Posted by: minnow | August 20, 2013

The Ties that Bind

So much striving and self-absorption.  Wow.

That was my gut reaction to a post I read on an Emerging-Christian site I often frequent .  I’m not naming the site nor quoting directly from the post because I truly appreciate both despite how critical my first response might sound.

The post in question concerned the purpose of pain and how we use (or should use) the experiences in our lives we describe as painful.  The reason my reaction was so harsh is because I heard in the writer’s post a need to assure his readers he wasn’t blaming God nor in any way trying to put a negative light on God’s part in our pain.  At the same time, I felt the weight of judgment on the back of this poster if he didn’t somehow manage to honor God by using his pain to…call attention to God?…bring others to a knowledge of God?…give God glory?  I think the post was intended to ask how we’re supposed to give God glory (with regard to our experience of pain) without seeming to blame Him in the process.  In other words he was trying to avoid the whole “why does God let bad things happen?” question and still credit God with being in control of everything, having our best at heart, being all powerful, etc., etc.  Humm…

My problem with his question/lament is that while he was almost desperate to come across as “letting God off the hook”, he couldn’t help but put humanity (or at least Christendom) on it.  In fact my biggest problem with Christianity in general, at least in the ways I see most people wanting “the other” to practice it, is how many spoken and unspoken rules and regs there are in a religion that claims Christ paid the price and we’re “free” because of His ransom.  Even those of us who espouse to be liberated, enlightened, regulation free, emerged, or whatever you want to call it, seem to have a list of expectations for those we pejoratively refer to as Funless fundies, (AKA our “other”) like practice more and preach less. Ahem.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I realized the subject of pain is tricky, especially when we’re trying to convince everyone God loves them and wants what’s best for them, and is in control, and has a plan for everything.  From personal experience I know that pain just isn’t a lot of fun.  And, making those two things add up doesn’t always work.  Mostly the confusion and frustration comes because we believe the lie that pain is evil because it is unpleasant and we believe it is our job to avoid evil at all costs. In truth pain allows us to be vulnerable.  It coupled with joy is what makes us human. When we are in pain we are often  forced to open ourselves up to accept help from someone else.  And, when others are in pain, we often offer ourselves to them because we’re moved by their need, have the resources they don’t, or can use our own experiences to identify with theirs, letting them know they are not alone.

Being vulnerable is risky. We know we could just as easily be disappointed and rejected as be satisfied and embraced. So, we take ourselves out of the mix because we don’t. like. risk.  We would rather bind ourselves up with a hundred lists of do’s and don’t, should’s and shouldnt’s, can’s and can not’s than risk getting it wrong.

Sadly, the law lists we make up tend to be for our own benefit more than for the benefit of the other.  We feel good when we follow them and we feel even better when we can point at someone we’re better than (AKA Someone who isn’t following the rules we are or at least we tell ourselves we are).  I’m not quite sure how that works except that I’m pretty sure it’s tied into thinking we need to earn God’s favor.  The problem is that when we set about trying to earn something we already have those around us, those who observe us, end up getting a false idea about the character of God.

*     *     *

I was clicking right along blogging at least weekly until I had a perspective changing life experience and started a new blog.  Feel free to check it out.



  1. Thanks Minnow. So was your issue just that this writer was putting regulations on himself (or whoever he was talking about) on how to ‘handle’ pain properly? Trying to understand what you are saying.

    I remember a convo with you a long time ago about good / evil. I always felt I needed clarity on what you were saying. I think you referenced cancer or sickness and that sickness wasn’t necessarily ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. Gosh do you remember what I’m talking about or can you give me clarity?

    Trying to figure out exactly what you’re saying here. 🙂 Thank you!! Hope you are doing well!!

    I think what you’re saying is that we shouldn’t put so much weight on ourselves (or others) to make sure our pain is used to glorify God or call attention to God?

    Your statement here gives a bit of clarity to what I am trying to grasp more:

    “Mostly the confusion and frustration comes because we believe the lie that pain is evil because it is unpleasant and we believe it is our job to avoid evil at all costs”

    that is interesting. a hard concept to grasp and put my head around.

  2. I think we tend to call the things we don’t like “bad” or “evil”. But sometimes something like a terminal illness, while painful and difficult, actually helps us to love more effectively, consistently, constantly. It helps us to slow down. It gives us better clarity to know what is valuable and what is chaff to be blown away. The pain in childbirth is unpleasant. We don’t like it. But the reality is our bodies are doing exactly what they were meant to do and the pain is a symptom of the process that has a good purpose. The pain of a hot stove warns us to move our hand. etc. And yes I do remember us having a similar conversation before.
    I was saddened by the fellows questions/statements about pain because my sense was that he was striving too hard to “get it right”, to measure up to some standard held more by man than by God. I’m going on 24 hours no sleep so I’ll look at this again in the morning. Thanks for reading and for commenting!!

  3. what you have said makes sense – just hard to grasp or put my head around ALL of it. can only grasp small pieces haha the examples you’ve given and described make sense. and YES I totally understand & agree with you how sad it is that we put such burdens on ourselves & others – even when we are suffering! when will we realize – it is just NOT about US and what we can bring to the table!?

  4. on another note…. as i sit here crying as i prepare to send my little boy to 2nd grade tomorrow…. i understand… this is painful – and i cry…. but i can’t beat myself up thinking i shouldn’t be crying…. and i open up my inbox to an old email i hadn’t gotten to yet and it reminded me of

    “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

    God isn’t mad at us for how we cry or the pain we feel or how we are just so weak. He knows how much we need Him and how weak we are . He loves us so much and just sits with us and collects those tears – every one. amazing!!

  5. and on the bottom of that email by Tracie Miles.

    She says:
    In Psalm 56:8, God reminds us He is intimately concerned with every aspect of our lives. God doesn’t judge whether our sorrow is “valid.” But because of His compassion, He catches every tear that is shed. It doesn’t matter how big or small, trivial or important, the sorrow might be.

    and i agree!!!

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