In episode 113, we find ourselves in a new series, "Sitting in suffering".  How do we hold to hope when the hardship seems too much and God seems too distant?  Lauren had been authentically seeking God when things began to hit -- the loss of a friend, unexplained pain, the loss of a relationship -- and at the hardest moment she found herself questioning God, something she never wanted to do.  It was in this questioning, though, that she discovered her doubt wasn't in the true God, and that He was actually with her, at work on abundantly more.

How might God be inviting you to see Him accurately?

In episode 114, Tricia Roos shares the difficult story of receiving devastating news during a pregnancy, and making the difficult choice to persevere against the odds.  Her story prompts a hard question: what if God is inviting us to allow our wishes and desires to change?  Afterall, some of the most painful moments amidst suffering is when the desires of our heart aren't met.  However, if God has infinite wisdom and desires full life for us, there may be something unexpected in store, if we are willing to embrace the desires of His heart.

What wishes might God be inviting you to change?

In episode 115, Saroya Brown shares her story of being homeless for two years, but very quickly it escalated into so much more.  Saroya knows what it means to sit in suffering, and knows what it is like to feel unseen in the midst.  If you've ever felt unseen, you know how much heavier it can make the suffering.  However, through her journey Saroya came to learn she was seen by God, and that changed everything.

How has God let you know He sees you?

In episode 116, Thola Bennie shares of a hard season she recently navigated.  In the midst, we discovered that one thing that made it so hard is the "deceit of normalcy".  Whether it was in her own mind or through the expectations of others, a pressure to be and pursue what is "normal" could easily intensify the hardships.  What if our pursuit of "normal" is actually impeding our ability to experience God in the midst of suffering?

How has God invited you into "abnormality"?

In episode 117, Danielle Bernock brings us back to a topic we sat with in the "Healing series": rejection.  Sometimes suffering can end up feeling heavier because of the sense of rejection; this was true for Danielle, as in her childhood she felt rejected both at home and in church.  That rejection sat with her, leading her to believe God had rejected her as well; the truth was, He had been with her in her loneliest moments.  Her story confronts us on a hard truth: sometimes our sense of rejection can cause us to reject the God who is with us. 

How has God shown He is with you?

In episode 118, Christian Bohlen's story presses us into a unique space in this series.  We've heard stories of suffering being thrust upon someone, but what about the moments when we choose to remain in the suffering of another?  For Christian, it was choosing to remain in a difficult marriage after realizing his wife struggled with significant mental health challenges, even when the impact on him could be severe.  While voices around him and in his own mind told him to leave, God invited him to stay.  This was not an easy invitation, but has led to a decades-long story that will encourage any who are choosing to remain in the suffering of another.

How has God equipped you to remain in hard spaces?

 

In episode 119, Tiffany Moore and I were initially going to explore how offense can lead us to sit in suffering, but God wanted to press us deeper.  We don't want to admit it, but focusing on the offense of the offender can make it easy for us to blame others... but what if the problem is us?  What if God has given us access to a super power that allows us to "take captive every thought", even in the hardest of situations, even when the offender doesn't change?

How has God helped you take thoughts captive?

 

 

In episode 120, Wendy Wallace shares the powerful story of her life being utterly changed by an unexpected flesh-eating bacteria.  As a result of a quadruple-amputation, a long list of impossibilities was thrust upon her by others and her own mind.  However, she resolved to remove a word from her vocabulary: "can't".  "Can't" can lead our suffering to feel more unbearable, and Wendy invites us to lean into the God who can do the impossible. 

What is God inviting you to stop saying "can't" to?

 

In episode 121, Diana Winkler shares a story of suffering that spans decades, and in the process presses us into the concept of "long-suffering".  Bible translations often swap this term out for "patience", but the former evokes something deeper, something prolonged, something intentional.  In fact, it's a fruit of the Spirit, and we learn from Diana it was the Spirit's capacity, not hers, that got her through, particularly when the Church and her spouse failed to be the support she longed for.

How has God met you in long-suffering?

 

In episode 122, Roger Butts helps us explore how we can create space for those sitting in suffering.  Having served as a Chaplain and Minister, he has often chosen to journey with individuals in incredibly hard spaces, including on the cusp of death.  He's learned how much we can bring to the table in those moments -- how distracting and even destructive that can be -- and how each of us actually has the capacity to care for others, no matter our situation.  Each of us can create space.

How has God invited you to create space for others?

 

In episode 123, Jim Barnard never wanted to be "a suffering guy", but three months into his marriage a mysterious health issue in his wife changed everything.  Jim presses us deeper into the experience of the caregiver, and he's as candid about his disdain for the suffering as he is about his confidence in the goodness of God.  God did not "fix" his wife, and yet somehow they are living in the midst of "abundantly more", chief of which is Jim's deepening understanding of THE Suffering Guy.

How has God invited you to share in the sufferings of Christ?

 

In episode 124, Debby Kruszewski presses us into a frustrating reality: it's possible for us to self-inflect our suffering.  For her, it was the years of ruminating on an event in 7th grade that led her to see how she was bringing herself now, and she now invests her time in lifting others up.  What if, instead of self-inflecting suffering, we found ways to pursue the peace and presence of God?

How have you broken from self-inflicted suffering?

 

In episode 125, Melinda Culbertson shares the many, many stories of health issues that have made this concept of "sitting in suffering" deeply relatable for her; yet in the midst, she has known God as loving and powerful.  As much as she longed for healing, she recognized that God was giving her an invitation to represent Him in the midst.  However, to do so required following Jesus' example when he too was suffering; to say, "not my will, but your will be done."

How has God invited you to embrace his will over yours?

 

In episode 126, Orlando Palmer, also know as the musician Iamson, paints for us a beautiful picture of how the gifts and passions God has given us can help us to find peace in the midst of suffering.  Orlando has always loved to create music, and in his hardest moments his songs have become ways to channel his ruminating thoughts; and sometimes, the God of "abundantly more" uses what healed Orlando to heal others.  No matter how hard your situation, God has equipped you with gifts to know that He is always with you.

What gifts has God given you to find peace in the midst?

 

In episode 127, Kim Peacock opens up about a painful season when her life changed in one tragic moment.  Not long before, her husband had said, "We should talk about what we'd do if something ever happened to one of our kids," to which Kim responded, "God is not going to allow that to happen, because He knows I couldn't handle it."  Are there things you think you couldn't handle, and deep down you believe God has to protect because it'd destroy you otherwise?  What if we're wrong about our capacity?  Or more, what if we are underestimating God's capacity through us? 

What has God handled that you were convinced you couldn't?

 

In episode 128, Mark Steiner gives us a unique companion episode to his wife Darci's episode in the "Healing Series."  The theme of the caregiver in the midst of suffering continues to appear, and Mark gives us a transparent look into his experience of caring for (and at times not) for his wife, and how this journey has not only brought them closer together, but closer to God.  There is a beautiful invitation Jesus is giving around caregiving, and it may be abundantly more than you imagine.

How has God invited you to care for others?

 

In episode 129, Joshua Marcengill uses his story of being met by Jesus at his lowest point to help us process that God invites us to more than simply positivity.  We've talked often about the risks of platitudes, and this conversation presses us further to note that positivity it limited; God's eternal gifts, however, are limitless, and He's inviting us to receive.

What eternal mindset has God invited you to?

 

In episode 130, Heather Carter helps us discover a gift God has given us to thrive: public transparency.  That's not our gut expectation though, is it?  Public transparency seems risky, costly, and even foolish.  Yet, it was through public transparency that Heather was able to navigate a season of suffering, discover more about God, and find a purpose in life she wouldn't have pursued on her own.

How might God be inviting you to public transparency?

 

In episode 131, Dr. Pamela Mshana invites us to "run into the storm."  She found God inviting her into this when a challenging work situation brought up deep, forgotten trauma from her past, and she had a sense that God was inviting her to not flee or cower, but run towards Him.  While that experience deepened her spiritual maturity, she has sense discovered that the cycle continues, as does the continuing opportunity to learn more deeply of God's power and love.  The storms might be frightening, but if Jesus could nap in one, maybe he is inviting us to trust him in ours.

What storm is God inviting you to run into?

 

In episode 132, previous guest Micalah Collins shares how a season of suffering led to an invitation to operate outside of the internal and external expectations that had been influencing her.  In this space she found peace; yet so many are still pressured by expectations, trying to fit into a construct counter to what God may have intended.  1 Corinthians talks of us as being a Body, and "in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be"; and yet too often, in the midst of our suffering, we can question our value and place.  But you DO have value, and you do have a place, if you're willing to trust God's vision.

How has God positioned you in the Body?

In episode 133, Dorsey Ross shares how he will not let his circumstances lead him to limit God.  Born with Apert's Syndrome, Dorsey has known what it has meant to be both limited and have others assume limitations for you.  He also knows Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Dorsey's story reminds us both of our tendency to limit God in the midst of suffering, and the reality of His limitlessness, and leaves us with an invitation to step in faith. 

How have you limited God?

In episode 134, we experience a special episode with multiple guests!  I set up my mic during a unique event called "The Gallery", hosted by East End Fellowship, which invited the congregation to share their creative gifts with the entire spiritual family.  In fact, that was the theme: spiritual family.  John (a previous guest), Adrianna, Kenya, and Shawn join me at the mic to talk about "spiritual family in the midst of suffering", where we discover our tendency to pull back, and God's invitation to lean in.

How is God inviting you to lean into spiritual family today?

In episode 135, Pastor Corey Widmer invites us to do something we aren't interested in by default: suffering well.  That's because we don't want to suffer at all.  Interestingly, I intended this to be the finale of the "Sitting in Suffering" series, but God had other plans; throughout this season we've heard not just stories of suffering, but moments when guests "suffered well", so this episode serves as an important pause as the series continues.  If you aren't sure how to suffer well, or you feel you lack the capacity or desire, this conversation may encourage you.

How is God inviting you to suffer well today?

In episode 136, Scott Schara helps us process what discernment looks like in the midst of suffering.  It's often said "hindsight is 20/20", and what we can discern in retrospect is too often mired in confusion when we are sitting in suffering.  Scott has navigated this as he's processed the death of his daughter during a hospital stay.  The more he has looked into her hospital records, the more he has come to believe it was not an accident.  How does one respond in that space?  How does one forgive?  And how do we grow the ability to discern when our suffering is deep and complex, and we are at the end of ourselves?

How can you invite Spirit-led discernment today?

In episode 137, Sue Corl invites us to see beyond our story, to the stories God is writing amidst ours.  Her's is a powerful journey itself; due to medical issues at birth, she endured dozens of surgeries throughout her youth, traumatic bullying, and challenges within her home.  However, God was in her midst, and used her story to plant seeds around the world.  Yet God wanted us to go beyond her story and explore the story her mom had written for her at that time, and we discovered that knowing the stories of others amidst ours can lead to abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.

Who's story might God be inviting you to hear today?

In episode 138, Jacqui Wilson's story forces us to confront the reality that we often view our situations -- and other people -- in broad sweeps.  Jacqui has learned from her roles as an attorney and Children's Minister that without the nuances, we may not see others as "made in the image of God", and may actually miss God at work.  What if God is inviting us to see our situations and those around us as He does?

How has God confronted your "broad sweep" vision?

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