Suffering and God

In the whirlwind of global suffering, we face pressing questions- Why are we suffering? How can we deal with suffering? What does suffering mean?

As our world deals with pandemics, natural disasters, political unrest, and war -to name a few- Christians have an opportunity to share one of our faith’s most distinctive truths: suffering. Suffering is disturbing; however, it’s meaningful. Suffering is perceived quite differently within each religion, and it’s helpful to us to know the difference of opinion since every religion has its unique worldview, which explains how the world works.

A fundamental premise of Buddhism, for example, is that life is suffering. Yet, as creatures of desire, we attach ourselves and cling to things like prosperity, attractiveness, youthfulness, love, and even life itself. Thus, in Buddhism, we are only delivered from suffering by ridding ourselves of the ego and material attachments. This worldview is non- dualities which deny any real distinction between good and evil. Buddhism sees health and sickness, love and hate, or even life and death. It so denies that which Christianity affirms – the sinful nature of human beings. St. Paul put it this way-God set free from corruption.

While many seekers of truth, including many Christians, I might add, play around with a quasi-Buddhism, the secular view of suffering is far more common in our western world. The secular view of suffering is based on the individual’s lived experience. Therefore, it lacks a worldview foundation to make sense of it. Suffering interrupts our pleasure and happiness, but in a world without purpose or design, we can’t say that it’s wrong or bad or shouldn’t be.

We believe, as those with the most resources in human history to avoid sickness and disaster and inevitable sufferings, that we somehow have a right not to suffer or, for that matter, to feel dissatisfaction or distress of any kind. But why would that be if the world is, as Richard Dawkins once stated that the world is a place of “blind, pitiless indifference” and we are, as he also put it, merely “dancing to our DNA? Dawkins presents, in my opinion, a worldview void of meaning or hope for any of us.

Further, Dawkins points out that suffering is utterly meaningless for a confirmed atheist. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just there- it’s part of the human condition.

God and Suffering

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What about Christianity? Christianity is honest in that it doesn’t deny the genuine goodness of the world, or the actual nature of our suffering, and the actual potential of restoration. In 1 Corinthians 15, St. Paul named death the last enemy, which will be annihilated at Christ’s return.

The author of Hebrews called the fear of death how Satan enslaves humankind. Quite different to the secular view a Buddhist view, Jesus appeared to identify with human suffering as something he felt in his being. We see this in the Gospels where Jesus entered the suffering of others, such as the mourning sisters of Lazarus in John 11, and He prayed to avoid suffering Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Bible is clear, as is the example of Jesus that suffering is not good and avoiding it isn’t possible, even though suffering is not seen as meaningless. On both the personal and universal levels, suffering points to higher truths and more excellent good; however, we need to understand that suffering is not our ultimate destiny.

The Christ drank from the same cup of suffering and death as all of us – so we don’t have to. The author of Hebrews says that Jesus tasted death for everyone, yet, rising from the grave three days later, Christ Jesus shows us that while suffering and death are real, they do not have the last word or are our destiny.

No human person has solved the problem of suffering, but we can endure and make sense of it if we love and trust the God who has suffered for us.

 Christianity teaches neither resignation to suffer nor detachment from the world. Christianity neither denies the realities of suffering nor gives it credence. On the contrary, because of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, Christianity alone offers a basis for meaning and hope in this world and in the one to come.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. If you have, please like it and consider subscribing- Thank you. Xx

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I Discovered the Amazing Benefits of Mindfulness

I Discovered the Amazing Benefits of Mindfulness

Hello, hope, faith, love family!

 This is just a short testimonial about how I learned the benefits of Mindfulness as I recovered and how I began integrating Mindfulness into my life.

Why don’t you try out a Mindfulness Lifestyle which can benefit your health and total wellbeing? 

As a Christian, I enjoy looking after my body as it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I have an obligation to God to care for my mind, as I have the mind of Christ. My spirit/ soul is redeemed by the Lord and it’s my duty to nurture it and help my faith to grow.

I wanted to become more self-aware, and like many of you, I have experienced stress, joy, and much sorrow. I am also very dyslexic, so I shied away from anything to do with writing or public speaking as much as I could. Through the years, I tried journaling but never was consistent with it. Due to my dyslexia, writing caused me GREAT anxiety. So, I would abandon my efforts only after a few weeks.

Then I discovered Mindfulness. I have enjoyed practising holistic living all my life, which means caring for the health of my mind, body, and soul. However, I never really ventured into the mindfulness territory. I didn’t understand what it was and why I should learn it. Thinking about it, I never connected Mindfulness with my lifestyle or the health of my mind, body, or soul.  

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I escaped a very abusive marriage many years back, which caused me to be emotionally and physically ill. As a result, I developed bodily weakness and became susceptible to colds and flu. The abuse became a lifestyle- every day was the same. I tried to leave, but there were many complications. However, finally, I did leave the relationship. I began seriously fearing for my safety when my spouse put me in hospital. But through all this experience, my lifestyle wreaked my immune system, making me feel like an old lady, not only in my body but also in my mind. After we separated and lived alone, I spent over a year with women’s aid to receive weekly counselling. I was still working full-time, and my colleagues nor my family knew the gravity of my situation. 

For my continued safety and well-being, I moved away from my spouse to the other side of the city. On moving day, I had some help from friends; then, the time came for them to return to their homes. By this time, it was by late afternoon. I was alone, but I wanted to move my microwave from one bench to another, where the accident occurred. Lifting the cumbersome microwave oven, I barely reached the bench height, so I decided to stand on a low table (I am only 4ft 11ins). Unfortunately, I toppled over, fell with the microwave, landed on my right shoulder, and slammed into the hard kitchen floor. I was in great pain and taken to hospital by a friend I called upon. The doctor reported that I had ripped my shoulder, and two of the main tendons snapped. Unfortunately, I lost the use of my arm for over three months, and because I could no longer drive, I also took sick leave from work for that time. 

During this time, my divorce went through and living alone; I was trying to manage one-handed, which was not easy. I prayed and cried and repeated that – a lot! I knew that if I didn’t have a strategy, I feared becoming an invalid and, consequently, being forced to retire early. 

I became so weak I would crawl up the stairs on my hands and knees. I had to physically slow down because I lost the use of my arm and didn’t feel well most of the time. However, my convalesces afforded me time to think, pray and reflect. I was still grieving for my marriage that once held so much promise of love and happiness. 

However, I wanted to recover and return to my usual self as quickly as possible. Therefore, I needed to learn the best route to recovery for my mind, body and spirit. Therefore, I decided to do a little research. I surfed the web, bought books, studied the mind and its working, and discovered Mindfulness. 

I watched Youtube videos, learnt Mindfulness from books and even found its principles in the Bible! As I studied, I began seeing the many benefits that would help me return to my usual self. 

I began practising Mindfulness and approached everything I did intentionally. I found that Mindfulness worked well if I made it a ‘lifestyle’ rather than a practice where one dips in and out. I would forget to be mindful by practice, but becoming a lifestyle soon became second nature. 

I hope you found benefit from this post; if you did, please like it and subscribe if you haven’t already to help me to make helpful content.

 Feel free to contact me if you need prayer support or share any thoughts; we are on this journey together through life.

 I look forward to your next visit here and remember. 

Live life on Purpose in Hope, Faith & Love

 Paula Rose Parish 

I’m an Ordained Minister, Blogger, Podcaster, Course Creator, and published author and have a Master of Arts in Counselling and many other qualifications and a lifetime so, I have heaps to share with you.

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Working through Chronic Pain Syndrome

Hello, hope, faith, love family!

I thought I’d make this blog post an informal one. I have been away from my desk lately because I am recovering from COVID, which hit me quite hard and put me out of action for a couple of weeks. 

As I was convalescing and thinking about how to restart my work routine, I would have to create a new routine since the circumstances have changed, which I will share with you in my next post.

Being in bed daily, I’ve left my budgeting unchecked and neglected my website and social media. As a result, I have not done any writing, only made a few phone calls and lost interest in anything that I once found very exciting. 

Even writing this blog post is challenging. I’ve been thinking about it for several days and now forcing myself to sit down. Still, it was just thinking about doing it when I haven’t quite recovered. I have to refocus my mind completely out of routine and when something used to be just second nature getting out of routine is like you have to almost relearn again since really very strange, whether that’s my dyslexia or just me. Have you experienced a similar thing? If you have, let me know.

 I think pain doesn’t allow you to focus on things you want to, and I experienced a lot of joint pain in my COVID experience. Laying in my bed, not knowing what to do with myself, the pain was so intense; my thoughts went to those of you who live with chronic pain, day in and day out. Mine only lasted a week, which caused me a lot of distress, but if you live with chronic pain, I understand it will drive you crazy. 

When dealing with chronic pain, one’s whole focus is on how to get through the next hour, indeed, the next minute breathing through the pain. There are many reasons for chronic pain, and I won’t deal with them here. But I want to encourage those experiencing chronic pain and struggling to live with it. I hope to bring you some measure of love and put a smile on your face, even if it’s only for a few minutes. 

Pain is such a Private and Personal Thing.

As a child in Australia, when one was sick or injured or had some pain, parents and teachers told us to put our socks up and get on with it. As a 17-year-old, I was in the hospital for three days. I had an operation on the soul of my feet because I had a verruca dugout. It was so deep I had about four stitches, and every movement of my foot was excruciating. When the pain got so much I was writhing from side to side in the bed, the nursing staff told me to pull my socks up instead of administering more painkillers. It’ll soon heal. And that is an excellent philosophy to measure because it stops one from feeling sorry for oneself while motivating one to push forward to better things into recovery. However, this attitude is not helpful when living with chronic pain day in and day out, as no matter how often one pulls one’s socks up and tries to get on with them, it never seems to work. We are human beings, and sometimes a little tea and sympathy do not go amiss.  

When dealing with pain, your resources get depleted, and you feel exhausted and worn out from thinking about how much pain you’re in. But, unfortunately, when you’re in pain, it does dominate your thinking. It dominates your decisions and lifestyle, even what you eat, what you wear, how you sleep, et cetera, et cetera; living with pain dominates every part of one’s life. And when you try to share how this pain feels with even your closest loved one, it does fall short of what you’re experiencing. 

Someone else may be battling chronic pain similar to you, but it’s not the same as your pain. We must understand that every person experiences chronic pain differently; sharing and finding solace through others can be difficult. But when one does find similarities with another, it can help and be of great comfort to you.

 Look to join a support group of some sort or therapy group. People share their stories in support groups, so listening to other people’s stories will help you not feel alone. In addition, listening to other people’s experiences will help you realise that others are experiencing something similar and may share tips about coping with day-to-day activities. 

Networking

For all of us, no matter who we are, healthy or not, networking is such an essential part of our human social experience. Whether we network for work, support or friendship, networking is vital for us to be able to live an integrated, purposeful, and fulfilling life. 

I encourage you to ask someone to help you find any support groups in your local area or a group that meets online. However, If you haven’t got anybody to help you, take courage and do the research for yourself when you’re feeling up to it. Of course, this can prove difficult because depression often comes along with chronic pain, and when one is depressed, you don’t want to do anything or try to motivate yourself.

Reaching out to strangers can be scary and problematic, but isolation is the only alternative. Suppose you have got somebody to help you with this. In that case, ask them for their assistance; perhaps you have your local doctor or your local social worker or counsellor who may be able to help and guide you in this.

Making Most of the Good Days

In my younger years, I worked as a nurse. I am an ordained minister of 40 years, hospital chaplain, mental health chaplain, counsellor, and coach. I’ve come across many people with chronic pain who say, ‘today is a good day; yesterday was a terrible day.

 I learned a lot from these people. First, they taught me well that making the best of their good days made them as productive as possible. We all need to find meaning and purpose and setting goals to fulfil our dreams is essential. 

It’s like the old saying ‘make hay while the sun shines ‘. You never know; tomorrow might be a bad day spending most of your time on bed rest. So if you find yourself with strength and vigour today, use it to do the things you want and need to do.

 Here’s a word of caution when you feel better, don’t overdo it because when you feel good, and you feel great, I can do things I haven’t done for a while, and you can go overboard and find that you wish you hadn’t you might you have set yourself back. So, gauge yourself, take it little by a little, and set your daily goals. Make realistic goals. If you don’t complete them, that’s fine when you’ve got another good day to fulfil those goals.

  Communicate with Your Loved Ones

I had one child who would never open up and talk to me. I would ask her to come and sit down and have a chat because something was bothering her, and she would reply -‘ you don’t understand.‘ My reply would always be, ‘share it with me; I will try to understand. ‘

She would look at me blankly, shrug her shoulders, repeat the chant- you just don’t understand and walk off. This unsettling behaviour continued through her teenage years and very sadly into adulthood. It hurts when you want to help someone, and they refuse. However, if they give you the benefit of the doubt, they may find that you want to listen to their problems and help them through them. 

So, the point of this little story is that please do not ‘presume’ that your loved one does not want to hear about how you’re feeling. Instead, ask, ‘may I share with you how I feel today?

 It will probably be the wrong time if you suddenly dump all of your mad, bad, sad feelings upon them without any warning. There is a chance that you’ve caught them at the wrong time and are unprepared. They may want to listen to you but can’t listen to you at this particular time. If this happens, you could easily take it as rejection. 

 People are busy and have a head full of things they have to get done. They have their issues to cope with, so it’s best to ask them if you could about how you’re feeling today. In taking this cautious approach, you’re also respecting their space and time. If your loved ones learn a bit more about what you’re going through and how you feel, they may be more ready to learn how actually to support you. If they don’t want to listen, I am sure that there is somebody else, if not within your family, but a friend that will be there with you and for you through thick and thin.

Keep the Faith

I find it hard to do any form of Bible study devotion or even formal prayers when unwell. However, I do talk to the Lord like I am talking to you; it’s just that I can’t do anything structured and organised, which leaves me exhausted, and my mind is all over the place! 

When you are experiencing chronic pain daily, you may find that any form of structured Bible study and prayer may be impossible. Yet, nurturing your faith is essential because, like anything else, it can wane, get weak then eventually disappear through neglect, and you don’t want that. 

When you are not up to prayer or Bible study, audiobooks can help. If you have a smart TV or an iPad, signup to Google and download the YouTube app, it’s completely free, and you will get unlimited access to YouTube.

On YouTube, you will find audiobooks, hundreds of Christian audiobooks and indeed fiction or any other books that you want to listen to. You will also find the Holy Bible, sermons, Bible studies, prayers, and more. In addition, you will find the complete audiobooks of the Old and New Testaments. Even if it is for 10 or 15 minutes a day, listen to the Bible and allow it to soak over you. If you are alert enough, take a few notes as you hear the person narrate whatever part of the Bible you’re listening to. Don’t forget to ask your Pastor or Christian friends to pray for and support you.

Don’t Give Up

I’ve already shared that I’ve ministered to many suffering from chronic pain syndrome. In my observations, once a person gives up on themselves, gives up hope of any remedy, or stops learning how to cope with their pain, they begin a deep downward spiral. 

Don’t allow your circumstances to overwhelm you to the point where you don’t want to carry on living and withdraw from people and society.

People with chronic pain often self-medicate once they’re in a lonely state. When there is no one around you to love and support you, addiction can develop very quickly. Before you know it, you can be addicted to prescription drugs, alcohol, or even illicit drugs to cope with the pain. Addiction is just a big, endless pit of horror that is deeper than you realise and challenging to get out of – so I encourage you not to go there in the first place.

You’re Stronger Than You Think

Don’t give up on your ability to find your way through this; you are far more potent than you think. And for those of you who have faith in God through the Lord Jesus Christ as you call out to God, he will strengthen you and help you to find that you have got ideas and the motivation to fulfil those ideas to be able to help you to live a more fulfilling life.

Facing the mountains in our lives can be difficult. Any sickness, whether associated with pain or not, is a horrible place. When we accept our situation, we find a way to cope with the condition. I’ve seen folk who have struggled against their situation and refused to accept their condition are more likely to slip into depression because they will not face the reality of what they are experiencing. 

Even though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death

If you want more help on this subject, pick up a copy of my book on Psalm 23, Unwrapped by Paula Rose Parish, from Amazon. 

You can get Psalm 23 Unwrapped in paperback, and I am now editing it to create the Kindle book, which will be available on Amazon soon. 

I have taken Psalm 23 verse by verse and unwrapped its meaning to help you get through your valley of the shadow of death. Father God says that ‘even though I walk through the valley of the shadow’ – in other words, when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death. 

God never said that you would find never experience the valley nor avoid the valley, go around it, or pretend it’s not there. God didn’t say- confess it away, pray it away!

No- God is even though you walk through the valley, Father God is with you, walking with you. God is there to bring comfort, healing, and strength. Psalm 23 Unwrapped explains how to journey through that dark valley into restoration.

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Well, thank you for reading this blog post. I hope it was helpful to you. If it was, please like it, and if you haven’t already, please subscribe to this blog so you can get updates every time I post. 

Until the next blog post or a video, God bless you and remember to live life on purpose in hope, faith, and love.

Paula Rose Parish💕

FACING UP to the DANGEROUS REALITY of ABUSE in the CHURCH

PART ONE of the ESSEX HALL LECTURE 1999 POWER FOR GOD’S SAKE by REV DR PAUL BEASLEY-MURRAY Lecture 7.

Churches can be cockpits of conflict; deeply neurotic places where people play power games and deny the reality of their own circumstances. I have witnessed these things and been part of the strange collusion that allows churches to be extremely dishonest places.

 The moment I read these words of Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh, bells began to ring. Yes, I said to myself, how, right you are. Power is not only a reality in the world outside, it is also a reality within the church. Indeed, power may well be more of a dangerous reality within the church, precisely because it is for the most part unowned and unrecognised.

Spiritual Blindness

There is, it seems to me, a large degree of naivety, if not self-inflicted blindness, on the part of Christian people. We know that power games are a reality in the world of politics and in the world of business, but we do not want to accept that they are also a reality in the church. And yet why should the church in this respect be any different from the world? If all the other sins of the ‘flesh’ are to be found in the church, then why not this one? Any intelligent reading of the New Testament would reveal that there were power struggles right from the beginning of the life of the early church. Not only James and John come to mind, with their desire to sit on the right and left hand of Jesus in his glory, but the Judaizers who wanted to impose their way of doing church on the Gentile converts, the bickering factions at Corinth. It is almost no exaggeration to say that within every strand of the New Testament we can find evidence of power struggles affecting the life of God’s people. Yet time and again we seem to close our eyes to this underlying reality, and many of us seem to prefer to live with an ‘ideal’ picture of the church.

I say ‘us’ because if I am honest there was a stage toward the beginning of my ministry when I too was blinkered and as a result, operated with this romantic picture of a church where power struggles never took place. Strangely, even before my taking pastoral charge of a local church, I had experienced power struggles, both on a small scale within the life of a Christian student organisation of which I was a member and also on a larger scale within the life of the denomination to which I belonged. And yet somehow these experiences had failed to register as an ongoing fact of church life. I would maintain that the theological college at which I was trained was all part of that strange conspiracy of silence.

Silence of Gods Lambs

At no stage do I remember anybody ever talking about power in the church as being an issue. Certainly, no training was given to me and to my fellow students as to how we might handle power struggles of one kind or another. Instead, we were taught how to preach! Although a revolution has taken place in theological education and ministerial formation since I first trained for Christian ministry, I am not convinced that ordinands, in this respect at least, are in most colleges trained any better. By and large, ministers must learn on the job when it then becomes a matter of either sinking or swimming. Sadly, for many, it is the former.

The Sin of Hypocrisy

Power in the raw of course there is overt and organised power struggles in churches, which hit the national headlines, and which are therefore recognised by all and sundry. In the North American scene, one such public power struggle took place in the early 1990s at First Baptist Church Dallas, described by some as the most influential church in America. Too Great A Temptation: The Seductive Power of America’s Super Church is the title of the book Joel Gregory wrote after his losing the battle with W.A. Criswell. It is a searingly honest and painful account, revealing the power, the politics and the hypocrisy which not only plagued that church but which plague many others too. The book’s concluding six pages should be compulsory reading for all church leaders, both ordained and unordained. From his own bitter experience, Gregory came to see that the church is an institution divine in its original foundation but tethered to this celestial ball by every frailty to which humans are subject. Covetousness, littleness, jealousy, lust for power, ego, sacrilege, and a hundred other demons all lurk within the hallways.

Lessons from Jesus

The church on earth at its best is a crippled institution that God may elect to use for His purposes. The divinization of the church in an egotistic triumphalism denigrates the very purpose for which it is founded. After all, its founder died on the cross between two criminals. Out of his weakness came strength and out of His death came life. Humanity does not consider Jesus Christ its centrepiece because he behaved like the CEO of a gigantic ecclesiastical corporation. He washed the feet of others; He did not trample them under His own in the name of God.

It Hit the Headlines!

 In Britain probably the most well-known recent ecclesiastical power struggle was the fight between the Dean, Brandon Jackson, and the Canons of Lincoln Cathedral. Time and again this battle hit the national headlines. The power struggle appeared to concern a loss-making exhibition of the cathedral’s copy of the Magna Carta in Australia in 1988: However, what fascinated me was to discover that this long-running conflict, marked by “the presence of fear and rage within the group and of a sense of intolerable pain”, actually had its roots in the distant past.

 The official report of Brim Thorne and Kathleen Baker, who were brought in by the Bishop of Lincoln to act as mediators between the protagonists, speaks of historic myths and “powerful unconscious forces at work”. It goes on to say: “These basic assumptions have probably permeated the Lincoln environment for centuries and they operate in complete opposition to the spirit of the cathedral statutes, which require collegiality and cooperation based on an atmosphere of trust.”

 Here we have a salutary reminder that unless major power struggles are properly dealt with, the seeds of their destructiveness may spill over from one generation to another. To put it in different terms, institutional ‘viruses’, as it were, can develop, with the result that although the players may change, the struggle does not. Hence the phenomenon, seen in certain local churches, whereby one minister after another leaves that church in unhappy circumstances. There is an abusive corporate mindset (heart-set?) which desperately needs attention.

I hope you enjoyed and found Part One of this lecture helpful.  Be sure to like and subscribe to receive Part 2 in your inbox in a few days’ time.

If you are or have been affected by power abuse / spiritual abuse, I am here to help. Watch my video on the Home page of my Blog to know what to do next. May God bless and heal you in His love.

Remember, to live life on purpose in Hope, Faith and Love,

Paula Rose Parish

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