As I perused the blogosphere yesterday, I wrote a rather lengthy response to one of the articles I read. I have been asked to share that response here and allow others to share it on their blogs as well.

I have yet to meet a believer who agrees 100% with the doctrines and theology of his or her faith community. Over the years of my own life and sometimes leadership in my faith community I have grappled with significant areas of theological disagreement and what to do (or not do) about it. Yesterday’s comment that I share below shares some of what I have learned from God about such struggles.

As you read I ask you do so without making any assumptions or conjectures regarding what specific doctrines or theology I struggle with. The lessons God has taught me around this are lessons of submission and love, not of who is right and who is wrong. I urge you instead to read this with a mind to how it might apply in your own life’s experience.

Be blessed! christine

Unasked-for advice from a 40-something fellow Christ-follower:
1. I am not the first person to experience this disconnect. Indeed, similar disagreement has come and gone for decades, centuries, eons. Some believers engage the disconnect well. Some do not. I must be in the first group (which you are so clearly working to do).

2. Although the divide in the present may appear fall along generational lines, I have always been surprised to find many older than myself who experience the very same disconnect. They just have been done talking about it (which is where you seem headed to some extent).

3. My theology comes from a place of devotion to discerning God, a great deal of scholarly study, and a strong commitment to living a life true to my theology. So does the theology of most of those with whom I disagree. I must honor that truth and forgive their sometimes ugly ways in expressing themselves to me. I hope they forgive mine ugly ways as well.

4. My theology is not perfect (although I do pretty much think I’m right). I am better off when I look for the truth present in the “other side” that may sharpen my theology.

5. In the presence of deep theological disagreement which results in significant disconnect in practice there often seem to be only two options: 1. Give in. 2. Divide. Yet there is a third option: 3. Submit to God, not man.

6. When I submit to God and where He has placed me to serve in His Kingdom, my discontent over the disconnect with my faith tradition fades. It never disappears, but fades.

7. My primary task in all things is to continually practice discernment as I follow God alone.

8. The best advice I have EVER heard regarding criticism in ministry: Avoid the temptation to defend oneself. Be who you are, listen for the truth in the criticisms you receive, discard the untruth, and allow the truth to surface on its own. Engaging accusations with defense often leads the accuser to dig in even more. Not engaging it while continuing in a godly fashion along the path God is guiding you is often disarming to the accuser.

9. All of this is incredibly HARD, often the opposite of what I want to do, and only possible in Christ. And even with all His help, I fail miserably more often than I prefer to admit (and likely more often than I am even aware).

I do not pretend to have all wisdom on this struggle. These are merely reflections from my own journey. Listen for the truth of my words, and discard the rest.

God bless you as you continue your entire journey of faith.

Suffering. Gotta hate it. No one wants to go through it. No one wants to watch others do it. And certainly none of us wants to cause it.

But we do want to explain it, yet rarely do our attempts to understand or explain suffering assist those who actually are suffering.

Most of us can easily see the theological errors committed by those who would claim natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes are God’s wrathful punishment of sin. We can see why Job’s suffering was neither his fault nor God’s plan for making him a better person in the future. Sadly, though, our means of understanding and explaining suffering are often no better. They are only more subtle.

For the past couple of decades I have been deeply honored by individuals and families who have allowed me to enter the sacred space of their suffering. Indeed, many times I have been called to bring the love of God to bear in the most painful of situations. The death of a child, the death of a mother, the sins of a husband.

Inside the sacred space of suffering I have heard many lovingly whispered explanations for and answers to suffering.

  • You child is in a better place, you should be happy for that.
  • God is making you a better person with all of this.
  • God will punish [insert name of the errant spouse].
  • Things could always be worse.

On the surface there is truth in all of these statements; it is when we peer below the surface that we can see the difficulties in them. Yes, heaven is a better place. But the grief of a parent screams, “I want my daughter here now! This world is not a better place without her!” Indeed, God will make us better people as he redeems our suffering through our growth in him. Does that mean I must welcome suffering with open arms? Of course vengeance is the Lord’s, but for a man or woman who loves the betraying spouse that is little comfort.

Things could always be worse. But that does not ease the real suffering of the present (though it is quite effective at inducing guilt for the sufferer).

In the sacred space of suffering God calls me to bear witness to pain. To acknowledge the unfairness and injustice of suffering. To be a quiet whisper of his love in the midst of it all, reminding that he is present and loving and always will be. He calls me to walk through it with his children, not to understand it or explain it away.

Into the sacred space of suffering God calls us all to enter softly.