Archives for posts with tag: suffering for Christ

Minimizing Your Suffering

A good friend, who has had a front roll seat to my recent travails, after reading my previous post, told me to that he thought I didn’t do justice to the severity of my losses. 

If I did that, it was by no means intentional. Minimizing suffering — whether yours or your neighbor’s — is never helpful, and especially for someone who, is seeking some measure of healing for his soul through sharing his story. But we must be careful not to overdue it. Even our lamentation must come with moderation.

My friend pointed out Paul’s lists of hardships, as if to say that “if it was good enough for the good Apostle, it must be good enough for you.” Indeed, at least on two occasions, Paul gives us some pretty disturbing accounts of the kind of trials he had to face as a follower of Christ, including such things as torture, famine and stoning. 

Paul’s list in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 would in those days be a bad tool for any recruiter trying to convince soldiers to join the ranks of the ‘Christian army.’ Imagine the scene: “Before you sign your contract, you need to see this video of the greatest missionary that ever lived talking about his exploits for Christ. Roll it!” By the time it was over, potential recruits would be bolting for the exit. And modern-day evangelists would be left wondering: “whatever happened to the whole part about God having “a wonderful plan” for my life?

But like I told my friend, I am no Apostle Paul. The first part of my first name means ‘John’ and my last name means ‘Trinity,’ but as far as I know, there is already a best friend of Jesus named John and there is no vacancy in the Trinity, which makes me feel a little sheepish sharing the details of my sufferings. 

But there are other (serious) reasons for my reticence. Even Paul, in the passage I just mentioned, only acted when he was provoked by some bragging by his opponents that was unfair and not based on facts. Twice, Paul speaks of how irregular his kind of response was. Before he starts with his litany of suffering, he says he’s speaking like a fool. When he gets into it, he quite bluntly says that only a madman talks the way he’s talking. There is a warning there to tread lightly. 

Another reason is that it is nearly impossible to be specific about my desert-like experience, while isolating it from the people who were responsible for the decision that put me in that position. No matter how objective I might try to be, people will work overtime to discover connections to individuals who were part some recent decisions in my life. In this small universe in which I live, it would be easy for someone to go on a witch hunt. Beware: even your well intended laments can potentially turn into a libel against people you would never intentionally want to hurt. In the end, your words may become fodder for innuendos and speculations. I’m having none of that.

That is not to say that the pain isn’t real or personal. Believe me, it’s the real thing and it is extremely personal but for that very reason, I have to remember that when I try to describe it it’s like seeing things through my own set of 3-D glasses. Humans don’t simply react to experiences, they interpret them, attribute value to them and often assign blame. It’s enough that I do that in my own head — believe me, I am no saint! — so I will choose to spare you from an ugly display of my own propensity to carnality by not speaking ill of my detractors. 

Speaking of carnality, when we go around “sharing our troubles,” if we are not careful, we end up often serving some red meat, whether we intended to do it or not. And that’s what so many people crave for, isn’t it? We are surrounded by people who dream of seeing others air their dirty laundry! I have been goaded to serve red meat on a silver platter, but I keep asking myself: what would that prove except perhaps that I might be an old fool that can’t move beyond an offense?

Again, this is not saying that there isn’t stuff bleeding in my ‘fridge.’ The events surrounding the loss of my job have enough red meat in them to allow me to open a thriving meat market. But what would the point be? By now the meat is all spoiled and only the vultures would relish it. 

No, I am not giving you any red meat. But that doesn’t mean that I might not indulge in some foolishness like Paul did. So, in order to satisfy my friend who has been in the mud with me, I will give you not red meat but a little bit of the vinegar mixed with gull (of much better quality than the one they served Jesus) we have been given to drink. 

As part of our suffering, my wife and I have done a fair amount of crying, of the type we had not experienced since the loss of our first son. The first couple of months we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Weekends were especially hard, sleeping was nearly impossible and the false alarm of the Sunday morning anticipation kept ambushing me mercilessly. To give you an idea, it was the first time in twenty five plus years that I was not involved in some aspect — planning and/or speaking — of an Easter Sunday. Talk about a very ironic way to mark the occasion of the sufferings of the Messiah. Resurrection couldn’t come sooner! As far as my dear wife, to this day, she still has a recurring nightmare about trying to get inside the church building from every entrance and being barred access. And what to say about her missing the children she watched while their mothers met for Bible study? I could go on and on but now I am truly speaking like a madman. Enough of that!

Humans are not only bound to interpret their experiences, they are also apt to absorb them. Live long enough and you will eventually laugh at your troubles and realize how ephemeral they really are. In this world, we are just passing through. The best is yet to come. Try to avoid blaming anyone for how you react to, interpret and absorb your sufferings. Individuals or groups may get you off track temporarily but they don’t have the power to derail you. That is something only God can do but the good news is that’s not His game. On the contrary, it is often through your groaning that God is growing you. Learn to embrace that. 

I must not close this commentary before mentioning the example of our Lord. Peter says (in the KJV): “… when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23). There you have it: Jesus didn’t take revenge and the reason he didn’t is because He knew that God would ultimately take care of the situation and that He would do that with absolute and perfect justice. That no doubt is still the best reason to date to not retaliate against others. It’s an effective deterrent to a bad habit we have — that of blowing the trumpet loudly with the menu of our own sufferings at the hands of our fellow humans. Forgive and let God take care of the rest. Try to handle it yourself and you will be doing a job above your pay grade. As we say in Portuguese, “Learn to stick to your station.” Translation (in any language): stay humble. And keep working for God’s shalom.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade 

June 2017

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O Ato de Minimizar o Seu Sofrimento 

Um grande amigo meu, um daqueles que têm observado de perto as minhas agruras desses últimos meses, depois de ler a minha última postagem, reclamou comigo que talvez eu tenha pecado por ter minimizado a severidade das minhas perdas. 

Se eu fiz isso, não foi propositalmente. Minimizar o sofrimento, seu ou alheio, nunca é benéfico e especialmente para alguém que busca algum grau de ajuda para curar sua alma através do ato de compartilhar sua história. Mas sem exageros, claro. Tudo com moderação, até a nossa lamentação. 

O meu amigo assinalou o exemplo das listas de auguras de Paulo, assim como que dizendo: “se o próprio Paulo se prestou a isso, por que não você?” De fato, em pelo menos duas ocasiões, Paulo nos descreve alguns episódios pouco agradáveis de suas aventuras como um seguidor de Cristo. 

A lista de 2 Coríntios 11:16-33 é de meter medo, incluindo tortura, fome e apedrejamento. Seria uma péssima peça de recrutamento de um possível soldado do ‘exército de Cristo’ naqueles dias. Imagine a cena: “Antes de você assinar o seu contrato, você precisa assistir a esse vídeo do maior missionário que já existiu falando de suas aventuras em prol de Cristo. Rola a fita!” Nem bem o vídeo termina e o cara sai de carreira pela saída mais próxima. E os evangelistas modernos ficariam se perguntando: e o que aconteceu com a história de que Deus tem um “plano maravilhoso” para a minha vida?

Mas, que me desculpe o meu amigo, eu não sou nenhum Apóstolo Paulo. Sim, é verdade que a primeira parte do meu nome significa “João” e o meu sobrenome é “Trindade”, mas se não me falha a memória, Jesus já tem um melhor amigo chamado João e não há vaga na Trindade, o que me deixa meio que sem jeito para falar falar dos meus sofrimentos.

Mas há razões mais sérias para a minha relutância. Até o próprio Paulo, na passagem mencionada acima, só agiu quando foi provocado pelos seus antagonistas. Isso deveu-se a certas jactâncias que eles proferiram, as quais não eram nem justas nem baseadas em fatos. Duas vezes, Paulo aponta o quão anômalo esse tipo de resposta era. Antes de começar, ele avisa que está falando como um incauto. E quando ele começa, vai direto no ponto e afirma que só loucos falam do jeito que ele está falando. Há um aviso muito claro aí para pisar leve quando se trata desse assunto. 

Uma outra razão sem dúvida deve-se ao fato de ser praticamente impossível falar dessa minha experiência no “deserto” sem estabelecer um elo com as pessoas que me fizeram chegar até lá. Mesmo que eu me esforçasse ao máximo para ser objetivo, as pessoas ainda tentariam fazer conexões com indivíduos que fizeram parte de certas decisões recentes da minha vida. Nesse pequeno universo onde eu vivo, seria muito fácil para alguém sair de caçada às “bruxas”. Muito cuidado: Até os seus bem intencionados lamentos podem acabar servindo de libelo contra pessoas que você intencionalmente jamais desejaria prejudicar. No final, suas palavras correm o risco de virar munição que podem dar origem à meia-verdades e especulações. Tô fora.

Isso de maneira nenhuma indica que a dor seja impessoal ou irreal. Pelo contrário, ela é dor de fato e é extremamente pessoal, mas justamente por essa razão é que, ao tentarmos descreve-la, temos que reconhecer que o fazemos com os nossos próprios óculos de 3-D nos olhos. Nós, humanos, não apenas reagimos às nossas experiências. Nós as interpretamos, a elas atribuímos valores e com frequência distribuímos culpa. Já basta que eu faça isso dentro da minha própria cabeça (santo mesmo eu não sou, podem crer!) Portanto, vou poupa-los de uma demonstração feia da minha própria carnalidade e não vou detonar os meus delatores. 

Por falar em carnalidade, esse negócio de “compartilhar o meu sofrimento”, quando feito sem pensar, pode resultar em que se exponha os podres dos outros. E é isso que muita gente gosta, não é mesmo? Como estamos rodeados de gente que quer ver roupa suja pendurada! Já fui tentado, mas fico perguntando: o que isso provaria, além do fato que talvez eu seja um néscio graúdo que não consegue sequer superar uma ofensa? Isso, claro, não quer dizer que me falta material para trazer à tona os podres dos outros. A minha “geladeira” está cheia desse troço. Os eventos que culminaram com a minha saída do emprego estão rodeados de intrigas capazes de manter a “geladeira” estocada por meses, mas quem ganharia com isso? É carne podre e de carne podre só os abutres gostam. 

Então, de minha boca não sairá podridão. Mas isso não significa que não possa dar uma de louco, assim como Paulo fez. Só pra alegrar o meu amigo que comigo esteve na fossa, aqui vai não o podre dos outros mas um pouco do vinagre com fel (de qualidade bem melhor do que o que deram pra Jesus) que a mim me foi dado beber. 

Como parte do nosso sofrimento, minha esposa e eu temos chorado a miúdo, tal qual não chorávamos desde a morte do nosso primeiro filho varão. Nos primeiros dois meses depois da dispensa, nem sequer sabíamos o que fazer com a nossa vida. Fins de semana eram especialmente difíceis. Dormir, nem pensar, e aquela adrenalina da antecipação do domingo ficou me assaltando como um algoz. Só para dar uma idéia, em mais de vinte e cinco anos, foi a primeira vez em que eu não estive envolvido com o planejamento ou pregação em um culto da Páscoa. Que maneira mais irônica de marcar a passagem dos sofrimentos do Messias. A ressurreição não poderia ter chegado mais rápido! Quanto à minha querida esposa, até hoje ela continua tendo um pesadelo no qual ela está tentando entrar na igreja por diversas portas e é barrada em todas, uma por uma. E não vou nem falar do quanto ela sente falta das crianças de quem ela cuidava enquanto as mães se reuniam para um estudo bíblico no prédio da igreja. Poderia continuar, mas chega. Já estou falando como um louco mesmo. 

Seres humanos não somente tem fraqueza por interpretar suas experiências, eles também têm uma tendência de adaptar-se a elas. Se você viver bastante tempo, chegará o dia em que rirá de seus problemas e se dará de conta do quão efêmeros eles são. Aqui nesse mundo só estamos de passagem. O melhor ainda está por vir. Esforce-se em não culpar ninguém por como você reage, interpreta e absorve os seus sofrimentos. Indivíduos ou grupos deles podem temporariamente nos tirar dos trilhos, mas eles não têm o poder de descarrilhar-nos. Isso só Deus pode fazer mas não faz parte do jogo dEle. Ao contrário, Ele usa os nossos grunhidos para nos tornar mais aguerridos. Às vezes o melhor crescimento é acompanhado de torcimento. Dói mas não destrói. Mói mas não mata. Pode crer.

Não poderia fechar esse comentário sem mencionar o exemplo do nosso Mestre. Pedro diz sobre Ele: “Quando insultado, não revidava; quando sofria, não fazia ameaças, mas entregava-se àquele que julga com justiça.” (1 Pedro 2:23). Mais claro não poderia ser. Jesus não procurou retaliar. E por que não? Porque Ele sabia que Deus iria resolver o problema e que o faria com absoluta e perfeita justiça. Ainda está pra se criar uma razão melhor que essa para evitar qualquer retaliação. É um detente perfeito para o péssimo hábito que temos de anunciar em alto e bom som o menu dos nossos sofrimentos às mãos dos nossos semelhantes. Perdoe e deixe que Deus faça o resto. Se você tentar resolver o assunto você mesmo, vai certamente fazer serviço de amador. Como a gente diz em português: “Aprenda a ficar no seu lugar.” Tradução (em qualquer língua): pratique a humildade. E continue trabalhando pela shalom de Deus. 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Junho, 2017

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“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” (Hebrews 13:3 NLT).

Do not ask me, Oh God, to remember unpleasant things. It’s bad enough that there is disease, strife, and hatred everywhere. I don’t have to strain my eyes to see the dark side of this world. So, if you don’t mind, I will take a pass and live happily ever after for once.

I would rather remember good things, like the first words my daughter ever said to me. I care not for the last words of a dying saint.

I would rather remember pleasant times, like my honeymoon in the Bahamas. Don’t make me think of husbands taken by force from their brides on their wedding day.

I would rather remember the spaces where I ran free, like the places I went as a college freshman unshackled from the watchful eyes of my parents. Why think of a stranger in a dungeon somewhere on the other side of the world?

I would rather remember the joy of giving, not the sting of being taken. I want to think of large families and music, not widows and sorrows.

I would rather remember feasts and friends, not feuds and foes; nights of joy, not sights of sorrow.

I want to hear the sound of peace not the drums of power, steps of merriment not the march of trouble.

So why do you say, “Remember those in prison, as if you yourself where in prison with them”?

How is that even possible?

“Every time you bow your knees and every time you pray for my people who suffer, you are there with them. The same Jesus that brought you happiness is the reason that brought them pain.”

“Whenever you close your eyes and ask for the hands of evil doers to be stopped, you’ve joined my suffering church everywhere.”

“When you open your mouth and shout their tortures, you’ve given them strength to live another day. My Spirit whispers to their spirit that someone cares. When you see their pain, you see my Son upon the cross.

“My God, my God. You’ve put me this side of the globe. Why? Why am I not them and them, I? I can no longer airbrush away the plight of your persecuted church around the world.”

“So today I repent and pledge to remember the millions of my brothers and sisters who are imprisoned for Christ. I pray for them as if their wounds were carved in my own body.”

“And I ask you to keep me free – not from trials but from the possibility of denying this Savior who purchased me with His blood. And should persecution ever fill my cup, may I have the courage to drink it.”

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'” (Revelation 21:3-5).

Pastor Ivanildo C.Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, PA

Dr. Paul Wilson Brand, a pioneer surgeon and humanitarian who was one of the first to discover that Hansen’s disease (leprosy) didn’t cause the loss or disfigurement of limbs, once said, “I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give my leprosy patients than pain.” He co-wrote a book with Philip Yancey titled The Gift of Pain. In this and some of his more autobiographical books, he talks about the valuable properties of pain.

But we don’t often see pain that way, do we? We dread pain, we pray for pain to be gone, and we see people with chronic pain as being worthy of our pity.

And then we come to a text like this one in Philippians, where Paul says, For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” (Philippians 1:29). The word translated as “you’ve been given” is the word Charis in the Greek. It means “gift.” Literally: “you’ve been gifted.” “You’ve been gifted with His salvation and you’ve been gifted with His suffering.”

So, not surprisingly, Peter gives us this “petard”:  “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12). What is he saying? Suffering for the sake of Christ shouldn’t be thought of as out of the ordinary. Hold off the cameras; don’t go live with the “Breaking News;”  stop donning your “deer in the headlights” face. People who follow Christ will experience suffering for Him. Period.

Which takes me back to the idea of pain. The New Testament pages are littered with people whose pain practically jumps off the pages while you are reading them. Physical pain, primarily, but also emotional, spiritual and alienation type of pain that never seems to go away. But that was pain for being born in a messed up world, not pain for being re-born in the world of Messiah. The former is inherited, the latter is chosen. The former is dreaded, the latter is to be embraced.

My message this Sunday will be about the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus on the border  between Galilee and Samaria (Luke 17:11-17). These men were outside the reach of any other human being. They were banished from the rest of society. But strangely, their pain was only psychological and emotional. They experienced little or no physical pain. But Jesus understood their plight and felt compassion for them. He restored them to perfect health.

But strangely, only one, a foreigner, and a despised Samaritan at that, returned to give thanks. When he fell at the feet of Jesus, he was now restored body and soul. But strangely again, now that he was whole again, he also had the choice of embracing the possibility of pain in the life of a Messiah-follower. And from all indications, he seemed to have been willing to do just that. He was now free to embrace a suffering of a different kind.

I sometimes wonder what may have happened to that man who returned thanks. Did he become a disciple? Maybe a missionary to those who were outcast? Did he feed the hungry? All those questions I hope to have answered when I see this man in heaven because I believe that Jesus’ words to him, “You have been made well,” mean that I will see this man in heaven one day.

May we all be humble to accept whatever comes our way because we are willingly following this wonderful Messiah we love so much.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade