Welcome to Tennant Across the Pond

Thanks for coming by--and welcome to Tennant Across the Pond, my online journal which will serve to update friends and family about my upcoming trips to Formby, U.K.

I will be in Formby twice in the next six months, serving with Formby Baptist Church. The dates for the trip are:

March 5-22 and May 16-July 12.

For updates, info, and reflections, read on.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Layers to Our Suffering

Here is a segment from a sermon I recently preached on Luke 19:41-44. In this passage, Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem as He predicts the city's destruction in 70 AD because they didn't recognize God's coming to them:

Even though Jesus knew the future of the city, it did not protect Him from present suffering, or for that matter neutralize it. This is because knowledge of the future is not meant to curtail or rid us of present suffering.

This is hard for us to think about, because the first thing we tend to offer a suffering person when they come to us is knowledge of the future. "It's going to be OK," we say, "because Romans 8:28 says that God works out all things for the good of those who love Him." Then, when that person walks away still suffering, we doubt the authenticity of their faith. But knowledge of the future is not supposed to neutralize or shield us from suffering.

So what is knowledge of the future for? What do we do with great passages like Romans 8:28, or Romans 5:3-5 or James 1:2-3? Well, what we don't do is offer them to people like they are an ibuprofen or antacid. They do not eliminate the headaches and stomachaches brought on by our suffering--this is not their intention.

Instead, these passages, and our knowledge of the future in general, add layers of meaning to our suffering. Think of them not as ibuprofen but as a bandage. They are placed on top of the wound, which aids the slow process of recovery, protecting our wounds from further harm.

In the same way, these passages and our knowledge of the future aid the slow process of recovering from a traumatic event by adding meaning to a slow process of recovery, and they protect us from further doubt and further pain brought on by thinking suffering is meaningless--because these verses declare to us loudly that our suffering has a purpose.

Thus, when we shepherd the suffering, it would be a grave mistake to give them the advice of "take two verses and call me in the morning." We cannot offer those who are suffering a verse and then walk away. Instead we offer them these verses as instruments to add layers to their suffering. We are patient with them and we journey with them through it.

So, when you shepherd someone who is suffering, don't offer them a verse, or even worse a Christian truism, expecting it to cure them of their pain. Offer a the Word to them as something which gives them life and helps them persevere as meaning is added to their suffering. Because Christ could weep while knowing the future, so can we.

I owe the core of these insights--especially the exegesis of Luke 19:41-44--to Dr. Gerald Peterman, who co-taught a course I recently took on suffering. His lecture on this passage opened the door for this sermon, and so I owe him a debt of gratitude for his excellent scholarship and pastoral heart.

1 comment:

  1. Kyle I had the same idea for a sermon! haha I called it Prescription Christianity... Love this post bro I'm sorry I haven't responded to your facebook message. I will try to respond within the next few days. Love you dude!