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Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry

Suffering is non-committal: it happens from our volition; we instigate and allow it to stalk us; hence, it becomes instrumental in our lives and ministry.

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The chapter begins with how people respond to suffering. The response can be discussed in terms of different approaches like revolution. This approach was founded way back during the reformation era. John Knox is one of the proponents of this theory. These are only structures in which the Christian community has devised to handle suffering. For example, one of the fundamental revolutions in the Christian community that has been devised include: political revolution; liberation theory; and practical theology. For instance, liberation theory deals with the social fabrics but does not focus on the psychological aspects that affect person’s suffering. However, both ideologies focus on suffering; they are substitutes of logic centered theories.

Suffering has been discussed from a definition point of view. The author explains that suffering does not happen to us without our own consent, rather we allow ourselves to suffer. Suffering is not the same as pain. The confusion between suffering and pain can hinder ministering. Well, pain can be referred to the result of being hit or losing life. Suffering is the choice we have concerning pain. Sometimes we have to choose to accept to be jailed. This is because we have allowed our innate self to accept the situation that brings pain; that is what suffering is. There are rhetoric questions that are evoked from this argument. For example; “Does a child caught by a napalm bomb choose it? Does an infant torn from a mother’s arms and impaled on a soldier’s sword choose it? Does a person born in depths of poverty make that choice?”1 The above named questions can be well answered when a person is subjected to slum life. A child chooses to suffer rather than loosing hope. There is a lot of potential in the young that makes them to choose. This degree of choice mainly centers upon the evil that is in our society. Therefore, suffering should encompass the awareness of the evil in our society and the choice that we have in the ministry. Hence, suffering is non-committal: it happens from our volition; we instigate and allow it to stalk us, hence it becomes instrumental in our lives and God-send ministry.

Pages 81 – 116 Contemporary views of suffering

From different contemporary views, suffering is the transformation of pain into the process of devotion.

From the above discussion, I have discovered that suffering comes for our own volition. We can choose to endure pain and hence survive. But the evil that is rocking our lives is the stalking agent that brings situations of pain that need to be endured. In this chapter, the author identifies suffering in two dimensions. That is, corporate suffering and individual suffering.

Christians attribute their faith about suffering by simply asking themselves the following question “what meaning helps me deal with what is happening to me?”2 This means that “the person who hurts deals with the hurts, the problems”3. Several approaches to suffering should not only analyze the suffering in a group but should move “beyond the group to the full arena of corporate, or societal, suffering”4. Dorothee has written a book on suffering that deals with people in the Vietnam and Holocaust. These studies have found out that “group therapy itself indicates a difference between dealing with the individual alone and the individual in the group”5. Various therapies on counseling have been developed “in relation to systems theory, to transactions between individuals or among groups, to interpersonal theories”6. These therapy approaches have a specific focus on communities’ clusters, structures, and individuals in the specific groups that are subjected to suffering. One finding about corporate suffering is that “people decide to endure suffering of the community rather that run away”7. When people endure such atrocities, they are strengthened and given hope from a collective perspective. In addition there is sharing of power. When social workers come in the society, there is pulling of resources and hence elicit strength in the community that allows sharing of power in two dimensions. First, the local people have the ability to possess salient information about their culture and language. On the other hand, the intervening group “had to discover constructive ways to release the power of the residents”.8 Therefore, corporate suffering gives awareness of the community in terms of power, endurance, and devotion as a group which enhance forgiveness.

Let’s now focus on the individual person who is suffering. Suffering of an individual is more private than in corporate suffering. The author carried a session interview and came up with several findings about suffering from an individual perspective on death of a mother. The personal experience ranged from being detached from his loving mother to the gift of surrender he managed to encounter. The personal experience was about the acceptance of a harsh reality of losing a mother whom he dearly treasured. His experience opened the past. “Probably many points of suffering can be handled by a thought, by repression, by putting it out of our minds as we go about our daily business. Yet there come moments when the pain and suffering are deep enough that the standards defenses will not suffice”9. Therefore, the author put forth that “without defenses against pain, we could not function”10. There is a little problem about defenses, but the problem may arise when the “suffering is so great that the usual defenses breakdown and we do not deal with the break. The death of a mother- the person who gave birth to one and nurtured one – is such a moment. Necessity then demands going back and reintegrating the past experiences of suffering so that the new suffering moments become part of one”11. Hence, for the individual, suffering is a process of devotion. There should be a difference between fantasy and reality, thus the whole process of acceptance is; worship and counseling that allows a correlation between the process itself and symbol. Therefore, from different contemporary views, suffering is the transformation of pain into the process of devotion.

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Pages 146-165: Symbol, scripture and strategy

Thesis: The Bible gives different citations of Prophets and Patriarchs who endured pain and suffering, hence a revelation about God suffering together with us is seen; hence it challenges us to have a strategy for accepting individual or corporate suffering and meditating upon it.

The bible is used in the ministry, as a devotional tool, and a medium of understanding. “Symbolization is part of the healing process – part of the way we become whole. Symbol work is part of suffering work”12. For example, the book of Revelation has numerous symbols. The beast in the book of Revelation is named in a way that tries to give victory and pain. The victory is derived when the evil or the beast or serpent is thrown into the deep sea. The church in the “first five century dealt with symbols”13. These symbols based there approach on corporate suffering and ignored individual suffering. They were symbols of the church and rarely reflected upon the true Christian nature. “They were not directives to the true church. They were statements which helped the true church come alive”14. Therefore, symbol use should reflect the reality and its use.

The process of symbol work in the Bible is represented in different ways that seek to have a positive attitude towards suffering. Abraham is pointed out as a person who chose to slaughter his son; this was a positive approach to suffering rather than avoiding it completely. The remedy that God gave was fulfilling because God suffers with us. The best strategy to suffering like Abraham should be pivotal in the way we postulate our feelings and interests. We should be focused on the individual and the corporate aspects. Hence, suffering cannot be abandoned; there should be transition from demonic type of suffering to a much creative suffering. This is because demonic suffering is destructive while creative suffering is victorious. Therefore, the Bible gives different citations of Prophets and Patriarchs who endured pain and suffering, hence a revelation about God suffering together with us is seen; hence it challenges us to have a strategy for accepting individual or corporate suffering and meditating upon it.

Bibliography

Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.

Footnotes

  1. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  2. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  3. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  4. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  5. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  6. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  7. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  8. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  9. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  10. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  11. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  12. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  13. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  14. Emerson, James. Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.

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StudyCorgi. "Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry." December 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/suffering-its-meaning-and-ministry/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry." December 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/suffering-its-meaning-and-ministry/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Suffering: Its Meaning and Ministry'. 27 December.

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