Thoughts on Christian Suffering – Conclusion

This is a personal post to share something important to me. It is not intended as a sermon / instructional essay. I just pray it brings help to anyone going through a similar journey.


Back in 2018, I reviewed Open Heart by Elie Wiesel and, in the same post, expressed my frustration to understand the purpose of suffering, especially Christian suffering. Why would God allow people who are following Him with all their hearts to be burdened with ongoing pain and unhappiness? It’s a deeply personal question, not only regarding myself but also the lives of people I love dearly.

Since then, I’ve battled the question internally and at times sought out other perspectives. I found some interesting insights (specifically from Catholic and Orthodox priests), but nothing I heard truly satisfied or convinced me. I’ll be honest: I’ve been at times alternately unhappy and even angry. I have 3–4 pages of notes and half-rants which I’d been planning to share as an update this month, in hopes that at least writing it out would be some sort of progress.

Then yesterday happened.

Yesterday was one of the worst days in recent memory—in recent years, in fact. Let’s just say, I have recurring Personal Issues that can make even “good” days miserable… On the surface, everything was great, but inside I felt utterly awful, fighting back tears even at my grandparents’ house. Yeah, it was a certified Bad Day.

I woke up this morning still feeling icky and almost skipped my Bible reading. But it’s pretty much a habit now, so rather numbly, I opened it up to where I left off, hoping it was a short chapter. It was Hebrews 5.

So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him:

“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.”

As He also says in another place:

“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek”;

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.


—Hebrews 5:5-11 (emphasis added), BibleGateway

I’ve read Hebrews before but this was like reading it for the first time. It felt like the fog in my brain was clearing.

Wanting to make sure “it wasn’t just me,” I searched around for some commentary on this passage. I found this incredible video by John Piper, whose perspectives have been helpful to me in the past (obligatory disclaimer: this is not a blanket endorsement of Piper):

In a nutshell: what Piper highlights contextually is that Jesus, who was sinless, nevertheless had His obedience tested—proven—through the endurance of suffering. And my takeway was that if even Jesus’ obedience was tested, how much more necessary is it for mine to be tested.

I cannot describe how much peace and, strangely, joy this gave me. See, I had thought for a long time that life’s struggles would get easier, or at least plateau, once I had aligned myself fully with God’s will. But rather, I have realized today that that is not so. In fact, suffering has and will only increase, not merely because the world is a cruddy place (it is) but because God allows me to struggle in more incrementally challenging situations, for my own sake.

To make a silly analogy (but the first that came to mind): it’s like a game. When you pass a level, you are getting closer and closer to maximum excellence. But the levels get increasingly harder and harder. There is no easy sailing after you make it past beginner level. Feeling frustrated or discouraged with the harder levels doesn’t mean you’re a bad player—in fact, the opposite! Your skills are being stretched so you will get even better.

Bringing it back to faith…the endurance of suffering—as I understand the verses in Hebrews and Piper’s analysis—is our proof that we are loyal, obedient, and trusting in God and in the salvation Christ gave us. It does not earn us salvation; rather, it is “walking the walk” which is our time to demonstrate that, when push comes to shove, we choose God over idolatry, over lust, over despair, over anything that tempts us. And He promises never to allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). But He does allow us to be tempted, often via suffering, so our untested obedience may be tested and proven true. It’s tangible evidence of our vow of faith. This is important for us personally and for those around us to see.

At the end of the day, Hebrews 5 brings me relief, because, while suffering continues, it isn’t purposeless, like some wretched Kafka novel. It is actually fully intentional, so what I’ve fought through so far, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is no longer a nightmare, but has become a blessing.

Quoting Kierkegaard – Works of Love, Fear and Trembling, and More

For nonfiction books, I’ll be going over specific topics, starting with my beloved Soren Kierkegaard collection. These are just some first impressions of his writing, without any in-depth analysis or philosophical/theological context. Later down the road I’d like to give a better overview, but since I appreciate his writing so much already, I couldn’t resist talking about him. 😉

OLD REVIEWS:
Fear and Trembling
The Concept of Anxiety

OTHER BOOKS MENTIONED:
The Present Age
Works of Love
Spiritual Writings

"O brave new world, that has such people in ’t!"

As promised…Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is all kinds of cray-cray.

Basically it starts out with an average guy named Bernard who is unhappy in the hedonistic, manufactured, drugged-up society he lives in. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, conformity in this world means a continual stream of carnal self-indulgence, and if you don’t fall in line, you get weird looks (or horrors, banished to Iceland to live with other nonconformists). Nobody has a family; instead, every baby has been designed in a lab to serve a particular purpose, resulting in a caste system where the “lower” humans are purposefully restricted in size, appearance, and intelligence, while the Alphas are designed to develop into “superior” beings. In spite of the science, however, discontentment still lingers in hearts like Bernard’s, so he sets out to find a way to break out of the mold.

From there, the book takes a bizarre turn when it abandons Bernard as the protagonist and takes up the story of John. John is a so-called “Savage” who lives on a reservation in the southwestern U.S. An outcast in his tribe, he grew up memorizing a tattered copy of Shakespeare, which has instilled in him a sense of morality and order, as well as curiosity about the outside world. Bernard sees John as an opportunity to gain personal media attention and aplomb, so he brings him back to England as a kind of exhibit. The culture shock, however, turns out to be too much for John, and disaster ensues.

I had rather mixed feelings about this book. Stylistically, it’s insanely clever—a facade of charming, Wodehousian Britain overlayed onto a sick totalitarian state where monstrosities and immorality are normalized and nobody really cares. Orwell did something of the same kind in 1984, with his very British “hullo, chaps” flavor of communism, but Huxley is better at dark humor and constructing a fictional culture that is disturbingly believable. On the other hand, at times his zesty writing comes off as kitsch, especially the scenes on the reservation and the bizarre ending. I will say, I wasn’t bored!

Overall… creepy, weird book, somewhat better than 1984, in my opinion. I may do a more in-depth comparison video about the two novels, since there’s more that could be unpacked about their futuristic worlds.

Treasure Island Books (tag!)

photo by Theodor Lachanas

Saw this over on Ruth’s blog (originally from ClassicsReader.com) and couldn’t resist!

You are stuck on a ‘Treasure Island’ for 1 year, which you landed on due to a complication during a parasailing event. You walk through the island and find a treasure trove. Contained in the treasure are the books you will spend the next year with. They can be books to gain knowledge, information, understanding, spirituality or just to entertain, it’s completely up to you. Which books would they be?

Rules: 8 books you have read of your choice, 1 book which you have never read before, and 1 ‘the complete works of’.

8 Reads

  1. Wildflowers of North America by Pam Forey – I’ll need a book to remind me of home, and this was the first one that came to mind (childhood favorite).
  2. Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll – Not to get Hallmark-y, but it’s a whimsical book that touched my heart. I first read it eight years ago already and would love to read it again.
  3. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome – A book that makes me laugh every time. 😀
  4. Kidnapped by R. L. Stevenson – Big favorite of mine. The friendship between Alan and Davey is just what I’ll need to get me through a desert island.
  5. Magellania by Jules Verne – A book ABOUT a guy on an island, with existentialism and Shady Capitalists and stuff. Perfect novel to keep me socially minded from afar (in all seriousness, it’s one of my very, very favorites).
  6. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – This book includes poetry so it’s like 2 for 1. It’s also the most perfect novel ever written, in my opinion. 🙂
  7. Works of Love by Søren Kirkegaard – Probably the most formative nonfiction of my life, after the Bible. Need to read it again.
  8. The Bible – Self-explanatory.

1 Unread

  • Either/Or by Søren Kierkegaard – This is a mega tome but one of his most important works. I probably need to be alone on an island to read and digest it sensibly. Then I can come back to society and be Very Learned.

1 Complete Works Of:

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – He wrote a TON of stuff outside Sherlock Holmes, some of which I’ve read and some of which I haven’t yet. I don’t think I’d get bored!