Tuesdays are for honesty

 
Drumroll please…

 
Next Tuesday, 18 September, I will begin a new guest-post series on my blog,
God and Suffering: Our Story.

 
I am so excited!
 

I have asked some friends to be courageous in sharing their own stories of suffering, weakness, struggle. They will be telling the truth of what it felt like to undergo hard times and the effect – both good and bad – that it had on their relationship with God. This term, contributors include Emma Scrivener, Ed Cyzewski, Joy Bennett, Addie Zierman, Micha Boyett, Emily Wierenga and more.

 
For me, it has been the testimony of other Christians in hard times that has often been the spur to keep me going. It is hard to be honest about the tough things, but it can be powerful.

 
******

 
“My husband was killed by a gang of teenagers just because they wanted to know what it felt like to kill a man.”

 
It was 2006 and she was telling her story in the middle of a small Christian conference. The whole room was hushed as she spoke. She had been at home, playing with her eldest child and pregnant with her second when she was informed that her husband had been murdered.

 
Her voice was gentle. Her eyes glistened as she spoke of her husband, but she described his death with no hint of anger or resentment. The presence of Jesus shone from her as she spoke and she testified to the peace she had felt as she mourned and adjusted to her new life.

 
I was so challenged by her attitude.

 
I spoke to her at the end:
“How…how did you cope so well? I really don’t think I could be as peaceful as you are.”
“I wouldn’t have expected it either. Jesus really does give you what you need in the situation.”

 
I wanted to believe her, because she did seem to be ordinary and unassuming, and yet simultaneously so extraordinary. But my heart had flooded with fear.

 
My husband was my rock, and I loved him so much. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to feel that way. God was supposed to be my rock, not my husband.

 
Surely I had made my husband an idol. What if God took my husband away to test me? I reminded myself that God was loving and merciful. There was no reason that he would.

 
On the other hand, he had allowed it to happen to this lovely woman’s husband. Why should I be spared just because I had decided that my faith was too weak to depend on God?

 
These thoughts preoccupied me for the remainder of the conference.  And the worst of it was that I was in Christian ministry. I should have been the one to give that kind of testimony, able to say with confidence, “Christ is enough”. I looked at the shiny, smiling faces of the other Christians on the conference, and wanted to bury the dark fears even deeper.

 
In the end, I cracked and approached the leader of the conference, a speaker I respected immensely for her spiritual maturity. I confessed all to her: “I’m so afraid that my husband will die.”  I waited to be given the Bible passages that would help me realign my priorities and rediscover my joy in God so that I would know that He was enough.

 
She listened with love and said the most life-giving words imaginable:
“Oh, me too! I’m so afraid my husband will die. I think that’s natural when you love someone so much.”

 
That was all she said. I saw on her face that she meant it but also that she had peace and loved God anyway. Her trust in God somehow existed alongside her fear that her husband would die.

 
*******

 
As Christians, particularly in the evangelical tradition, we are good at sharing the stories of triumph and victory. It is rarer to share stories of suffering or struggle.

 
I heard two stories of suffering and weakness that day and I needed both stories. I needed the example of the one who had been through hell and could testify with gentleness and serenity of the sufficiency of Christ. I also needed the story of the one who feared as I did, and was still confident in her standing before God.

 
The Bible has both stories: the quiet trust of Ruth and the bitterness of Naomi in the face of loss; the fear of Peter and the boldness of Thomas as they faced the prospect of Jesus’ arrest and death. God has included both types in the Bible because they are the reality of what we experience, and we need to hear both.

 
On Tuesdays, this blog will be a space to sit and hear those lesser-told stories of struggle and suffering. I’d love it if you would join me in listening.

 
Over to you:

  • How good do you think we are in the church at sharing those stories of suffering?
  • What things make it hard to tell our stories of suffering?

Linking up today with Life Unmasked, WIP Weds, Imperfect Prose

 
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23 Responses to Tuesdays are for honesty

  1. bluecottonmemory 14th September, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    It is so important to stop hiding behinds masks – these challenges are faith testimonies – and we can only lift each other up if we understand there are struggles, failures, heart ache – that all fall short of the glory of God – and need people to encourage and lift up through prayer and support! I am so glad you are going to highlight the truth of the Christian walk!

  2. Charity Jill 13th September, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Looking forward to this! I think it is difficult for many to confess their struggles and suffering because we doubt – often for good reason – that other people will be able to understand and have compassion on us. We fear they will see our suffering as frivolous.

    • Tanya 14th September, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      ‘We fear they will see our suffering as frivolous’ – YES! this is totally my fear. I really worry that I am just eternally whingeing! Thank you for articulating it, and for your encouragement.

  3. Melanie 13th September, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    So excited for this! It is an important voice to hear…and to learn from. I know amidst my own journeys of suffering and loss, especially our miscarriages, that there had been more offered that sweet sounding Christian cliches. The gospel has more meat, more substance, more engagement than that.

    • Tanya 14th September, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

      Thank you for your excitement, lovely Melanie!
      ‘The gospel has more meat, more substance’ – Amen, Amen.

  4. Mia 13th September, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Dearest Tanya
    I understand why you felt guilty for being afraid that your hubbie might die! You are a normal, beautiful wife of the love of your life! We have a problem if we do not love our Loved ones enough to have such fears. That would a catastrophe according our God’s law of loving others more than yourself. I am so thankful that our Lord showed you that through that dear, WISE lady at the conference. I can see why she is a highly respected speaker. Sweet one, contrary to what we might think, our Lord understands better than us how human we really are. Please do not condemn yourself for that natural feeling. Remember all of us who have Jesus living His life in and through us, are in ministry as we allow Him to minister to others through us.I think that honesty about our vulnerability is such a great, life-giving testimony. Thank you for being in ministry for me through admitting your humanness.
    Love and blessings
    Mia

    • Tanya 14th September, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

      Thanks so much for your reassurances – it is a good way of looking at it, to say that we have a problem if we don’t love our loved ones enough to be fearing their death. Your words are always balm to me – thank you.

  5. Janice 13th September, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Tanya, I’m so glad you are doing these post also. I think the church is great at showing people who are on the other side of suffering and have a beautiful, redemptive story to tell. I don’t think it’s good at letting people show the deep struggles. Like Ammy said, people don’t talk about situations where there is no peace, no understanding, no sense. When good people struggle with the absolute unfairness of the world.

    That is a huge thing in someone’s life, a tragedy that undercuts all their beliefs about who God is and what he will protect them from. And many people have left the church because in the moment of their worst pain they felt that it wasn’t allowed to question God’s plan and the fact that he’s working everything for good.

    So I’m really interested to hear your guest posters. I think your blog is beautifully honest about life and pain and our struggles and it’s something that needs to be spoken of. If Jesus can’t meet us in such a place, who can?

    • Tanya 14th September, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Once again, Janice, you’ve expressed it all so well.

      Thank you so much for your kind words and for really getting what it feels like to suffer and have questions.

  6. Kati Woronka (@katiworonka) 13th September, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Reaching that point where we just accept that life is not going to be perfect is a difficult journey indeed. I’ve been struggling the last few weeks with my beloved friends in Syria. One of my best friends recently asked me how God can let this happen to her family and friends. She is safe but she’s watching the people dearest to her suffer, so very deeply. She asks me this question because she knows me as a person of faith. But I have no answer for her, except to say that I don’t know but I choose to trust God anyway. That feels very unsatisfactory, doesn’t it? I’m glad you’re exploring this!

    • Tanya 14th September, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      Wow. That sounds really tough.

      I have a feeling that the best answers to suffering are those that seem really unsatisfactory to us.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  7. Ammy 13th September, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    “Jesus really does give you what you need in the situation.” (quote from the woman you talk about). I hope you are going to include stories of suffering where Jesus hasn’t given someone what they need, hasn’t been there for the person suffering, hasn’t been there when someone needed Him the most. My experience is that he doesn’t give you what you need in the situation.
    “Tuesdays are for honesty.” What are all the other days for? Lies?!

    • Tanya 13th September, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Hey Ammy – thanks for stopping by, and for your honesty. Yes, I did think to myself when I came up with the title, ‘of course, all the other days are for honesty too!’ Maybe it was a misleading title πŸ™‚

      I can definitely relate to what you’re saying about Jesus not giving you what you need in the situation. Definitely, definitely.

      I can’t make any promises of the content of the other stories, because they’re not mine to tell. I can promise they will be real.

      However, I strongly suspect that some of them will be stories where they have felt God has come through for them amazingly and that others will be where they have felt abandoned by God. I’m excited to hear the different stories, and hope I will learn from the variety of people’s experiences. I don’t know if there will be a strong unifying theme that is similar about people’s experiences or whether they will all be totally different. I’m walking unchartered territory here! It would be great if you could walk this with me. I would also love to hear your story too at some point…

  8. Cat 13th September, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Looking forward to this series! πŸ™‚ Great idea Tanya! Oh and I too fear that my Husband will be taken from me – I think it must be normal? πŸ™‚

    • Tanya 13th September, 2012 at 9:28 am #

      I’m SO glad you feel that too! The secret fears are the ones that have the most power, I think…

      So glad you’re excited about the series! thanks for your comment.

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