Last week, I found myself in yet another pain-filled conversation with a former pastor transitioning from a dysfunctional church position. What he shared of his story wasn’t all that unique: big dreams morphed into misaligned expectations leading to an ugly ending at the hands of a controlling and insecure leader.
There are two sides to every story, but regardless of where fault actually lies on the blame-spectrum, the fact is that a very broken man and his family of 5 were sent reeling into the devastating spiral of joblessness, moving do a new city, and wrestling with their identity. And through this incredibly difficult season, a vital decision awaits.
We’ve all got them. Some are obviously much deeper and more gut-wrenching than others, but if your life still feels relatively “wound-free” it’s probably because you just haven’t lived long enough yet.
(Sin has undoubtedly broken God’s perfect world).
Suffering doesn’t’ have to make a good Dateline special to be a devastating reality. In it’s simplest form, suffering occurs when our desires and our circumstances have a gap. When our circumstances don’t match our desires, we suffer (Keller).
So if suffering is inevitable for us all (Jesus himself promised it), then what we do with this pain is by far the most important question.
Disclaimer: there are levels of grief and loss with which I am completely unacquainted. This is not to make light of those who have tragically lost a spouse or stared down a medical death sentence. The lasting ramifications of these experiences may never be fully overcome.
But let’s be honest, a lot of us gleefully ride our scars into a cesspool of distrust, skepticism, and apathy. We move away from relationships. We condemn institutions. We discard people. We become smug and self-righteous. And that’s a shame.
Cynicism and bitterness are a waste of life’s wounds. Suffering wants to birth much more beautiful things in our lives than that.
Every trouble carries with it the chance for change. It points at the arrogance in me, the self-worship, the things I’m looking to in life for security, identity, and happiness outside of Jesus Christ. And in that way, life’s difficulties can actually be quite a gift. Never enjoyable, desired, or sought after (those people are weird), yet eternally rich with potential beauty and goodness.
Are you wasting your wounds on cheap, cynical counterfeits? Bitterness is easy, but those scars are much too valuable to spend on junk.