What Will You Choose?

A poster I saw this week has been stewing in my mind for the past few days. It said: Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional. I’ve been playing it against the reality of the week for myself and for a number of my friends and family. Between us we’ve had major invasive surgery, chemotherapy that caused extreme nausea, severe back pain, a beloved grandfather die, minor aches and pains, a marriage painfully end, fleeing for your life because you’ve been put on a hit list because of your faith in God, and those are just the ones I can think of at the moment.

Pain is inevitable. I have no problem with that. It’s the suffering part that puzzles me. The dictionary defines it as “pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc.: physical, mental, or emotional pain.” That sounds pretty inevitable to me as well. I know someone who was hurt so much as a young child that they have the ability to block pain to the point where they seem to step outside of themselves to avoid it, making it appear as if the pain is happening to someone else. That has taken them into some nearly disastrous situations. Pain is given to us as a warning that something is wrong. To ignore it is foolish.

The message the poster was trying to make is that dwelling or wallowing in pain is a choice. It should not become something that defines us.

It reminded me of visit we made to the Wedgewood factory on our second visit to England. As we walked through the section dedicated to showing us how this beautiful pottery is created, we stopped at the place where the intricate white ornamentations are made that decorate their signature blue or grey pieces. A small ball of white clay is placed in a mold and the artisan uses a wooden hammer with a two-and-a-half inch mallet-like head to pound the clay until it fills the mold. Using a pin, the clay is removed so it can be examined. If it conforms perfectly to the mold, it is set aside to dry. If not—if there is a bubble or a place where the clay failed to completely fill the design, it is rolled up into a ball and the whole process is started again.

As we watched the process for several minutes, I found myself praying, “God, as pain comes into my life and I am pounded down, let me come up looking beautiful, not resisting the process so it has to happen all over again before I come out of the mold looking like Jesus.” I was reminded how my grandfather often called pain or trouble God’s hammer of love, something that shaped us into strong, loving people.

I collect tea cups and one of my favorite ones was a gift from my daughter and son-in-law that they brought home after a summer of living in Romania. They stopped at a pottery store on an excursion to Bucharest and after explaining to the owner that they wanted a special cup and saucer for their mother, he invited them into the back of the store. There he served them tea as he brought out his special cups to show them. They selected a cup he had made by kneading the clay, pounding it into shape, molding it just the way he wanted. He then fired it in a kiln, painted it with bright blue flowers, and fired it again.

I treasure that cup and saucer, even though I continued the pain the clay went through by dropping the cup on the floor and breaking it into a dozen pieces. (I think it’s the only time I cried when I broke something I owned.) I lovingly collected the pieces and glued them back together. It will never hold tea again but it looks beautiful on my shelf. It also serves as a reminded to me that brokenness is not fatal. The purpose of that cup has changed, but it has not been made useless.

As I look at my friends and family I see strength growing in them through the struggles they are going through. Sometimes it takes testing to show ourselves that we are stronger than we think we are, that we do have the capacity to move ahead. I am so proud of them for not wallowing in pain nor letting it steal their joy of living. I would change the poster to read, “Pain is inevitable, Suffering happens, But growth and joy are possible. Choose well.”

Transformed by a Rubber Flyswatter

fly swatter shaker style hillbillydaiku_com


My mother used to discipline us boys with a homemade fly swatter – as a last resort. It didn’t hurt much, but it made a great swatting sound so it was rather effective at getting our attention.

Once, when I was about five (now 67), my mother who had enough of my shenanigans that day, took me over her knee and gave me a good swat or two with that flyswatter. But those swats are not what really spoke to my heart that day. Her tears did.


mother-with boy clipartpanda_com-001


After disciplining me, my mom customarily would hug me to herself to remind me that she spanked me out of love to help me grow up to be a godly man. This time, however it was different. As she hugged me, she remained silent and simply starting crying. After a bit, I asked her why she was crying. She said that it hurt her deeply to have to discipline me – to have to hurt me to get my attention on the right kinds of things.



I’ll never forget those tears because they filled my heart with tenderness like nothing else had ever done. That was the last time my mom spanked me, and I have to think it was because my love for her had grown so much stronger because of her obvious tender love for me.

What about core weariness?

I can see nowRecently I’ve been learning a new way of thinking about relational wisdom from Ken Sande and his team at rw360.org. I highly recommend his work to anyone who wants to have healthier relationships and get upstream of conflict.

Pastoral counseling has been a huge part of my life one-on-one, in group settings, and in public teaching, but not until now have I seen as clearly the answer to a couple of things. The tools provided by rw360 are wonderful, and I’m beginning to make use of them daily. Management of my emotional responses is getting better in the hope that I reflect the Lord Jesus as He truly is. How to respond to others, when feeling anger or frustration, delight or satisfaction is now much clearer, and therefore the follow through to peace is becoming easier than it has ever been.

Waking up to relationships

The best kind of life is truly one in which relationships are thriving – molded by selflessness, joyful expressions of delight in each other, and cooperative effort to walk together in whatever opportunities or challenges life brings.  That means that the first thoughts I have in the morning do not remain on how I’m feeling or what I’m going to do in the day, but move to how God and those around me are feeling about this day and what I might do to become a helpful part of what can be done together.

30-emotions - nerissa golden-001Emotions are God’s gift

There is built into every one of the core emotions the possibility of enrichment (see table below). I’ve heard that all emotions are a gift from God and meant to be an integral part of a whole, together-kind-of-life.[1] And yet I have especially struggled to accept the negative ones, failing to see why I should embrace them rather than running from them or fighting against them.  When I’ve been depressed, for instance, I’ve done everything in my power to be rid of the depression but not to discover the benefits hidden inside those feelings. I have grown through those times, but usually only with hindsight. Now, however, my mind and heart are changing toward these things that have been so much a part of my living.  I can see now that it is possible to be “emotional,” and be energized in a good way whether the emotions be positive or negative, as long as my spirit is aligned with my Creator (cf. Matthew 26:36-46).

The question remains

fatigue-coffee kecuteh_blogspotWhat about core weariness? How do we deal with the relational difficulties of living with weariness of body or soul? With chronic illness comes chronic weariness.  With persistent struggles to do good toward, and with other people who can be very selfish, deceptive and mean comes weariness of soul. With persistent effort to keep a worldview centered on the Lord and to understand a complex and messy world comes weariness of mind. How can I love the Lord with all my, now very tired, body, soul and mind, and how can I love others as weary as I sometimes am of life?

I’m not sure yet how it all works out, but for me one of the greatest difficulties in responding well emotionally to life’s challenges is how tired or unwell I’m feeling in body or soul. Those times of core weariness add confusion and a sense of helplessness or hopelessness that bring on irritability, impatience, and self-pity – all enemies of the best kind of relating.

Hoping in answers because of what Jesus said

Not everyone today feels soul-weariness, or the crushing weight of past sins, failures, hurts, and rejections. But when you do, the words of Jesus may be your greatest reason to hope. Jesus said…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)

Because of what Jesus said, I can imagine being at peace in the midst of any storm.  I can dare to imagine being loved and forgiven – when I’ve been at our worst. I can dare to imagine teaming up with the Creator – when I can’t imagine facing another day.


emotions-different-faces steemit_com[1] Emotions are a gift of God

“We were given emotions by God, being made in the image of God, not from sin. So why throw away a gift from God? In moments of despair or grief we wish them away. Yet the right response is not to run from them, but to learn to deal with them and use them. We cannot just let our emotions go but we don’t have to pretend they are not there. These emotions of ours are tools God has given us: tools to grow, tools to love, tools to inspire.” (Brandon Fusco, theodysseyonline.com)

“We have wrongly concluded that negative emotions are from Satan. The Scriptures teach that emotions are a gift from God. They motivate us to take constructive action. Anger motivated Jesus to clear the temple of robbers and thieves. Emotions call us to engage the mind and to make wise decisions on what needs to be done. When we make wise decisions, emotions have served their purpose.” (myemail.constantcontact.com)

From solutions-recovery.com…

8 Basic Emotions solutions-recovery_com