Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: Doubting Thomas, Suffering
Volume 7 No. 412 April 21, 2017
 
III. Featured: Suffering

Embrace the Hands and Feet of Jesus

By Julie Clinton

"I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?"
--Mother Teresa

Ask most women today what they would like to be. Needy? Dependent? Clingy? Certainly not! Independent? Self-sufficient? Survivor? Yes!

I was deeply moved recently by Carol Kent when she said, "I was used to being on the giving end of compassion, and I didn't like being needy. When I allowed the people closest to me to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the middle of my darkest hour, I experienced the comfort of being loved by Him."

Like Carol, we don't want to be needy. That's me. We're uncomfortable letting anyone know that all is not right in our world. We don't want to owe anyone. We worry about what people will think when they see the jumbled mess of emotions that lurk just below the surface of our polished veneer. All of these reasons, plus a host of others, keep us from accepting the help that comes in response to tough times.

Help comes from unexpected places. A colleague who offers a tissue in response to unexpected tears. A neighbor you've never met who brings dinner over when she finds out your mother passed away. A friend who offers to keep your young children so that you can fly out to your niece's funeral. Though all might not be Christians, all are Jesus' hands and feet in dark hours.

After her accident, Joni Eareckson Tada discovered that other people were her hands - literally. Unable to do anything for herself, she depended on others' hands to do the things she couldn't. Eventually, by taking things a day at a time and in bite-sized chunks, she learned to paint and write and drive with a joystick clamped to her arm. She acknowledges that before her accident she "couldn't have cared less about people like me." Now she finds joy in investing her time and energies in other people who are hurting.

Getting through tough times requires us to develop a new skill set. We may need to ask questions we've never considered before or accept things that seem unacceptable. We may become sensitive to things we previously ignored. We might come face to face with ugly feelings that we don't know what to do about. Our struggle may require hard changes in current relationships or threatening changes within ourselves. In the midst of confusion and chaos, we might have to grab a lifeline that someone else offers. And when that happens, we have to decide to accept the help that's being offered - a decision that is often unpleasant because of pride and an unwillingness to be beholden to anyone but ourselves.

Jesus reaches down from heaven through other people's hands, so when we refuse their help, we're actually refusing Him. We may have cried out for God's help, but when it comes in the form of another human, we're loathe to accept it. Why is that?

Pride often keeps us from being able to let others minister to us. Our need to be self-sufficient overpowers our willingness to accept help. We don't want to seem weak or needy. And yet, when we're brave enough to accept help - and doing so takes courage - we'll discover, like Carol Kent, "the comfort of being loved by Him." Getting through tough times includes another dimension. Rather than focusing solely on our own difficulties, we must also ask how we can help others walk through deep valleys. In addition to recognizing that other people are Jesus' hands and feet for us in tough times, we have to be willing to be Jesus' hands and feet for others. The gestures don't have to be expensive or grandiose. In fact, thoughtful and timely are more important. Small gestures take on big significance when one is hurting. When my father was ill, just a quick phone call or e-mail from a friend was often enough to get me through the day.

Statistics tell us that someone you know is grieving right now. How can you use your hands to reach out to her? I encourage you to call and check on her. Send a card or flowers. Prepare dinner. Invite her to spend time with you or simply sit and listen to all the conflicting emotions whirling around in her heart.

Support is often readily available in the first days after a major life change, so ask yourself how you can make a difference in a week, a month, or a year. Remembering the first anniversary of one's passing doesn't require more than jotting the date on your calendar, but the impact of the gesture is great. Families often dread the first-year mark, but their pain is lessened when they know others are marking it with them.

If you're in the midst of tough times yourself right now, how can you let others use their hands to be Jesus to you? Can you accept an offer of a meal? An offer of transportation? A willingness to run errands or grocery shop for you? The offer to cover your responsibilities so that you can get out of the house? By saying yes, you'll let Jesus comfort you through the people He's placed specifically and purposefully in your life.

Let other people's hands embrace you in difficult times. Then, pass the love along through your own hands when someone else is in need. That's how God reaches down from Heaven during tough times.

Source: Julie Clinton's Blog

About The Author:

Julie Clinton M.Ad., M.B.A. Is president of Extraordinary Women and host of Ewomen conferences all across America. A woman of deep faith, she cares passionately about seeing women live out their dreams by finding their freedom in Christ.

Copyright ©2017 Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk All Rights Reserved

A Helpful Reminder on the Problem of Suffering

by Msgr. Charles Pope

There are many questions related to the problem of suffering and of evil: Why does God permit evil? Why does He not intervene? Why does He delay? Is God really good if He permits such things? Is He really omnipotent?

The answers we can propose address some but not all aspects of the problem of evil. Suffering and evil are not meaningless, as the cross of our Lord shows, but we must humbly and reverently acknowledge that there will remain mysterious aspects.

One of our chief problems is that we often rush to call something "bad," "unfortunate," or "evil," without recognizing that there are some aspects of it that bring blessings. For example, one cause of suffering and tragedy in our world is the fiery center of our planet. We live on a thin crust of cooled rock that floats on top of a cauldron of melted rock or magma; this causes suffering but also brings blessings. Volcanoes, earthquakes, and occasional climatic shifts are among the effects of living above a molten sea; they can bring suffering and loss of life. And yet without these realities life would not be possible here. Volcanic explosions produce important gases for our atmosphere, essential for life. They also produce valuable nutrients to the surrounding soil. Even more, the movement of the molten mantle beneath us is essential in developing the magnetic field that surrounds Earth and helps to deflect the harmful effects of solar winds.

So the burden of volcanic activity also brings blessings. Fearful as eruptions and earthquakes can be, we probably wouldn't be here without them. One might still ask, "Could not God have come up with a less deadly way of dispensing blessings?" Arguably He did: in offering us the paradise of Eden, where we would be protected. But as we know, Adam and Eve sought a "better deal." Ever since, we've been living in a "Paradise Lost."

In this "Paradise Lost," we must learn to look for blessings in strange packages; we should not assume that things or events that cause suffering are wholly lacking in value or bereft of any good at all. God may close one door as a way to open others. He permits affliction in order to bestow other blessings. We do well to avoid hasty conclusions when pondering the problem of evil.

This leads me to a memorable story from the tradition of the Eastern Desert Fathers. I am indebted to Bishop Robert Barron for reminding me of the story via his book, Vibrant Paradoxes (p. 233). I recount the story here in slightly greater detail than did the good Bishop, but I would recommend you read his thoughtful commentary. The story teaches on the often ambiguous qualities of events and problems:

There was a man who was a farmer, and one day the wind blew the gate of his field open and his valued and only horse escaped, and was not to be found. His friends came to commiserate with him at this loss, but he only said to them, "We'll see."

Several days later, the horse returned with a wild stallion and a mare. And his friends came to rejoice with him in his good fortune, but he only said to them, "We'll see."

Several days later, his son was breaking in the new horses and was cast from the back of the wild stallion and suffered a broken arm and leg. And the farmer's friends came and commiserated with him at the injuries of his son, but he only said to them, "We'll see."

Several days later, troops of the emperor came to the area to draft and compel the young men of the village in the army. But the farmer's son was exempted due to his injuries. And the farmer's friends came to rejoice with him that his son was not taken away, but he only said to them, "We'll see."

Yes, in so many events of life we lack the comprehensive view to sit in judgment on their full meaning. Blessings are not always as they seem; neither are burdens. Sometimes the best we can do is to say, "We'll see."

Source: Archdiocese of Washington

No Cross, No Crown

by Fr Stephen Imbarrato

No cross, no crown. No pain, no gain. No guts, no glory. St. James summons us to see the challenges we face as opportunities to rise to new heights of existence, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him" (Jas 1:12).

In the military, the cross and crown symbolizes a soldier's willingness to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, and to country, no matter what. This kind of unwavering dedication is exactly what Jesus meant when he gave us the criterion for enlisting in his elite fighting force: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" (Lk 9:23-25).

While sounding like a military drill instructor, St John Vianney expounds on this radical call to discipleship: "There is no doubt about it: a person who loves pleasure, who seeks comfort, who flies from anything that might spell suffering, who is over-anxious, who complains, who blames, and who becomes impatient at the least little thing which does not go his way - a person like that is a Christian only in name; he is only a dishonor to his religion, for Jesus Christ has said so: 'Anyone who wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day of his life, and follow Me.'"

The Gospels stories show how Jesus touched people in ways that made them question the direction of their lives. Some turned away because his challenge seemed to be too hard. But many others were so moved by his mission and ministry that they were compelled to search for a more perfect way of living and being. Where do you stand? Are you ready to put it all on the line? This means nothing less than to do what God is calling you. Are you ready to say "yes" to the call to become his champion?

Excerpted from Church Militant Field Manual  

Troubles and Temptations in Life

by Pete Briscoe

"My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning and may be many, but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father... The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him…"
- Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

What does a conversation about temptation look like between God and us? Personally, I'll go to Jesus with one thing on my mind, I know You were tempted in this way too.

In that prayer time with Jesus, I can sense Him saying, You know, Pete, I do remember what it feels like to want to do that. I can remember the pull and know exactly what you're experiencing.

Jesus is our empathetic God who knows what it's like to be human. It's incredible. He can feel the pull from God-dependence toward self-dependence. He knows what it's like. But Jesus didn't sin. Thus, He is now our High Priest of great mercy and grace – a High Priest who is approachable.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven … let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. … Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence…
- (Hebrews 4:14, 16)

The word approach is in the present tense, meaning this is something we can do for the rest of our earthly lives – every day. In Mark 15:38, at the moment Jesus died, the curtain to the temple of the Holy of Holies was torn in two. This was the hand of God tearing it and saying, "Finally! You have access to Me."

We are no longer commanded to keep our distance from Him. If you've been cowering in the corner in shame, stand up and come near. Our Great High Priest has erased sin so you can approach Him in boldness and confidence. He says to us, "Come to Me. Approach the throne of My grace."

Lord, what shame has kept me from approaching You? Today, I shed all shame and come to You to receive all You've promised: acceptance, freedom, love, and intimacy. I ask Your Spirit to empower my approach; give me a stride of confidence as I accept the invitation. Amen

Source: Experiencing LIFE Today

God Shares in Our Suffering

by Dr. Michael Youssef

"To believe in God is to be able to see that He has all power and all might over evil, for God does not just sit idly by, carelessly observing the suffering of His creatures. No - He enters into our suffering. He shares in our suffering."

When Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, indicted in a crime he did not commit, and forgotten by the man who was supposed to get him out of jail, where was God?

When Job had lost everything that was dear to him, where was God?

The truth is that, in the midst of unimaginable pain and tragedy, God is with us. He shares in our suffering. No matter what we endure, He is working behind the scenes to fulfill His purposes in our lives. God is victorious - and nothing can thwart His plans.

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