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Towards A Pastoral Theology of Suffering Aisha Holman Ethan White Jeff Buczynski Julianna McWilliams Maud Lew Mike Holmes Nathaniel Wilson TEARS with TEARS.

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Presentation on theme: "Towards A Pastoral Theology of Suffering Aisha Holman Ethan White Jeff Buczynski Julianna McWilliams Maud Lew Mike Holmes Nathaniel Wilson TEARS with TEARS."— Presentation transcript:

1 Towards A Pastoral Theology of Suffering Aisha Holman Ethan White Jeff Buczynski Julianna McWilliams Maud Lew Mike Holmes Nathaniel Wilson TEARS with TEARS 2 JOY

2 Outline  Zosia’s Story & Responses  The Scandal of Innocent Suffering  The Solution to Radical Evil & Suffering  The Suffering Servant  Counseling a Trauma Victim  Pastoral Counseling  The Fellowship of His Sufferings

3 Why Did Little Zosia Have Her Eyes Gouged Out?

4 How Many Victims?

5 Responses to Zosia’s Suffering*  Liberal Christian: “Zosia wasn’t meant to suffer. Suffering usually happens to let us know we are doing something wrong or we lost the ‘light of God.’ Blame the soldiers? No, we can’t judge: ‘Evil’ is a strong word.”  Buddhist: “The cause of suffering is craving due to ignorance. We bring this suffering upon ourselves. Zosia must learn to free herself from all attachment in her next life.”  Muslim: “All suffering is a trial from Allah. To the righteous, it comes as a test. To sinners, it comes as punishment. Since Zosia was not of the faithful, it was a punishment from Allah.”

6 Doesn’t Evil Cause Suffering?  Atheist / Humanist: The soldiers were ignorant. They didn’t know Jews aren’t evil because they’re a different religion. Evil is collective, and what is evil in our society may not have been evil in Nazi Germany. But superstitiously believing in a god probably added to their problem.  Secular Postmodern: “Evil is a concept we learn. It is a standard of disapproval taught by our elders and our peers as we mature. It changes and it is not the same for everybody. The innocent behavior of a child is the evil behavior of an adult. We fight and cause suffering over the definition of evil. Though an individual may have his own ideas about good and evil, the general definition is collective.”

7  What’s good for one is evil for another  No absolutes standards of good and evil  Defining evil leads to conflict & suffering  Judging others is unreasonable (problematic)  Personal accountability is a choice  Man’s goal: Pursue pleasure, reduce suffering Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil Politically Correct

8 Assumptions  Notions of good and evil are a form of social repression by a collective conscience whose capricious standards change over time and between cultures.  We can return to primitive innocence (blank slate) by doing away with repressive notions of good and evil (Ex: primitive utopias of cultural anthropologists, nudist colonies, liberal agenda). Reality  Most people decide that if everybody does it, it’s okay to do it.  Pursue whose pleasure, reduce whose suffering? Who cares about suffering depends on how selfish a man’s priorities are.  A perverted conscience cannot return to primitive innocence, but projects its perversion into “primitive” contexts. - Ex: Spirit of the Rainforest by Mark Andrew Ritchie (2000)  What if getting rid of a repressive conscience does not eliminate suffering?

9 World Denies Genocide  The Coalition for International Justice puts the death toll at a low of 180,000 and a high of 400,000 in the Darfur region.  The U.N. refuses to call it genocide.  The U.S. is reluctant to call it genocide.  China insists there is no genocide in Sudan.  What about the history of genocide in China? World APATHY is not new:  Embarrassment?  Guilt? Complicity?  Impotence? Who cares about suffering?

10 A ChalIenge to Faith  Suffering is a scandal that either draws us to faith, or becomes its biggest obstacle.  Isn’t God “the protector of the innocent”? Why doesn’t He intervene?  If God is unable to protect Zosia, isn’t He powerless?  Can God be good who allows Zosia to be tortured?  Have we been cheated? Is our suffering proof that God has betrayed, abandoned us?

11 Is God Really to Blame?  “I have wounded” Deut 32:39. “I create darkness, I bring …disaster” Is 45:7.  God permits evil and disaster that may afflict the innocent along with the guilty Is 31:3b.  In the end, His judgment on wickedness and evil is eternal suffering.  Does that mean ALL the suffering we see is God’s punishment of sin and evil?  NO. Isaiah 57:1 “ … no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared of evil.”

12 Who Authors Evil and Suffering?  Evil was found in Satan and man, whose acts of rebellion cause suffering. God permits these acts, but not forever.  God lowered the perfection of creation to match our spiritual state (Rom 8:20-22). The natural effect of a fallen creation is that even good things can have evil by-products.  God’s righteous judgment in Eden involves provisional suffering: Painful childbirth, toil and death.  God allows this provisional suffering as an act of mercy to awaken us from our present state of spiritual death and its ultimate end: eternal separation from God and His glory, the worst of all sufferings (the future fate of Satan also).  When it seems unfair, we are the ones who would hasten God’s judgment on evil. But God’s longsuffering benefits us! Jn 3:16  Meanwhile, God offers HOPE for His sons who suffer (eternal life, redeemed creation). He also disciplines those whom He loves.  Disasters & diseases may strike indiscriminately (apparent injustice), yet God is able to bring good in spite of them.

13 Transforming Communities Fractured by Radical Evil  Radical group evil  dysfunctional community  The “Politics of Healing” must stop the endless cycle of violence in context Victims Survivors Perpetrators  Symbiotic Relationships There is no healing for one group without the others, as they are bound together in a web of inter-connected relationships. There is no healing for one group without the others, as they are bound together in a web of inter-connected relationships.  Radical Faith, Hope & Love must mediate the process of forgiveness, repentance and solidarity in community for new life.

14 Radical Faith  Case of Job: Suffering can easily turn to self- pity.  Yet Job rests his faith on his assurance of a redeemer.  God vindicates and restores Job because of his faith.  Persevering in faith in the midst of suffering pleases God. Hebrews 11:35-38

15 Recovering Lament Radical Hope in the Midst of Grief “ For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion... For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men.” Lam 3:31-33 “ For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion... For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men.” Lam 3:31-33 Blessed are ye that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matt 5:4

16 Radical Love  Radical empathy 1 Co 12: 25-26  Radical forgiveness  Does it violate justice? “They view it as presumptuously arrogant when someone who is not the victim proclaims he or she forgives the offender. Only the victim herself has the moral right to forgive an offense against her, which makes murder a crime no human can forgive, since the victim is dead.” Schimmel, Solomon. Wounds Not Healed by Time. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it unto me…” - Matt 25:34-46 “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it unto me… ” - Matt 25:34-46 God Who-is-There

17 Satan’s Final Solution  For Satan and His minions, the “final solution” is the genocide of God’s people Rom 2:9-10  As we near the time of Jacob’s trouble, God’s people, the persecuted remnants of Israel and the church realize more and more they have the same enemies. Rev 12:13-17  The sufferings of Jews and Christians are related as part of the mystery of judgment beginning at the house of God. 1 Pet 4:17  The coming Tribulation is the time of greatest suffering and greatest harvest, when the iniquity of Jacob & the arrogance of the nations are removed, the Great Commission is fulfilled and the Bride becomes One, undivided, reconciled in Christ, the Holy One of Israel. Rev 19:7

18 God’s Final Solution  “The weight of the biblical view of suffering is not on the origin of evil, but on what God in Christ has done about evil.” – James Cone, God of the Oppressed.  Jesus Christ is God’s Final Solution, God’s final healing through reconciliation, unity and peace, for the people of God and for all the nations.  So what about Zosia? “When I see the face of a child, I do not see the face of God, but of His enemy. Rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the kingdom, God will instead raise her up and wipe all tears from her eyes, and there shall be no more pain, nor sorrow, nor crying.” - Hart, David B. The doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? Eerdsmans, 2005. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

19 The Suffering Servant  Immanuel - God with us in our suffering  Made perfect through suffering - Heb 2:10  Sympathizes with our weakness - Heb. 4:15, 16  Learned obedience from suffering - Heb. 5:7-9

20 The Suffering of Christ deprived of food and water separated from the Father physically beaten and maimed verbally abused rejected by His closest friends despised by those He had created tormented by fear imprisoned CRUCIFIED

21 The Defilement of Glory Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross. He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery. He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. Fifteenth Antiphon of The Lenten Triodion

22 What Does the Cross Teach Us About Suffering?  It ended!  God was exalted!  He was victorious!  He was vindicated!  Divine justice was met!  God’s truth was upheld! That through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death - Heb. 2:14

23 Suffering in the Bible Romans 8:18-24  Suffering not worthy to be compared with the Glory to come, (v.18)  All creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (v.19)  All creation is suffering (v.22), even us (v.23a)  As we wait for the resurrection promised in Christ (v.23b)

24 Preparing for Heaven  George McDonald “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” - 1 Thess 3:3-4; Jas 1:12  C.S. Lewis “Suffering is God's will in preparing the believer for heaven and for the full weight of glory that awaits him there.” - 2 Thess 1:5; Rom 8:17; 1 Pet 1:5-7  Suffer for Lord’s sake, not own sin - 1 Pet 2:19-21; 2 Cor 2:9; 1 Cor 10:13  Shared pain & comfort in Christ 2 Cor 1:5  Rejoice in sufferings - Rom 5:3-4, 1 Pet 4:12-13; Jas 1:2-3  Remember those who suffer - Heb 13:3

25 Counseling a Trauma Victim (A Pastoral Response)

26 How Should One Respond ?

27 ListenLearn Honor…

28 How to be a Good Listener 1.Allow the Person to Tell Their Story However They Can… Some Ideas: Pictures, Music and Dance 3.Don’t Give Flippant Advice, but Reflect on their Feelings. 2. Ask Good Informative Questions 4.Don’t Try to Fix Them…

29 Changing the Physical does not change the Emotional If you could “fix” or “solve” the problem…  What would it mean anyhow …?  Are you satisfying your own desire of “helping”?  If the person is still in physical danger how can you fix them?

30 Medicalizing Suffering  Pain,  Pain, guilt, fear, loneliness are are useful useful warning systems that something is amiss, wrong or dangerous.  Ignoring  Ignoring the the root cause while getting rid of the symptom of pain leads to greater pain.  Quality  Quality of life life is not just physical, but also spiritual.  Ultimate  Ultimate spiritual healing and restoration is found at the feet of a healing God.

31 Identify What is Traumatic  Driven by their spouse…  Who was aiming for them purposely…  Because they wanted the insurance money…  In order to move to a tropical island with someone else. A person is hit by a car… What is traumatic to you, may not be traumatic to someone else Adam’s Trauma

32 People Trauma When another person is involved in the origin of the traumatic event it will have a greater impact on the victim. When another person is involved in the origin of the traumatic event it will have a greater impact on the victim. People Trauma denotes a direct purposeful attack. People Trauma denotes a direct purposeful attack.

33 Nature Trauma  These traumas consist of catastrophic events in nature; tornados, hurricanes, massive floods etc. These traumatic events are devastating, but they are also sporadic in appearance.  Ultimately does the person blame God?

34 How to LISTEN  Provide Safety  Give Respect  Allow the Person to Tell Their Story  Pictures  Music  Dance  Learn what type of Trauma it is  Nature  People  Learn how the person is feeling  Learn what the person is afraid of What you are Learning  Allow the Person to Tell Their Story  Ask good informative sincere questions  Give a funeral, if needed How to Honor

35 Pastoral Counseling  Listening helps a person find meaning in their pain  Empathy enables shared meanings that encourage patience and trust in the process of restoration.  Acceptance enables shared meanings that can dissolve anger, denial, doubt, guilt …  Appropriate responses: Rom 12:15; 1 Pet 5:7  Inappropriate responses: Prov 25:20

36 How Not to Help the Afflicted  Adding a burden of guilt or doubt  “You must have committed some sin”  “I told you so”  “Just remember Romans 8:28” (Do I not love God enough if He doesn’t turn the evil into good?)  Platitude & fake empathy  “We’re all going to die some day”  “I know how you feel” (share burden not feeling)  Focus on loss of things rather than people  Insensitive speculation and minimizing  “This has probably spared you from worse problems…”  Enhances feelings of entrapment  “Don’t think about any major changes”  Treats an emotional problem as if it’s an intellectual one  “If you’d just change your view of God, all would be fine”  Anticipates a conclusion sufferers must reach on their own  “You should rejoice God has chosen you to suffer”  “You should be thankful for your situation (1 Thess 5:18)”

37 When You Are Suffering:  Seek refuge in God and find reasons for hope  Count your blessings  Focus on present day and its responsibilities  Receive care from others  Help others who are suffering  Visit  Offer practical help - food, cleaning, etc.  Affirm your love and care  Listen - the worst fear is that no one cares  Be silent if you don’t know what to say, but be PRESENT! When Another Is Suffering: Adapted from John Feinberg’s Deceived by God?

38 The Silent Companion  I had come in the house of mourning, where there is nothing anyone could say. All I needed was silence.  My soul was left desolate. I must drink my bitter cup alone. First a soundless cry, then a wailing lament, then waves of turbulence …  I had to be still. Not to push away the onslaught, or to deny what had happened, but to let the pain complete its furious dance upon my soul.  There I was utterly powerless before my Maker. I had to make peace somehow.  Patience, my soul, listen. Don’t move too quickly, God will meet you there in the pain, where emptiness, futility, horror or despair invade your sanity.  In silence is wisdom. There refuge is real, regret gives way to repentance, and forgiveness is possible.

39 Healing the Broken-Hearted  Crushed Spirit: Ps 34:18; Ps 51:17, Is 61:2-3  Hope & Reconciliation: Ps 126:5; 2 Cor 5:19  Prayer & Comfort: Is 40:1; Is 65:24; Matt 5:4; 2 Cor 1:4-6 Jas 5:14-16; Matt 18:19-20  Laying Hands on the sick: Lk 4:40; Acts 8:17; 1 Tim 4:14

40 Uses of Suffering  Teaching  Discipline  Correction  Spiritual Maturity 1 Pet 1:7 John 15:2 (endurance, character, pruning, training in righteousness, “refined in the fire,” holiness )  Sacrifice 1 Cor 12:26 (dying to self, help needy, overcome evil with good)  Testimony / Evangelism 1 Pt 3:15; 2 Cor 1:3-4; Jn 9:3 (encourage others, martyrdom, glory of God)

41 Fellowship of His Sufferings  I  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)  “Think  “Think it not strange, then, concerning the fiery trial which is to try you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” (1 Pet 4:12)

42 The Persecuted Church  Persecution of Christians has always been the means through which dry, hard soil has been tilled for the seeds of the Gospel.  Acts 8:1.2 The stoning of Stephen led to the persecution and scattering of the early church. This was the means by which the Gospel was spread to India and Ethiopia. Persecution forced them out of a comfortable life.  We offer a message contrary to the world and will be met with persecution. In the West we tend to fear persecution and suffering because we see so little of it, yet those who have served God in this way have a depth of faith and have accomplished feats in the heavenly realm that we, in our comfortable lives, rarely attain.

43 Suffering for the Gospel What can you do?  Prayer  Prayer is the least, yet the MOST we can do for our body that is being persecuted.  Know  Know their stories, get your church involved. Christians in China share the Gospel despite great cost. “Chinese pastors are taught these three things: “Chinese pastors are taught these three things: (1)Never turn down an invitation to preach; (2)Look for a place to run when you are finished preaching; (3)Be ready to die that day."


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