Suffering of Christ

(I’m going to assume in this post that readers acknowledge the truth of Christianity and hence discuss the suffering of Christ.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt something for faith. I’m usually apathetic: I don’t like acknowledging feelings nor thinking too much about the burdens of life (life has enough unhappiness). I don’t have much sympathy for complainers nor people who tell me about their struggles. I don’t even deal well with my own pain. But today’s message got me to think about what I have forgotten: to acknowledge ‘suffering’ and think about what God went through.

Oftentimes we feel that no one understands our pain; we feel alone in our suffering. Even if someone has gone through something similar, it’s never ‘entirely the same’. Yet how does the intense suffering of Jesus stack up to ours? How can we understand his pain?

I remember thinking about this many years back: the medieval times were absolutely disgusting. People have died worse deaths than Jesus, right? He wasn’t the first (nor last) to be crucified, there have been many terrible deaths in history (you can just google terms like ‘worst torture methods’ or stuff like that). So, who cares what Jesus’ suffered? It isn’t THE WORST?

But there is something special, something different about Jesus, which makes his life/death and all suffering more intense than our own pains (?? Arguable, since he is God, after all, BUT think more), or even the pains of people who have seemed to ‘suffer’ most (I can’t remember if I wrote a post about this topic before, but I once thought about how all pains are relative because of their many different forms and different capacities of the sufferers; I argue that perhaps we shouldn’t be concerned with who suffers more/less because there is no effective relativity, BUT put that aside).

Jesus suffered in a multitude of ways:

  • Physical

He underwent physical suffering; think about his 40 days of fasting in the desert: hunger, heat, pain, sickness and all the sufferings of being man. Before death, he was mutilated, such that it was disgusting to look at him – the physical destruction was so great that he bore no likeness of the human body. He was beaten, spat on, mutilated, flogged etc. Even after death, his body was cut up. (Think about your own experience: I’m quite squeamish; I don’t like looking at slightly deformed things. Think about how we avert our eyes from the homeless, those who stink. Simple things like missing or yellowed teeth.)

  • Social

Consider his humble background and reputation (of being a carpenter’s son, his mother had him out of wedlock – think of the scandal! How can the saviour of the world be born of a single mother! And in a manger, with stinking animals! Not to mention that the people were expecting the Messiah to be a political hero to free them all; they expected someone of standing, someone spectacular.) He was a Nazarene (‘can anything good come out from that place?’) He was not particularly handsome, charismatic, nothing would draw you to him (yet I think about the historical records which talked about how Jesus came to power; surely he had something for him? I don’t know.)

  • Spiritual

He was separated from God before; in a way, from himself.

  • Emotional

Even those closest to him, his family and disciples, did not, could not understand him. No one knew what it was like to be God, nor for that matter, what was it like to be God and have to come down as human. How great the fall! Think about our human limitations – our senses, that even animals have better capabilities than us. His own emotional suffering – his creation, lesser beings, hated him.

  • Economic

He wasn’t rich. Could you even say he was poor? Perhaps, in the same way that monks may be poor (owned nothing?)

  • Mental
  • Societal/institutional

He was controlled – he had to live by the rules of that culture. He could not completely change everything, because it simply wasn’t heaven. He was at the mercy of people (who determined that he be crucified). Who hurt him, who controlled him, who subjected him to law and court.

Contemplate on those who suffer much more than you

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Life changes

Is it difficult for you to tell your parents that you want to change your religion? Those people whom I’ve met who find it hard to confess this to their parents would be those brought up in Christian/Muslim families.

I don’t think I’ll find it difficult to do so. Then again, I don’t think I’m the kind of person who is vocal and explicit about sharing my life with my family. Rather, I let them know by showing them. For instance, I’ll just stop going to church. Or in the case of my current lifestyle, I’ve just simply stop eating meat (I still won’t say that I’m super strict about it; I mean, I do eat biscuits and bread which may contain milk and eggs, or I’ll just consume whatever makes me happy. But it’s always nice for people to know and offer the alternative). I’ve not told my parents when I did well or badly in school, be it academic or other things like co-curricular activities.

A senior of mine went to Sheffield on a student exchange and had a conversation about religion with a local student. He said that he found it amazing how ‘Asians own their religions’. We don’t inherit our religion from our families; he stated the example of how there were many British people who were Protestant because it was their family’s religion, whereas in Asian you’ll find a lot more families with mixed religions, of first/second generation Christians/Muslims/Buddhists/Taoists etc., basically, a much greater variety. Religion is something personal to the individual, a choice. What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead. Who do you want to marry. How do you want to die, and where do you want to go after that.

Do what you want to do.

Against insularity

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
– Matthew 25:32

Self discipline is comparatively easier than having group discipline. While a group can spur/support/encourage the individual members and help people succeed, negative things spread much more easily than good ones. That’s why things like the ‘collective action problem’/’tragedy of the commons’/gossiping (etc) exists.

While it’s easy to do things alone, we all know that as individuals we can’t change the world – at least, not in the scale in which we want/need to. I’m challenged to remember that He calls ‘all the nations’, ‘the people’ to work together, to feed, to water, to clothe all those in need.

Which community do you fit in the world?

Short testimony// ‘coming out’

I realised I always feel pretty lost after receiving exam results. It’s never (too) ‘bad’ (at least, not unsalvageable. I do get Cs). I think that generally I’m a pretty good/average student (depending on how you look at it; this measure is in comparison with people around me). I think back to when I was 12 and 16; remembering a piece I wrote at 16, I wished I won’t do well for the national exam since I felt like I didn’t deserve good grades – didn’t work hard enough and hence I want to do badly so I’ll ‘wake up’ and ‘make use of my potential’. Now, I suppose I’m pushing myself much more, but many times whenever I get back a good grade, I’m kind of equally unhappy? I think about the meaninglessness of success and constant dissatisfaction: that I can and should be doing better, how other people do better without working as hard, random things like applying for a scholarship or something (but then doing that would give me stress, is it worth it?) etc.

I suppose I just question a lot about existence and purpose.

My main aim in life is to create eternal things; only 2 things I’ll be able to keep for the afterlife: my relationship with God and the souls that I ‘save’ to heaven. But there’s also other stuff/references, things like ‘making sure your works will stand the test of flames’ (Works: purified or fried https://bible.org/seriespage/9-works-purified-or-fried-1-corinthians-39-15 I take this to mean concepts like whether your work is genuine or not, are you doing it for yourself or for God etc.)

I’m doing a series about ‘sharing the gospel’; something else I struggle with is being explicit about my faith. I’m not very good at that. I thought that perhaps I shall write it out today, for future reference/or whatever purpose it may serve (for others/friends to read, to know about me? Wow, haha my blog is turning into something more personal than I had initially intended it to be).

Demise of a former self: (I’ll not elaborate too much, just bringing across the highlights)

An important turning point occurred when I was about, 17? I had fallen away from church when I was about 13/14 due to some issues (mostly about people there, which I still am finding hard to completely overcome).

Anyway. I went to a new school. Despite not going to church during those couple of years, I still believed that there was a God somewhere out there and I wanted to go back to church. But it’s very difficult to get back into the habit once you have not gone for so long. During those years I was thinking of changing churches (still do, sometimes) but I wasn’t very disciplined about doing so and committing to one. Eventually I ended up in the same church that I grew up in, because of many reasons like it being easier (my parents go there, there are countless articles about the negatives of church hopping and the consumerist culture – going to wherever gives you the most pleasure, instead of being engaged in building up a church. Taking instead of receiving etc.).

I decided to go (back) to church because of people I met, actually. Strangely, while ‘people’ was the reason I stopped going to church, they were exactly the same reason why I started going back. A different group of people though. I left because of a flawed community in my church, but I went back because of Christians I knew in school. I saw how they were passionate about their faith, how they lived it out, how they were happy, content and thriving. Teachers, students, who became friends and mentors. Good influences. I saw how their faith made them better people, and I wanted that for myself.

I’m a very different person than I was before and it’s hard a lot to reconcile that difference, especially since I have quite a lot of close friends from my pre 17 y/o self. I missed opportunities to tell them about this change.

I remember many people telling me that I’ve changed for the better: I used to swear in every sentence. I used to have ‘more angst’. I used to be a lot more stubborn, seeing things in black and white. I became a nicer person, I care more about my studies, I cleaned up my language etc. Without faith, I wonder if I would have done other ‘darker’ things: excessive partying/drinking/smoking/taking drugs hahaha I’ll never know. Maybe I would have ruined my life. Or perhaps not.

I can’t attribute it all to faith. It’s also part of growing up; meeting new people, being in a new culture where everyone around me was so sensitive. I couldn’t be as ‘disciplined’ and ‘harsh’ without people taking offence. Change comes about due to many causes.

I didn’t like it when people brought up these differences in me. Sometimes (often, it felt like), they did it in a mocking manner, like I’ve become unrecognisable, that I’m ‘holier (better) than thou’, they don’t know who I am anymore and we can’t connect? I didn’t want to lose my friends, so I’ll downplay the positive changes. I didn’t talk about going back to church, about these new good influences in my life (perhaps they weren’t popular, people would judge you if you were close to teachers? I don’t remember anymore). But I think these ‘good’ changes were tied quite closely with faith even though it didn’t seem like it.

I want people to know (I wish people knew) exactly how much faith means to me (because I can only think of

I guess I’m writing this as well, to remind me of the deep love I had for this, the passion and enthusiasm I had for topics regarding faith, at a time when I feel detached/lost.

who/what is your god

Oh no, had not realise that it has been such a long time since I wrote. Time has been passing by really quickly and I guess I got lost in everything else. Thinking a lot, but not reflecting very much. Way too much information, an oversaturation; ‘the best organisers are the worst hoarders’ (KonMari) but anyway:

Heard something interesting in sermon today, about how the Philistines had different gods to suit their needs. Which is I guess very in line with all our history; e.g. the Philistines had Dagon, who was some fish god because they were engaged in maritime stuff. And I think this question had come about before when I was much younger, someone asked if cats have cat gods just like humans have a human god. And we have gods which kinda look like us and all that stuff.

That got me thinking about our gods/idols. We talk about it a lot in church; how you cannot serve two gods/multiple gods. Cannot serve God and money, our pride, our pursuit of success in life and all those other things which we prioritise above God/together with God.

But it made me think as well. Why do we serve this God? Or who exactly is this God? Are we not like everyone else, we choose this God because he is the ‘all-encompassing God’; previously we could just choose a fertility/agriculture whatever god, or we could have a variety, we could segment our lives in to the different gods we need and hence approach them. But now in this age of… idk what would you call it. Data explosion? Impossibility of a ‘renaissance man’? Whatever. Hence we need a God who is everything.

I mean, not to say that we created this God, since we now need one which covers everything. My thoughts are admittedly raw, not trying to present any argument, but just something to think about. If it catches you, great, but if not, it’s ok.

voices in my head//faith

Voices in our head – how can we discern whose it is?

(We were talking about how to determine whether God is speaking to us/we are coming up with these ideas on our own/voices from the devil etc) Of course things like: is the voice in character, what is it saying, does it correspond with what you know, spending more time with these voices to know their characters and hence knowing who they are and what they will say – are they trustworthy etc.

VoiceS in our heads; meaning that there are plural. Thinking about how I’m quite tone deaf in hearing out these voices (irl I’ll be able to tell if it’s a guy/girl speaking to me. I can tell the difference in voices between identical twins. But the voices all sound pretty much the same in my head).

Discerning these different voices are crucial – the same content can be said by different voices, but the validity would differ. e.g. your teacher telling you that you are not trying hard enough in school, versus a random stranger who looks at your results and says the same thing. Or even an enemy telling you that you are not good enough, versus a friend who tells you that you should be doing better.

Faith as a mustard seed

Thinking about the growth concept; your ability and capacity is not stagnant but will grow. Always hear about the concept of faith being as small as the mustard seed (emphasising on the size of faith, type of faith – doesn’t matter the size, as long as it is the right ‘type’ of faith, things will work) Had a revelation that it’s not just all of that but it is the GROWTH and potential of the seed. Not faith as small as a molecular cell, a grain of sand but seed.

Not like love, where the more you love the easier it becomes (can be untrue). Like hope? I guess faith grows easily – the more correlations, the more you can attribute it to in whatever you believe in. Doubts still can, will come, but naturally the association will grow stronger.

Normalising the concept of struggling. its dangerous?

Younger kids are more carefree and don’t hunger as much, share about their spiritual struggles. older people share more? but I don’t feel close in a community of older people even though they share their struggles.

Because their struggles are normalised? everyone goes through it. its vague: I don’t pray enough because I am busy. its sad how we don’t think these are important problems, how we always have something we are not satisfied with in our spiritual lives. also about being transparent but opaque, can be vulnerable but we don’t share in detail. or we can’t share in detail because there is a whole group waiting to share? maybe I’m better for mentorship than a group. but I do need community too?