Sighs: Suffering, Part 1 (Scholar’s Compass)

Image Name: Sigh

Series Introduction

Hurt can be so deep, so long lasting, so pervasive, so devastating that there are days when being able to get out of bed is in question. We can know our theology. We can state our theology. But we still hurt, bear loss, travail, wail, moan, howl, and scream our grief in suffering. Walker Percy, the great Catholic writer, said it best, “A person can know the meaning of life but still has to find a way to make it through Wednesday afternoon.”

Life’s pain is woven through the Bible. Scripture is honest. The images in God’s Word are startling, difficult, and specific. Three dozen Hebrew and Greek words for suffering, distress, anguish, pain, torment, travail, and affliction are used in the Bible. In this brief, five-part series, Dr. Mark Eckel will pull back the curtain of biblical teaching woven with the breath-catching, earthly awfulness of suffering.

There are multiple reasons for, causes of, and responses to suffering. The suffering series will be as direct and honest as possible; but there is so much more to say. If you are interested in watching on video, Dr. Eckel is teaching ten sessions at his church which are being captured digitally with embedded power points. You can watch the series on the website of Dr. Eckel’s non-profit The Comenius Institute. More essays on “addiction,” “abuse,” “innocents,” “blame,” “scars,” and a four-part series on “lament” are available on Dr. Eckel’s website Warp and Woof.

If we do not look, we will not see. If we do not hear, we will not listen. If we are not compassionate, we will not care. If we are not willing, we will not give. If we are not changed, we will not act. May Paul’s words be our response, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12.15-16).

May our own hurt be the impetus for helping others in their hurt.


 

Part 1: Sighs

Quotation

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. (Philippians 1.15-17)

Reflection

Sometimes I have difficulty breathing.

No. I don’t smoke.

Yes. I exercise.

No. I don’t battle disease.

Yes. My life has been sabotaged by others.

I have been

  • Displaced by a conniving, duplicitous subordinate
  • Disconnected by leaders believing what the subordinate says
  • Demeaned by a leader just because he found someone he liked better
  • Confused trying to please an employer who constantly changed the job
  • Denied access to salary rates, paid less than those I was meant to lead
  • Offered a teaching job which was later rescinded
  • Proffered an institutional agreement, later forgotten by those who benefited
  • Lied to about a job, hired, later discovering falsified pretext
  • Lied about when fired on untrue, leader-created false charges
  • Lied about to others by leaders so as to eradicate personal responsibility

So yes, sometimes, I have trouble breathing.

I regularly feel exposed, naked, repressed, disenfranchised.

  • These are not feelings that anyone else can see.
  • These are not emotions which can be overcome by discussion or dialogue.
  • These are not settings where one can speak about issues without bad-mouthing others.
  • These are not circumstances which allow for redress or restored work.
  • These are not situations of which one can speak without the label of “complainer.”

I write generally about these situations and my feelings here because I think it’s important that others who have endured similar effrontery—in higher education or life in general—find solace with one who has put their feelings in words.

Paul, in the book of Second Corinthians, wrote to a group of people who had given him heartaches. Here are a few snapshots:

  • Suffering pain from those who should have caused him to rejoice (3.2)
  • Afflicted in every way, perplexed but not driven to despair (4.8)
  • Imploring the Corinthians to be reconciled to Christ (5.20)
  • The Corinthians were restricting their own affections (6.12)
  • Make room in your hearts for us, is a command Paul had to say in print (7.2)

Like Paul, you will not find me ranting about grievances but being clear that they happen.

You will not see me post the “defamation du jour” on social media.

I try to capitulate instead of fight because there is little recourse in rancor.

I rage in my soul because there is nowhere else to rage.

I try not to play the game “What if?” but end up playing anyway.

I write words like these, sludge released from a grill, because I need the release.

I agree with my published sisters Amanda and Jamie. They pen their own internal, human struggles, expressing how they feel, knowing no other resort than words, often in the form of sighs.

Have I been angry about the situations I’ve encountered? Sure. Have I expressed myself to those who have wronged me? As I’ve had opportunity. Do I lament the past? Every other day.

But on the good days, I am reminded of this prose poem by Minnie Louise Haskins.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

And so I breathe.

Questions

  1. How do I live with deep disappointments that have been perpetrated against me by those who say they are believers?
  2. How do I find the “silver lining” in difficult disillusionment?
  3. How do I express my feelings in words with truth but without rancor?
  4. How do I practice the Haskin’s prose poem “The Gate of the Year?”

Prayer

Dear Lord. I hurt. People have hurt me. Those who call themselves believers have hurt me the most. My pain is etched across my soul and shows up on my face when I’m not careful. I cry even when there are no tears in my eyes. The ache is so deep that I doubt I will ever climb out of the chasm. Help me Lord, help me Lord. I know You have felt my pain in the Person of Your Son, in whose name I pray, and sometimes scream in pain, Jesus.


Scholars-Compass-image-40x40Note: Part of both the Scholar’s Compass series and a series on suffering by Mark Eckel. Part 1.

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Mark Eckel

Dr. Eckel has served the Christian educational community for over 30 years, teaching junior high through graduate school. He speaks widely and writes weekly at warpandwoof.org. I Just Need Time to Think! Reflective Study as Christian Practice and When the Lights Go Down: Movie Review as Christian Practice (Westbow, 2014) are his latest books. Dr. Eckel is presently at work writing a book about education. Mark can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@MarkEckel), and Linked In. Mark and Robin Eckel live in Indianapolis, IN, sharing their gifts in their local church, Crossroads Community, Fishers, IN. Mark also serves with Capital Seminary and Graduate School. Mark is an author, essayist, speaker, mentor, interdisciplinarian, and someone passionate for teaching-learning, compassionate for students, always humbled by Jesus' grace.

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