April McGowan

Happy Shiny People

I’ve been pondering the idea that good Christians don’t complain—no matter how difficult their circumstances. Since I’ve been dealing with illness for the past couple…er…many years (see previous posts) I’ve had a lot of time to think about this.

I’ve heard the following statement many times; maybe you’ve heard it too:

“They suffered from (insert type of suffering here) for ages, and not once did they complain or ask why me!” (This is usually said with an admiring voice.)

I don’t know about you, but statements like that can make me question my faith.

I’ve read many books on suffering (there’s some great ones out there) and none of them chided me for feeling down, for feeling at odds with myself, or for questioning God’s plan for my life. Instead, they were all about comfort in God’s word and encouragement for the day. In fact, the Bible has dozens of examples of people crying out to the Lord in their time of suffering. Job, David, Moses, Abraham, Jacob (he even wrestled with God, remember?), Paul, and my especially my Savior. Each one followed their pleas and prayers with submission that God’s will be done. They were honest in their plight, in their pain, and God comforted them.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not okay to shake your fist at God—but He certainly expects us to cry out to Him in our time of need. It’s clear from His word that He loves us—and what loving father would turn a deaf ear on their child’s suffering? Even if we don’t feel His presence due to our circumstances, He’s with us, every step of the way.

God desires intimacy with Him. If I’m not honest in how I feel, then I’ve built a blockade between Him and me. If I hide away my pain and put on the “happy shiny people” face, then I’m also not being honest with those around me. And that gets in the way of opportunities to love and comfort others.

Let me ask you this: who are you more likely to turn to when you are in need? A friend who puts on the happy shiny face and pretends life is all sunshine and rainbows even when they are falling apart, or the friend who has a close intimate relationship with God, and has learned to lean on Him during hard circumstances, sharing their joys as well as pains?

God’s Word says: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (emphasis added). For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Cor 1:3-7).

In the past few months, I’ve had people come alongside me to comfort me, and having been blessed by that, I  have been able to come alongside others and be a comfort to them. I haven’t had all the answers (not my job, thankfully), but I’ve been there. Oftentimes being there, praying or just listening, can make all the difference in a person’s day. Although this has been a very hard time, experiencing both sides has blessed me beyond measure.

5 Comments

  1. Billie Jo Robbins
    Jul 1, 2011

    I have heard it said that complaining is more like just stating what is wrong, over, and over, and over again..without doing something about it. We with Chronic Illness are not in a posistion to heal ourselves, but we can go to the Healer and ask for help…He doesn’t always choose to heal us physically(that would be a whole other post)..but He gives us just what we need for the day, or minute, or second. But we can never receive His help, if we are not honest with Him about how we are doing. And we will never receive the help and comfort from others we need, unless we are honest with them…Very good post April…thank you for sharing:)

  2. Karen Miller
    Jul 1, 2011

    I had one friend in my past who was negative about everything… illness, her kids, everything she spoke about was negative. I found when I quit hanging around her it was a good decision and I felt better. Same with my parents… I can’t handle negative energy. Guess I don’t have a gift for comforting others and making them feel better. I always look for strength in people… more than negativity. Of course the way people are raised has something to do with it too. My mom isn’t a comforter and never doted on her kids or cared how they felt. Of course it’s also hard for me to accept comfort or praise from others too. Thanks for sharing this April.

  3. Rebecca LuElla Miller
    Jul 5, 2011

    Thought-provoking, April. What you’ve said about giving comfort reminded me of 2 Cor. where Paul says one of the purposes of suffering is so that we can pass on the comfort to others that we ourselves have received.

    I also thought, though, of the passage I just read in Acts when Peter and John were arrested after they healed the lame man and then started preaching Christ. Their response could be considered the same as the “happy shiny people.” I even noted in my Bible that if such a thing happened in America today, the response would probably be, Why me, God, when I’m only serving You and doing what You empowered me to do?

    Stephen’s response when he was being stoned, Paul’s many statements about suffering and affliction, Abraham’s immediate obedience, sans questioning God about why He was asking him to sacrifice his son, his only son … all these seem to say to me that sometimes the Spirit gives incredible peace that makes it possible for believers to sing hymns in jail or on their death bed. It’s no more untrue for them than it is for someone who has questions to not ask them.

    I find great comfort and encouragement when a believer does not complain about the suffering God has allowed. A couple in my church had such a powerful testimony as they spoke about their love for God as the man was dying of ALS. He had been reduced to a voice and barely that, but communicated his love for God and his joy in anticipating heaven. That response gives me hope because we’ll all be there some day, at death’s door, in some measure suffering and debilitated, yet with the opportunity to rejoice in God our savior.

    Becky

    • amcgowan
      Jul 5, 2011

      Thanks so much for your comments, Rebecca. I, too, believe God sometimes grants a special strength to those in difficult circumstances. There are many examples of different kinds of circumstances in the Bible to speak to each one of us in our time of need. As I said, it’s not right to shake a fist at God and demand why me, but I think God wants our honesty in times of trial and sorrow and it’s okay to ask what His plan might be. Our Lord cried out in the garden for God to take the cup away, if it be His will. He was in great, unimaginable anguish. Paul lists his infirmities, even boasts of them, to show God’s providence in his life as he suffered. I am so thankful he shared his sufferings in his letters, they bring me great comfort–not only to show God’s provision, but that it’s okay to talk about our sufferings with others. I think there is often an unrealistic expectation put onto believers that it’s NOT okay to share about weakness or suffering. That it’s not okay to wonder what is going on in our lives. I also think there is an unrealistic expectation given to believers that life will be sunshine once we accept Christ into our hearts and make Him Lord of our lives–we’ll have the perfect marriage, children, job, home, etc. Often times, it’s more the opposite–when we stand for Christ the enemy moves into action. But what is taught on Christian TV, music, or even some churches can make those who suffer wonder if they’ve done something wrong–which might not necessarily be the case–or doubt their salvation or the love of the Father. It’s my hope that through our own transparency and honesty in our walk with Christ that we can be a comfort to those around us in their time of need.

  4. Rebecca LuElla Miller
    Jul 5, 2011

    Ugh, April, I so agree. The false teaching (we might as well call it what it is) that says we will be rich and well because we are Christians does so much damage to individuals and to the name of Christ. It makes those who claim the name of Christ focus primarily on getting the goods in the here and now.

    In contrast Jesus clearly told Pilate that His is a spiritual kingdom. Yes, we are to offer a cup of cold water to the needy. We are to minister justice to orphans and widows. So we have responsibilities in the here and now, but not the promise of a perfect world or perfect conditions in my little corner of it.

    Thanks again for this discussion.

    Becky

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