Tag Archives: suffering

The Deepening Quality of Suffering (Avoiding Superficial Spirituality Part 10)


“No soul will ever grow deep in the spiritual life unless God works in that soul by means of the dark night.”

This is a line from the famous poem called, The Dark Night of the Soul, which Saint John of the Cross wrote from his ten-by-six feet prison cell in which he was imprisoned for his faith. They fed him bread, water and scraps of salt fish, and brought him out to lash him publicly at least once a week. Through his sufferings, instead of waning, his passion for Christ, grew deeper.

I offer this as another piece of advice about one may go deeper in their life in Jesus.

To go deeper we have to be willing to suffer well

Recently my forty-fifth spiritual birthday came and went. On August 20, 1972 I gave as much of what I knew of myself to as much of God as I knew of him. Frankly, at that point I knew very little about myself and much much less about him. Since then, with the Spirit’s help, I’ve learned a few more things about the both of us. Much of which has come kicking and screaming, put more subtly, through trial and error. Continue reading


Losers Make Some Of The Best Dancers

snoopyYou turned my mourning into dancing. Psalm 30:11

If you ask me, a lot of Christians worship the idol of “Positivity.” They’re afraid to grieve and are self-medicating on happiness. Though I advocate no grim view of God or the practice of sour spirituality I just think that in our effort to avoid despondency, we have mislaid the healthy art of lamenting our losses. We pretend they’re not losses after all or that God’s perfect will is always done or that if we just wait long enough we’ll see the good in everything.

Mourning is nonnegotiable. It can’t be avoided in any life fully lived. The healthiest thing to do after losing something – and we all lose things – is to grieve. Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge and grieve their losses – the small ones and the large – is drowning in a river of denial, and you can’t dance while drowning. Continue reading

God, the Traffic Engineer

mad driver in a car

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” Job 38:4

I left off in a previous post on “Stuck in Traffic” with a description my near apoplectic plight while stuck in an interminable San Francisco traffic jam. If I’d been driving a Sherman tank I might have been able to clear a path and get to my appointment on time. As it was, in order to keep from getting out of my tiny economy car and leaping atop the cars like they do in the movies, I was forced to stay belted repeatedly reciting “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want!”

That sinking feeling of, “What the *&%$ is going on up there?!” gives way to the point when you don’t really care what’s causing the holdup. You just want it to clear up so you get where you’re going! Nevertheless, I’m the sort that requires, if not a solution, at least some kind of explanation for what’s holding my life up. Where is God when I’m trying to get someplace, especially a place he told me to go? Continue reading

Stuck in traffic… “What’s going on up there?!”

mad driver in a car

“We are not intended to understand life. If I can understand a thing and can define it, I am its master. Logic and reason are always on the hunt for definition, and anything that can’t be defined is apt to be defied…” Oswald Chambers

I don’t believe Christians – even real good ones – are exempt from suffering. Neither do I believe that God plans all our trials for some sovereign purpose of his. I’m not saying that he never providentially prevents our sufferings or that he never miraculously intervenes to alleviate them. There’s no doubt that he does those things – sometimes. In the following post or two (or three) I propose to illustrate my point with a simple metaphor.

I was stuck in some jaw-clenching urban traffic recently. It looked more like a parking lot than a street and I had places to go and people to see. The traffic is always bad in the City. Just in case you ever visit, that’s what we call San Francisco – never “Frisco” or “San Fran.” But this day the traffic was beyond bad. It wasn’t just that everyone in the City decided at the same time to take the same route to Target. There was something more going up ahead. “What’s the hold up here?” I screamed loud enough to make own my ears ring, but with all my windows closed, no one answered back. I’m not usually one of those manic horn honkers, but the connection between my brain and my honking hand was temporarily severed. I joined in the fruitless, albeit emotionally satisfying, chorus of horns, as though the guy ahead of each of us were at fault for the jam up. Continue reading

I’ve been going to the Catholic Church lately

francisNo, I’m not converting to Catholicism, praying to Mary, or going to confession; but for the last year or so I’ve been going down the street to Mission Dolores Church during the week to pray and read the Word. It’s a peaceful refuge from the din of my crowded urban neighborhood in San Francisco and a great place to meet with the Lord. I absolutely love being in the cavernous stone and stained glass sanctuary for relative solitude and quiet. I seldom have the place all to myself, but when I do it’s like being in the Holy of Holies – well, sort of.

I’ve often been accused of being quite verbal (though other words have been used to describe it), so quiet or silent prayer has never really been my forte. When I pray, my lips are usually moving and sound, sometimes a lot of it, is projected out into the air, and I hope also into heaven. Nevertheless, I’ve found that words are less important in some places at some times. Maybe that’s why the Spirit has drawn me to this place, so he can get a word in edgewise, which I might take into consideration in the things I reflect back to him in prayer. (I really only say this as a preemptive strike against a barrage of “Amens” from any of you who think I talk too much.)

Anyway, I was at Mission Dolores the other day wondering, besides the serenity and solitude of it, what it is that keeps drawing me back to the Catholic Church. Three things came to mind: A sense of history, a concern for poverty, and a theology of suffering. Continue reading

A Time To Weep

Ah, how Thy grace hath wooed my soul

With persevering wiles!

Now give me tears to weep; for tears

Are deeper joy than smiles.  FREDERICK WILLIAM FABER

weepingI confess that out of all the worship songs I’ve written, not one of them could be considered a lament, you know, of the book of Lamentations sort. It’s certainly not because I’m an incorrigibly cheerful guy and never have anything to cry about. I guess it just never occurred to me that sorrowful songs fit very well into my worship experience. But if you think about it, the Bible’s longest book – a songbook no less – is replete with hymns a significant portion of which tilt toward the mournful. Continue reading

A good testimony

2peopletalkingI used to think my best testimony was when I told someone that God did this miracle or another in me or around me. I supposed the best way to introduce people to God were stories of divine intervention and deliverance . While those are good, I’d say that if he always took all my suffering away I’d only have a testimony of a God who makes things better for us; not in itself a “bad” testimony, but one which has a shorter shelf life. Continue reading