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Pain and Suffering

The following post is disjointed and semi incoherent. I have left it as such on purpose. Incoherence and abrupt changes in the narrative when retelling a personal story is a sign of trauma. I have recently had multiple friends go through severely traumatic events. I have left my musings in a format that is I intend as an embrace to their stories.

What do you do when faced with evil and suffering?

I typically remind myself that when Christ returns judgement day will come and the wicked will be punished and the righteous will be rewarded.

But this answer begins to waver as I am faced with greater evil and suffering. The last year I have met those whose spouse cheated and left them, watched young people avoid the feelings after being abused and five women who had been raped. One of them was raped while I was in the act of praying for her.

The light of future justice becomes a dimmer and dimmer light in the face of growing darkness.

How do I continue to believe that God is good in light of allowing such evil? Evil that could have been avoided by a text and one other person joining an event. Such a simple solution.

I want to alleviate suffering. Because of this I have a habit of looking for people who are suffering to help them. I developed a habit of seeing more evil and bad than good in the world. I fail to see the blessings and good that God provides.

              These things I hold to be true.

              God allows people to choose for themselves.

              When people sin it is because they are carried away by their own lusts.

              God prevents us from sinning in many ways that we do not see.

              We never know the whole picture of how God is working in our lives.

              Pain and suffering is sometimes the only thing that turn us to Christ, and that will always be worth it.

              But I wonder, how do I know that turning to Christ is worth it? What do I see now?

David laments the success of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous in the Psalms. He cries out to God in honesty as he looks at the suffering of the world. Why? Where are you?

              But he declares, “I am confident of this, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

              If I believe this I must look for it. I must be thankful for the good that the Lord does provide. The sun, the rain, health, friends, embraces, prayer, and recall to mind all the past times he has come through.

              I want to ‘do justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly before the Lord my God’

              In response to seeing pain and suffering I want to do good. Treat others well.

              I must praise God that I have been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of showing others goodness.

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Loneliness 1

Loneliness. You are not alone in your loneliness. And yet you are alone. So very very alone.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, Reddit, Discord and other social media platforms allow us share and speak with friends and strangers. Cell phones, Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Hangouts, and Facebook video calls allow us to see and talk to loved ones with the push of a button. Personal vehicles allow us to see friends in person at distances that would have previously prevented friendships.

Lonely. I am still lonely. I went rock climbing with a friend. We got dinner afterwards. As soon as she left a massive wave of loneliness swept over me. I live with family. I have a great relationship with my family. Yet I am still lonely.

Loneliness is a negative emotion that tells us connection is missing or broken. A good connection requires presence (the act of being fully engaged with the other person), and common experience (doing something, understanding the other).

For six years I relied on texting and phone calls. My close friends were hours away and my work routinely prevented me from seeing them. But it left me wanting. I wanted to be with them and not where I was. Now, even when with my friends I imagine and hope to be somewhere else.

I got used to my phone as a placeholder for human connection. Checking my phone gave a tiny relief to my loneliness. My phone was a very bad coping mechanism. I found out later that checking our phones impulsively is due to the brain being trained to release dopamine by checking our phones.

              Even though I have consistent time with the my closest friends who are wonderful people I still have my bad habits. Silence in conversation? Pick up the phone. Think of something to say to someone else? Pick up the phone and text them. Can’t be funny myself? Grab my phone and find a TikTok.

              We can change our emotions by changing small actions. Find the one small action. The easiest one you know you can change. It doesn’t have to be a magic bullet, but one that is part of the change.

              Below is my train of thought that got me from loneliness to stop checking my phone.

              I am lonely because I am not fully connected. I am not fully connected because I am not fully attentive and engaged with my friends. I am not fully engaged and connected because I have the emotional desire to be or do something else. I want to be elsewhere and do other things because the cell phone gives the false impression that it will heal my loneliness by connecting me to someone else (the dopamine burst).

              When I go to my friends house I tell them, “I am struggling to focus on being here and not check my phone. I am going to put it on ‘do not disturb’ It will only ring if one of my favorite contacts calls. Other than that I am not going to check it. Please call me out if I do.”

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Processing vs Choosing

              I enjoy figuring out the internal world of emotions, feelings, and how the past affects what we choose today. It is like a giant puzzle. I love reading books on how our brain is developed and how counseling brings coherence to our stories and changes how our brain functions. I am just about always observing my own thought and emotional process.

              I lived with a gentleman that did none of this. It was rare that he would say something like, “you think I do this because of this?” Maybe three times in the entire two years I lived and worked with him. He just saw a behavior and changed it. If something made him mad he was mad. If he should not have been mad he realizes it and then doesn’t get mad again.

              No analyses. No working through emotions to find out reasons causes etc. No mulling over why there is angst, pain, or hurt. He just accepts, “yup. That sucks” and then in a few hours he will be over it. He is perfectly successful and takes care of his fiancé and his friends well.

              Typically this makes me uncomfortable. Most people I know that just decide to ‘change’ are really just ignoring issues. They don’t work through past pain and trauma and then their expectations and coping mechanisms affect me. I prefer my way. Or I did.

              I mull over the same experience for weeks. I try and find the root of the roots, root cause. If I just find the past experience and base motivation then, maybe, I can change my feelings. This is a good skill in that I can usually communicate how and why I feel what I feel. But it is not good when the same issue keeps coming up over and over again.

              Brain scans show that bringing coherence to past experiences changes how our brain functions. But if constant mulling over the past causes other bad behaviors, or delays change in behavior it can be bad.

              God does command constant self evaluation. We are commanded to do good. God tells us that, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

              Sometimes does obedience take internal processing? Absolutely. Sometimes just choosing never seems to work. But other times we need to just let our feelings go, get over ourselves, and choose a different path. Choosing in this manner, like anything else, is a skill that must be practiced. But it is a good skill to have in the endeavor to live well and love well.

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To My Plant Friends

              I love my plant friends. Walk into their house and there are plants. Everywhere. I am not a plant person. I am bad at taking care of plants. I just can’t keep them alive. I give them too much sun. Too much water. I am also bad at taking care of people.

              Cameron would tell you this isn’t true. He recently told me I respond to him well. I listen, I only offer advice when asked. I care for him while respecting his autonomy.

              I am good for Cameron. He wants to grow in a way that fits my methodology and thought process. He likes the amount of light and water I naturally offer. But I cannot say I am good at taking care of people because ‘people’ includes those who don’t think like me. They need different levels of sun and water.

God has recently been using a young gal to humble me. Constantly. She doesn’t aspire to the same ‘level’ of growth. She doesn’t want to work through past demons. She just goes through life changing habits without overthinking. Sort of.

I try to push and influence her behavior. But it never works.

She does have episodes of growth. She sits me down and brings up difficult topics and clearly states what she feels, what she wants, and what she is working on.

It has always been after my absence. Not my presence. Won’t talk for three or four days and then a sudden blooming of analyzed feelings and desires. I am more of a hindrance than a help.

She is the plant lady.

She grows on her own.

Paul tells us in 1 Cor that one person plants and another waters, but it is God who makes them grow. I over water and force sunlight and get frustrated when leaves wilt or get burned. But it is not my place to expect or demand growth. My place is to be good and do good.

Plants don’t communicate the same way people do. They tell you in subtle ways when they need water and sun. If you overwater they may grow mold. If you give them too much sunlight, they get burnt. When do we water and sun plants?

When they ask for it. It may be nonverbal. They may be unconscious in a ditch in need of medical care. Or crying and motion for a hug. It may be like Cameron who asks directly and clearly.

When we aren’t asked; we do good and shine as little lights for Christ. The plants that like to grow in sunlight will grow. The ones that don’t, won’t.

If they need space. Give them space. God grows plants in the darkness and the desert as much as the sunlight and the rainforest. Thankfully even those that we over water God gives grace to grow despite us.