Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to see your physical suffering through a Biblical lens. Is it okay to be angry with God? Are we allowed to be upset? And if we are, how do we infuse the command to be “joyful always?”
If you’re a Christian and stumped as to how to grapple with your physical suffering, stay tuned because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today with the help of the book, Embodied Hope. I like to say Embodied Hope is a handbook on viewing physical suffering through the lens of a Biblical worldview, which is truly something I haven’t seen tackled to this extent.
Here’s five takeaways on viewing your physical suffering through a Biblical Worldview:
1. ) It’s important to lament your physical suffering and struggles in general (pg. 32).
Unfortunately, many who suffer a chronic struggle (including health challenges) are told that the “Why God?” days should be omitted from our lives and replaced by continual praises of glee. Kapic mentions,
“The lamenter may be told that if they had more hope and faith, these things outweigh darkness and tip the scales. Such imagery is not only unhelpful, it is wrong and does violence against the souls of those who suffer. It has no place in the church.”
The Bible says there is a place for lament in our lives and that it’s a healthy outlet. Hopefully, the church catches on with this trend instead of shaming its people for forsaking continual positivity.
2.) We don’t always know why a tragic situation befalls a believer. Trying to tell a sufferer why God is allowing a struggle to happen isn’t helpful, especially when answers aren’t as clear-cut as we would like (pgs. 18-23).
Many of us are guilty of assigning tidy answers to tragic situations. We like to explain things away and provide a succinct analysis with everything under the sun and moon. But do you want to know the reality?
We really don’t have all of the answers to why a tragedy befalls a believer. And even if we had the answers, they’re often not palatable to the grief-stricken, but instead as Kapic mentions, examining the reasons behind the problem of evil and suffering belong in the classroom. They have little place at the bedside of the wounded.
Embodied Hope mentions the origin of such thoughts are derived from the Enlightenment era. In the Enlightenment, people wanted a logical answer to every problem. Christians then implemented Enlightenment thinking into their faith system and believed they could have a rationale for everything- including reasons for tragedy.
As a Biblical counter to this, Kapic says,
“”But the psalms, which are full of struggle, do not point us to answers or formulas. Hope? Yes. Answers. No. The psalms orient us to God.”
3. Believers with health challenges will many times default to destructive defense mechanisms (pgs. 58 &134).
Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to live in a world of pain as a believer. So we adopt defense mechanisms to cope which can be destructive to our emotional well-being in the long-run.Embodied Hope mentions that because of these struggles with knowing how to cope, a not-so-shocking statistic remains. Those suffering from a chronic health challenge are more likely to commit suicide than the general public.
But there are better ways to cope which I talk about here.
Believers with health challenges will many times default to destructive defense mechanisms.
4. The temptations Jesus faced came to him when he was physically weak. We should expect the same (pg. 92).
“The temptations recorded for us in the Gospels normally arise when Jesus was not physically rested and strong but profoundly compromised. He understands those who struggle in weakness.”
And so it is with us. When those who suffer with physical health challenges are at their worse, they encounter more temptations. Temptations to turn away from God when hard questions arise. Temptations to accept anger and bitterness when pain levels are too high to bear. Most of us are just plain not pleasant when we face a flu bug or virus. I try to explain to people who are healthier that living with a chronic condition is like facing a chronic bug daily. And when you have a flu bug, you’re more prone to irritability, impatience, and so many more negative traits.
Jesus had to rely heavily on the Holy Spirit when he was at his weakest physically. So we must as well.
5. “Without the resurrection, the injustices, cruelty, disparity, pain, suffering, and heartache of this world would undo us.” (pg. 106)
Even if a season of bleak winter lasts until we draw our last breath, we have hope in the resurrection. And the resurrection should be one of the most exciting things in the mind of a believer with a health challenge. We actually have the promise of a new body and that every tear will be wiped away. The wrong will be made right.
We have reason to hope, friend.
Hope is Always an Option,
I generously received this book for free from IVP. All thoughts and images are our own. Please don’t use without permission.