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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On Feelings and Meaning

Looking back over your life so far, can you see any special time in it when God made a difference? How? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 347).

On joyful occasions we seldom look for deeper meaning.  We tend to feel that is obvious why we are happy and having fun.  We seldom ask "why?" when celebrating graduations, weddings, births, vacations, intimate moments with family, or stellar achievement.  Yet, we can if pressed identify meaning in joyful occasions: love, celebration, community, or milestones of connection or accomplishment.

Unlike with pleasure and joy, we likely ask a second "why?' when a doctor explains we have an encroaching disease.  The initial scientific "why" is not satisfying; a material answer alone does not satisfy the very human need to map pain and suffering in a context of purpose and meaning (which in turn helps us cope).  Meaning makes the unbearable bearable by providing a virtual launch pad of purpose to dead-end, flat-out suffering.  A Christian can approach suffering the following way.  "The doctor informs me I have a terminal illness and have 6 months to live.  During those six months I will be a witness for Christ, not hardening my heart but showing compassion for others, by showing generosity, love and grace until the end.  I will redeem a painful period and fill it with empathy, love, and appreciation for all those that must help care for me. I will be called upon to be especially creative at this time in perceiving opportunity in the most constricting and limiting of circumstances.  I will not pretend to find pleasure in my pain--nor become a sick masochist--but I will find motive energy in suffering to serve and to lift up the cause of Christ (who was, like me, a suffering servant)."

Now cynics may well consider all this escapist mind games.  That's understandable, for faith is a priceless gift only to those who believe.

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