“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Are you suffering for doing good?

While in Dominican Republic, I met a woman who asked me about a neighbor of hers with mental illness. She related how perhaps once a month or more, her neighbor will go into episodes of aggressive and mentally ill behavior. When she would feel an episode coming on and about to happen, she would come to her and ask for prayer. With tears in her eyes she related how she seeks to help her neighbor but doesn't know what to do, prays for her but she doesn't seem to get better, and at times feels the results of her aggressive, mental illness episodes.

I think we have been conditioned to think people always should get better as a result of ministry. I think we have also grown to believe that ministry should not result in suffering. But that is not really what scripture says. I Peter 2:20-21 says, if you suffer for doing good, you were called to this. It could be that if you are suffering because of the degree to which you have entered into the suffering of others, you should not be surprised. You should rather rejoice that you are following your calling.

The woman who told me of her neighbor was an intelligent person whose tears could have easily been eliminated by simply rejecting her neighbor.

Instead, she embraces her neighbor, fulfills her calling of suffering for doing good, cries for her neighbor's suffering, and is driven to desperate prayer for her neighbor. None of these things would happen without her obedience in seeing her neighbor (like the Good Samaritan) going to her and suffering for doing good through entering into the suffering of her neighbor. But this does not make it easier.

These interactions leading to suffering are chosen interactions not necessarily imposed interactions. Obviously one can also suffer for doing good in others lives that was not chosen but rather imposed by life. This is not to demean that form of suffering for doing good at all. However, there is something special about choosing interactions with people that will lead to our personal suffering because we want to be obedient. We help others, but we also help ourselves. We are driven to humble dependence in God; a place where wants us to go.  We say, " Lord, I want to go to the place of humble dependence so I will choose to enter into suffering FOR MYSELF and my relationship to you." Both me and the person whose suffering I am sharing are blessed, are benefitted in ways pleasing to God.  This happened because by faith I submitted myself to my calling.

McNair

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading about the women in the Dominican Republic. I feel a joy reading that she felt the resolution to the mental illness was prayer. From my perspective it means her faith is strong. I found it interesting that her neighbor with mental illness is her biggest concern. That is the issue that she brought up to you. She did not bring up financial burdens (we all have them), family issues, or personal issues for that matter. Her greatest concern, and what was on her mind when she came to you is her neighbor. I find that absolutely beautiful. I admire her values, love, and compassion. Her belief that her prayers can heal her neighbor is a testament to her personal relationship with God. This is a beautiful story. By how you speak I can see she humbled herself before God. She is the type of person you speak about in your last paragraph.

Julie said...

My mother and I are in this exact position. We have a family friend who we have known for 40 years. Over 5 months ago, I spent a lot of money and went through a lot to move her back down to Southern California and into our home. She has mental issues which have not yet been diagnosed. Her memory is failing, she has fits of rage and meltdowns, and she is doing things that are just wrong. She has horses, which I paid and arranged to have brought here (including 2 of them being at another friend's house). The whole situation is very stressful as we are often afraid of what she might do, like burn down the house. She does not feed the horses enough food and we have to feed them extra without her knowing. We have to go with her to our other friend's house twice a day to feed the horses for fear she will do something dangerous or do damage over there. Our whole lives are now consumed with her and her problems. She has no income and is costing my mother and I a lot of money we cannot afford. My mother cries all of the time and I fear for her health due to the stress she is under from this family friend. It feels as though this friend is becoming sneaky, watching us, stealing from us, and so much more. I could go on for a very long time about all that is happening here, including all of our things she is destroying. We had, and struggle to continue to have the best of intentions. So many have told us to toss her out, but we cannot do that. She is not the person we once knew, but still deserves to be treated like a friend...though it is very hard. I struggle with feeling as though I am not being a good Christian for the wish that we could get her into another place. I also struggle for fear that my mother's health will suffer for this situation. How do I treat her respectfully and still protect my mother? She has made a threat (under the guise of a joke) about killing my mom. My mom now sleeps with her door locked. I want to do right by both. It is hard not to feel as though we are being punished for trying to do good. Our lives are consumed with this and we are most definitely suffering. I am away from home a lot for school and working to help support us all, so am concerned for my mom, of course. When my mom has been upset, I tell her that we are our friend's intervention since no one else was going to help her...that God used us to get her to a place where she can get help. We are waiting for social services to get her seen by a doctor. She is not family, so we have no control over her care. When she is diagnosed, then we can get her the help she needs. Until then, we continue on, hoping we can survive this situation without suffering beyond what can be repaired. Your story really hit home for me about this. The other comment states how the lady did not mention financial burdens, family issues or personal issues...I wish that could be our situation, but she lives with us and is not a neighbor we could pray for (though we do pray for her and ourselves). I know there are others out there struggling as we are and your story reminded me so. I'm just not sure what to do to honor her, my mom and God all at the same time!
Julie

Greg Cowee said...

The truth is contained in the human condition that we crave to be rewarded for the good works we do in faith enabled by the grace of Jesus. This want for recognition in being obedient to God's calling we expect in several ways: blessing from God in some way because we are giving, repayment in the form of that other person doing something nice in return to show their gratitude, or see that person come to know Christ as their Lord or turn from the error of their way. I can honestly say that many times in ministry I have planted the seed of the Gospel in someone's life by showing them a Christ-like love and character as well as sharing the Word. Most of the time I do not see the completion of the seed sewn in that person. It is up to God to water that seed, nourish it so it will bear fruit eventually. That is a difficult part of Christianity. You may never see the fruits of your labor, it may never happen or it can happen outside of you realizing it. We are brow beaten into the fact that we must love and share, and most Christians do it faithfully with no expectation in return, it is the definition of unconditional love and most feel something that is just a part of your calling. It can however, just like this lady frustrate and depress you. One of the verses I hang my hat on is Romans 8:17, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Suffering is a part of the gig, it should keep us close to God, but it is also promised that we will share in his glory. We want to see that, hopefully because we want God to be glorified and to know he works through us. Another thing for me is knowing as it says later in Romans 8 that the Spirit can help us in our weakness, he can intercede for us, letting us know how to help and what to pray. When we pray for the things the Spirit through the voice of God is leading us to say and do, we can rest assured that He is on it, and it is not something that we want to see happen, but He wants to accomplish. That can lead give your ministry to that person a higher sense of satisfaction, whether or not you set to see and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Finally, I will leave you with Galatians 6.9, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." AMEN!