Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Capacity to Suffer

I always thought as you matured and became closer to God, you would become more peaceful. You know, all the priests and nuns in movies (and Star Trek's highly evolved Spock) are unemotional, calm and utter only rational things. Because of our culture, I saw peace and joy as detachment, as if nothing of reality could ruffle your feathers because you lived no more on the dirty, earthly realm. No, you had seen paradise and therefore nothing else on earth could affect you. You would have a distant gaze in your eyes that would allow you see pictures of the holocaust, walk through New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with a ethereal knowing look in your eyes. Your composure would inspire those around you as they lay dying. Nothing of earth would affect you anymore.

For me personally, I have found the opposite happening. I feel through the years God has given me the courage and strength to bear so much more suffering and experience so much more joy. He has expanded my emotional perimeters in all directions. I cry for joy and I cry for sorrow much more easily. My emotions are free from embarrassment--no longer shackled by callousness.  God's grace has given me a capacity to bear so much feeling that before I would have run from. Now I am able to truly cry with someone needing me to cry with them and at the same time feel enormous strength not to cave in to the strong pain. 

Rather than becoming less rational, I feel I can now truly see reality, the pain and chaos of reality and rather than run from it and stupefy and benumb myself with entertainment, I can face it head on and take the punch. I hurt more, but I live more. And even in pain I have this unearthly capacity to understand joy at the same time. Suffering no longer terrorizes me, it no longer controls me. Now I am freed to feel anger and joy and sorrow, but I feel much less fear. 

Emotions are not the enemy, they are a heavenly gift. Becoming more like Christ doesn't mean you will feel less, but feel more and His grace will sustain you through it all. Emotions often are used by God to drive us to Him and to drive us to doing the right thing. So do not try and turn them off. Offer up your pains and sorrows as a great sacrifice to Christ. You will be able to move about in the darkest parts of humanity and feel their pain and yet continue help them with courage.

Let Him expand your capacity to feel life. It will give you more and more capacity to give to others who do need not only your physical help, not only your logic but your heart. 


Marcos David Torres said...

Amen! I really enjoyed reading this post. I agree 100%! I don't know where Christians got the impression that the holier you are the less you "feel" (not all Christians of course). My wife has wrestled with that herself and felt that as a good Christian woman she could not show sorrow, hurt, or pain or else she was being un-Christlike, and if she showed joy, happiness or excitement in church she was being irreverent! So sad.I'm so glad the Lord has showed us the truth!

Teresa Beem said...

Hello Marcos,

As a woman, I used to feel "cursed" by the hormones that cause me so much chemical emotional shifts. But as I grow older I realize they are not a curse at all, they are a blessing. We now can train those wild horses inside us and tame them and use them for going a lot further than we thought. But do not deny them.

If we look at scripture, we see the great prophets of God being pretty emotionally dramatic. Ezekiel and Daniel... and weeping Jeremiah. But the one that gets the three stars for emotional outburst is Ezra (or maybe Nehemiah, can't remember) who tore out his beard and his hair and sat for an entire day without moving in a stupor because of the sins of Jerusalem.

God's people rarely show a Spock-like detachment in scripture. They repent with loud wailing, tearing of clothing, putting ashes on their heads. As a matter of fact at one point God told an angel to go to Jerusalem and slaughter all those who are NOT weeping for the sins of the city.

We must learn to have Christian emotional responses and often they are very, very dramatic!

Marcos David Torres said...

Hi Teresa!

Couldnt have said it better myself! Although I would have a tie between Nehemiah and Ezra over three stars for emotional outburst. Nehemiah pulled out his own beard when he was upset, but when Ezra was upset he pulled out the beards of the guys that upset him! lol.

Then there's Jesus who walked into the temple and tore the place up and Paul and Peter who got into such a heated argument that they had to got heir separate ways for a while. And what about God saying to the Laodicean church, "Because you are lukewarm I'll vomit you out of my mouth"! It seems to me than any divorce of emotions and spirituality is an adulteration of true Christianity.

Perhaps youll appreciate a blog written by SDA pastor Martin Weber called "Getting Serious About Joy!"!/

God bless!