Tuesday, September 22, 2015

...NOR BE WEARY: Part VIII of Why Not? - a Perspective on Suffering

A man builds his house on sand. A storm comes with heavy rain and high winds and the house crashes down. (See Matthew 7:24-27) The man has suffered the lost of his house, perhaps the loss of a family member. He also learns a lesson to build his next house on a solid foundation. Out of some suffering comes discipline. If we are willing to recognize it as such, there can then come growth.

But often we refuse to recognize discipline, don’t we? We go our merry way and we get smacked upside the head for it, but instead of changing our ways, we ignore the discipline over and over again. And the smacks get harder trying to knock some sense into us.

Remember that little boy who stole the coins from his mom’s purse. He had a bad case of conscience and threw away the money and worried each day that he would be punished further.  He wasn’t and a
few years later he was stealing again, this time shoplifting “girlie” magazines from a store. This time he wasn’t conscience stricken. But it was their fault he had to steal, because they wouldn’t sell to him; he was too young for such thing. He rationalized his guilt away in order to gain his end desires, but he did get caught this time and he was publicly humiliated, but no further punishment came. He stopped stealing out of fear of being caught again, but he didn’t stop pursuing his lust.

 I will tell you that one day someone saw him engaging in something bad and he was called from class at school and confronted by the police, who threatened him with reform school. He was scared again, tossing in his bed at night again, waiting for his parents to come and punish him again and expecting to go to jail. But none of that happened. He felt guilty and fearful for a while, but them he was drawn right back after his lusts because nothing really bad happened to him. He was just more careful when he did bad things now.

Yeah, sometimes we need a lot of discipline.

So, look at your life and think hard about what is happening when you have to suffer in some way. It may not be some obvious sin you committed and it may not be punishment, it may simply be a nudge in another direction, something strengthening you through discipline.

When we read Genesis 37:12-28 we find a teenager named Joseph out looking for his brothers. They see him before he sees them and what happens? They pounce upon him, planning to kill him, but Reuben says, “Wait a minute, let’s not be hasty here”, so they strip him and toss him in a pit. Next thing you know they sell him as a slave to some Ismaelites and Joseph heads down a long road of suffering, doesn’t he?

Now there was a reason for Joseph’s suffering that we won’t get to for a couple weeks, but sometimes our suffering has more than one reason behind it.

Let’s back up a little and read Genesis 37:2-11. Maybe there is something there that tells so not only how his brothers could have rationalized their actions, but something else as well.

These are the generations of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors] But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him, but  his father kept the saying in mind.

Did you ever stop and think that Joseph might have been a little bit spoiled? Perhaps something of a brat? Someone with a haughty attitude and little full of himself at times? Certainy a bit immature. Maybe Joseph needed a bit of discipline in his life that he wasn’t getting at home. Just sayin’.

What about that kid that stole from his mother’s purse and the newsstand and did other things that got
the police’s attention? Did he get enough discipline?  He didn’t get spanked for stealing by his parents. He didn’t get magazines put in an uncomfortable place as threatened by the news dealer. He didn’t actually get put in reform school. No, he went through some periods of doubt, shame, guilt and fear, but these faded over time and by the time he was in his late twenties he was deep into occultism and Satanism, as well as Adult Bookstores.

Then one week he got very sick. He had never felt so ill before. He really thought he was going to die. He was frightened enough to pray, not to Satan, but to God. He shouldn't have gotten through because he had torn down those communication lines years before, but when he opened his eyes there was a cross on the wall. Not a physical cross, just an image of one. At that moment his fever broke and he got well rapidly. He assumed the cross was a trick of light through the window blind, but had never seen it do that before. He looked for that cross to appear again for several nights in a row after getting well. It never did. It was a guidepost that came in the midst of his suffering and he should have recognized that, but after a while he put the cross on the wall out of mind and continued his hedonistic ways. In fact, he even became an Atheist, an activist Atheist.

On the positive side, Atheists don’t believe in the Devil either, so he threw away his satanic bible, but
on the negative he turned to pure pleasure seeking. He needed a  stronger dose of discipline to get his full attention. It took another decade before he got it and it came with a high cost.

Oh, did somebody notice we didn’t say how discipline fit those Hebrews wandering about in the wilderness for another 38 years, did we?

Well, by now you should know that besides punishment of those adults that wouldn’t cross over to Canaan the first time and now never would, the other thing must be discipline. Discipline for who and for what?

So think about your life and the times discipline may have played a part in your suffering or even now is that what is occurring?

We can fail more than one time, but receiving discipline may straighten us out. There is someone of import in the Bible who failed more than once, was disciplined more than once as well, and yet we certainly look toward him today as a rock of our faith. He is in the New Testament, which may make it easier for you to guess who he is before my next post, no denying that.

There is also one to judge in the Old Testament and he is pretty famous, especially his romance, but boy did he need discipline. Unfortunately he didn’t act very prudently at times and his suffering was very harsh indeed. But beyond his fate, his deeds are a clue to the next reason we may suffer.


References: Matthew 7:24-27, Genesis 37:1-28,  

More what Scripture says about our suffering:
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Hebrews 12:10

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.Romans 8:17-18
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4


1.  Fallen House on Ortley Beach, NJ after Hurricane Sandy by L. E. Meredith, 2012
2. The Author at age 13, photo by Ronald Tipton, 1954
3. "Joseph Thrown Into a Pit" by David Colyn, 1644
4. The Author at age 33, self-portrait by L. E. Meredith, 1974
5. Cover of the The Santanic Bible, photo by L. E. Meredith, 1969

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