trust in Christ.

      This is not to ignore or make light of God’s providential care and grace. I have at least one indisputable example of good coming out of a train wrecked marriage, yet this has not been my ‘default’ experience in other areas of life.

      He may sometimes bring good out of the bad, but I don’t see it is as an ironclad guarantee. Paul had to learn with adapt with his ‘thorn in the flesh’ and despite his many experiences in healing, he still ‘left Trophimus sick in Miletus’ (2 Tim 4:20). It’s also telling to me how Jesus chose to weep at Lazarus’ funeral even though we had gone there to raise him from the dead. He didn’t try to alter the mood and tell them ‘watch what’s about to happen and start partying’. He accepted their grief for what it was, a sad and miserable experience. He shared their grief before sharing their joy!

      It’s NOT about being passive or ‘c’est la vie’ or ‘que sera, sera’. It’s accepting some of the irreversible effects of the fall without sugar coating and romanticizing adverse experiences.

    • John From Down Under

      POST # 2

      On the flip side, the Bible DOES make a case that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3-4). Paul’s imprisonment fired up other Christians to advance the gospel “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel”. (Phil 1:12). The persecution and scattering of the early church resulted in effective evangelism, and so on.

      Ultimately, we are assured that; “His divine power has granted to us ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3) Would it be fair to say that this is a ‘situation neutral’ assurance (whether things turn out for the better, worse or indifferent)?

      All the promises given to the churches in the first chapters of Revelation, point to the afterlife. That’s the better version of things to come that we can truly hope for, not our ‘best life now’.

      What are your comments HODGE?

    • Susan

      John, mbaker, and Earnie, If you haven’t read it, Do take a moment to look at Dan Wallace’s article which I linked to. He originally posted it here at P & P, but I couldn’t find it here…but It’s posted at bible.org

      The problem is that we look at the promise incorrectly (all things work together for good) http://bible.org/article/do-all-things-really-work-together-good-romans-828-its-context

      I found this helpful….hope you will too!

    • mbaker

      John From Down Under,

      Just so you understand, I am not disputing the scripture you quoted, only the modern day interpretation of it, that suffering is the ONLY thing that builds Christian character. Many times we suffer because we make wrong choices, and that’s when we should, but to say that it is the only reason we don’t live a victorious Christian life is just as wrong. We don’t always have a choice in determining our circumstances. Just saying we often suffer involuntarily, and needlessly, for other folks choices, not ours. And when that happens, it is very frustrating.

      God bless.

    • John From Down Under

      mbaker

      To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking of your comment in what I wrote. I’m simply making a point that the ‘suffering produces character’ theme has a legitimate place in biblical theology.

      And yes, absolutely, I couldn’t agree more that often we reap the consequences of our own wrong/sinful choices. Completely agree!

    • mbaker

      But what about the wrongful/sinful consequences of others: Are we to simply to accept that as “God’s will “or what we have to deal with in real life? And if so, is it character building in the sense that some in the church think so, or are we to fight it as Christians? A big question. like CMP. that I often ask myself. I’m definitely not a martyr, as regards this either.

      In other words: What is simply character building, or endurance on our part or what is simply accepting real life as it presents itself?

    • John From Down Under

      “But what about the wrongful/sinful consequences of others?”

      A drunk driver swerves over and hits me and I become an invalid for the rest of my life. I say the ‘consequences of living in a fallen world’. I don’t know where the character building kicks in, in this case though I’m sure a Christian who had this happen to them would be quite tempted to question God ‘why did you allow this’?

      I don’t pretend to have the answer 🙁

      Fair to say that there is a legitimate place for both character building AND accepting what life throws at you. A case of ‘yes, and’ rather than ‘either, or’

    • mbaker

      So, John, you didn’t really answer the question: How would you deal with this in CMP’s place? Obviously he has tried to deal with this horrible turn of circumstances in a Christian manner.

      Is this character building, in the sense Paul meant it, or simply an acceptance of the real world?

      The real question in my mind remains this; How much do we have to question as God’s will, or how much do we have to fight as against it?

    • John From Down Under

      Gotta run soon, but just quickly, I think it’s both.

      Horrible turn of events can make us bitter and twisted, so character is obviously affected one way or another. Where it comes from (life throws it at you, random, God allowed or God engineered event etc) and what you do with it (character) are both legitimate points of consideration I would think.

      You’d need to deal with them ‘in a Christian manner’ regardless wouldn’t you?

    • mbaker

      “Horrible turn of events can make us bitter and twisted, so character is obviously affected one way or another. Where it comes from (life throws it at you, random, God allowed or God engineered event etc) and what you do with it (character) are both legitimate points of consideration I would think.”

      Yes, but not not both. The world is one way, we are another as Christians. To say it is all arbitrary ,and yet not, is not entirely true. Either God allows it or he doesn’t. So if He does, (and how are we to really know?), what do we think, and how do we react?

    • Jeff

      mbaker

      I agree with you that suffering isn’t the only thing that builds character and that we often suffer involuntarily. Sometimes we know the source of our suffering and sometimes we don’t. I see you wrestling with acceptance of suffering when it is known and known to be due to other’s sin. In my opinion, this is very tricky ground for a Christian.

      On the one hand I see you trying to categorize reasons to behave a certain way under stormy conditions that God created vs sin of others. I’m not sure where you are headed with this line of thinking. Legal Justice for a crime committed is o.k. for certain but we can’t go beyond that into condemnation.

      As Christians, don’t we have to be careful when we enter that mode of calling out other people’s sins and not focussing on our own. Yes there are negative consequences to sinful choices. It’s tempting to keep score but its also a trap. His ways are not our ways and forgiveness is heavy material and what Christ says in Matthew 5:38-39 is a tall order.

      38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

      As for CMP, my heart goes out to him in these difficult circumstances. On the one hand, he wants and needs encouragement and I think it is implied that it occurs in a few ways. He asks folks to paint a pretty picture on a circumstance and then stop. Then he makes an appeal to know if anyone is leading a more victorious Christian life or are there others experiencing difficulties like him. There is encouragement in all those scenarios. His ultimate conclusion is simply to trust God.

      Nothing wrong with trying to discern what is the source of your negative circumstances but we must be careful when we determine it to be due to the sin of others what our response might be. It’s not easy but Jesus’ ways are a tall order.

    • Rick

      It seems to me that our focus on our suffering in this life gets distorted when we fail to realize that the suffering is not about us but is to glorify God. Our lives, individually and collectively are being lived out for His purposes and He often does not let us see the plan. Someday we will but, for now, we must trust in these simple but profound words:

      33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

      34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”

      35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”

      36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

    • mbaker

      Jeff,

      My only point is that we can’t just respond by being constant Christian ‘cheerleaders’ when someone’s suffering, and leaving it at that. It’s not realistic, as CMP pointed out, because we do live in a real world of pain and tragedy, where it rains on the just and the unjust. Folks who are suffering need real comfort and understanding, not triteness.

      Our response should be helpful and encouraging, when it’s possible for us to be there in that capacity, but not be falsely cheery when cheery isn’t appropriate for the circumstances. Practical help is sometimes needed as well. Just actively pitching in an emergency is a lot more helpful to someone than just clapping them on the shoulder, and saying everything will be all right.

      Even if someone has caused their own pain and suffering, such as in addiction or doing something dumb, there are ways to respond that are more helpful than others.

      I agree with CMP that sometimes we just plain drop the ball when it comes to the best response, and don’t really think through how we would like someone to respond to us in the same circumstance.

    • Jeff

      mbaker

      I’m often at a loss for how to respond when someone is going through a difficult situation and I should probably stop there. I will say that you are most qualified to respond when you’ve been through something similar yourself.

      Having said that, when my wife was going through her difficult depression, It was hard for me too and I had a friend that just came over and walked with me almost daily. He had not experienced depression in his family but his willingness to be available to me spoke volumes. I guess you need to be careful to do only what is appropriate but I’ll just say … my hat is off to people that are willing participants in encouraging others along in a trial and I’m willing to learn from every good example I get. I agree that false cheerleading can be empty.

      In fact, I agree with everything in your most recent comment … I’m sorry if I wasn’t gleaning these points from your earlier comments. One last thing … you said that agree with CMP that sometimes we drop the ball on the best response … I agree with the comment that we drop the ball but I didn’t catch that in his original post. Was that the intent of the post? Sorry if I missed that point … sometimes its hard to get things right on blogs and email.

      If so I suppose I may have violated proper encouragement etiquette when I shared some of my own negative experiences … instead of keeping it to only positive ones or staying silent. I actually find comfort in knowing that someone is or has gone through something that is troubling me.

      Anyway … God Bless You.

    • Richard

      Michael,

      This is a first for me: I stopped reading after the first two paragraphs. Your apparent cynicism about God’s “working all things (especially wretched things) together for good” was…well, well…I just can’t quite relate. The next time you question God’s personal love shown through mercy, please arrange to exchange one day of your life with mine. David would have jumped at the chance.

      Now, probably with much blushing, I’m off to read the rest of your words.

    • mbaker

      No, Jeff, you certainly didn’t violate encouragement protocol, lol. In fact, going back and reading what you went through was a good example of what I am talking about. Being honest about what we are going through, and having others realistically acknowledge our pain, not simply try to talk us out of it, or tell us how we should feel, is very important.

      I agree with Charlie in comment #13 when he said:

      “I tend to think that the Evangelical church has focused its message so heavily on the redemptive qualities of our faith that it has avoided the reality of suffering and the terrible consequences that evil has on our world and our personal lives. That theological distortion may be what drives us to try to force happy endings on tragic events.”

      The point of my first comment was that I just think it is a mistake for someone to automatically assume that someone has angered God when bad things happen and therefore must suffer terribly before they can ‘get’ good character.

      An example of Godly character to me is when someone honestly shares all the good and bad parts of their own experience when I, or someone else, is going through something similar. And admitting what they did right and what they did wrong. But real comfort is when someone acknowledges my own pain, or anyone else’s without triteness, or false cheerfulness. However, the very best kind of comfort and example of character is a fellow Christian just being Jesus with skin on, like your friend was, when we desperately need that extra boost of human encouragement to keep us going.

      God bless you too.

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