Hearing God in Our Suffering

To Live a Dying Life

Most of my high school friends were obsessed with college-prep, extra-curricular activities, and jobs. Except for one friend. Like a lion, he could sniff out a wounded schoolmate from a thousand yards. And like a lamb, he sat with them in their grief.

Anguish

One day we heard a lecture on handling pain. Much of the class was indifferent, but this one friend listened with fixed attention. My preppy class asked how to deal with a poor score on a college-entry exam; he asked how to cheer a suicidal sibling.

My friend suffered from cerebral palsy. Everyday his infirmity slapped him in the face, and every night throbbing muscles threatened his sleep. His stumbled awkwardly as he walked, his dialog was often incomprehensible, his body was wracked with pain. (All-the-while his mind remained sharp; he knew what he suffered.)

Classmates overlooked him for team sports; mid-day waiters insulted him by asking me what “he” wanted for lunch;  and the difficulty of his spastic speech meant few people invited him for an evening dinner.

Yet he always sought out others in  in their sorrow. Oswald Chambers observed that,

Suffering burns up a lot of shallowness in a person.

Spiritual Judo

Hope for Our Suffering

I reached my fitness high water mark at the age of twenty-four. I ran thirty miles a week, sweated three hundred pushups a day, and I brawled each week in the local boxing club.

Spiritual Judo

Used with permission: www.judophotos.com

In the midst of my peak physical prowess (never mind its short duration), I met a man with a black belt in Judo. He was forty-ish, chubby, and he wheezed as he walked. I think his exercise routine consisted of lifting large bottles of beer rather than heavy barbells.

He was the first black belt of any kind I had ever met. He intrigued me. Could this chubby, middle-aged man really beat me in a friendly fight? The fool inside me challenged him to hand-to-hand combat.

Not since infancy have I spend so much time on the ground. The lawn and I became intimate allies. I huffed, puffed, wheezed, and groaned (and maybe cursed, but it’s still all a blur) as he repeatedly—and effortlessly—tossed me to the ground.

It didn’t matter what punch I threw. Each jab, hook, and uppercut finished with me staring at the sky, gasping for air, and wondering what had happened.

Hearing God in Suffering

How to Live a Dying Life

I had a high school friend whose life overflowed with compassion. The rest of us were obsessed with college-prep, extra-curricular activities, and jobs. But he, like a lion, could sniff out a wounded schoolmate from a thousand yards. And like a lamb, he sat with them in their grief.

Anguish

One day we heard a lecture on handling pain. Most of the class was indifferent—bored even—but my friend listened quietly with fixed attention. My preppy class asked how to deal with a poor score on a college-entry exam; my friend wondered how he could cheer a suicidal sibling.

My friend suffered from cerebral palsy. Everyday his infirmity slapped him in the face, and every night throbbing muscles threatened his sleep.

His walk was awkward, his dialog at times incomprehensible, his body wracked with pain; while his mind remained sharp. But mid-day waiters asked me what “he” wanted for lunch; classmates overlooked him for team sports; and the difficulty of his spastic speech meant few people invited him for an evening dinner. Yet he always sought out others in  sorrow.

Oswald Chambers observed that, “Suffering burns up a lot of shallowness in a person.”