Attitude Can Ease Suffering


by: Steven Hopesharer


When prisoners of war return home, many of them have indicated that the main thing that helped them to survive with the least amount of mental anguish was their attitude which, in most cases, involved a belief in a God who was in control of their lives in spite of their circumstances.

We notice that same attitude being manifested by those who were persecuted in the Bible like Paul, Steven and most vividly by Christ Himself who conferred with His Father about everything, particularly His suffering. Even while on the Cross as a last comment and act of faith He said, "into Thy hands I commend my spirit."

If only we could learn to surrender our lives to His care daily and totally we would be at peace without any emotional suffering. The Bible indicates He is in control and we need not fret about our current suffering because it is short lived when compared to eternity. It indicates He always has our best interests in mind even when we think He has abandoned us and we will spend eternity in peace, glorified even as He is glorified. Knowing that is not enough, however. We need to place our trust in that truth else we will suffer needlessly.

A Poem, which has had tremendous comfort to me and causes me to tear up each time I read it, is called Footprints. It reminds me just how much we are in His care even when we are in the most pain and suffering to the point we may think we can't take it any more because we are unaware of His presence. But the truth is, He is there with and for us in our darkest hours of suffering. We need only look to Him with trust to be comforted and at peace regarding our situation regardless of how painful it feels and regardless of how hopeless it may seem.

A verse that can have significant impact upon our attitude regarding the pain and suffering we endure in this life, is to realize how insignificant it is when compared to the joy and peace we, who place our trust in Christ, will experience throughout eternity. It was written by Paul and is found in Rom:8:18: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

This article is not an attempt to discount the horrific pain suffered by Christ, Paul and Steven for their beliefs in God the Father. Neither is it an attempt to diminish the brutality suffered by GLBT individuals, like Matthew Sheppard and all to many other GLBT individuals, simply because their sexual orientation is different from the majority. Rather it is an attempt to help the reader, regardless of their sexual orientation, realize that in our hours of pain, sorrow, suffering, feelings of hopelessness and doubt we can find a peace that will ease our suffering.

What the author hopes will happen for the reader is that this article will give him or her hope that regardless of the pain they may be experiencing because they have been rejected by family, former friends, the church or society as a whole, peace can be experienced merely by a change in one's attitude regarding their afflictions and there is a good reason for not giving up on one's self.

Suffering comes from two totally different sources. One is that brought about as a result of external forces and the other is that which results from our own internal attitude.

While our mental attitude cannot take away the physical pain inflicted upon us by cruel and ignorant people, it can have an effect upon our psychological and emotional pain if we meditate upon the meaning of Paul's remark in Romans 8:18 by realizing even if our pain lasted an entire lifetime, it cannot be compared to the glory we will experience throughout eternity. I am confident the pain suffered by Paul, Steven and Matthew Sheppard and others seems as if it had never happened immediately upon going through the door leading into eternal life which is filled with happiness, and joy beyond measure and where no painful tears exists.

The body goes into shock when we experience certain severe physical pains and even emotional pain too traumatic for us to handle in a fully conscious state. Those who have been severally burned report there came a point when they felt no pain due to the nerve endings being damaged. Those who survived near drowning accidents report a peace came over them when their lungs filled with water and they gave up. Those involved in car accidents which caused their bodies to be twisted to nearly unrecognizable states went into shock. Some had out-of-body experiences and viewed their bodies without pain or unhappy feelings. Those who have experienced emotional trauma from being raped or abused in other ways by parents or relatives or even friends and society have been known to become schizophrenic or psychotic in order to mentally escape the emotional pain of remembering the experience that caused it. That is not to say all those who are schizophrenic or psychotic became that way as a result of traumatic emotional pain, but many have and we cannot overlook its protective powers.

It is the author's hope that the reader will come to realize that in spite of the pain one might experience in this life, God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided physical, mental and spiritual attributes within His human creations to help them cope with certain sufferings that are to painful to deal with in a conscious state. Our spiritual nature and mind can be comforted by knowing the truth and being set free to be all that He created us to be. Fortunately, most who read this never had to endure or will have to endure pain to that extent. Hopefully the pain you have had or are now experiencing can be soothed by having a change in attitude towards it by coming to a better understanding of who you are in Christ and thereby be helped not to be quite as fearful of what might be.

Many times our pain comes from worrying needlessly about what might happen and then it never happens. God told us to have no care for tomorrow for it will take care of itself. Thus, we are to live life one day at a time. We can,t do anything about the past and we don't know what tomorrow holds. We can only be in control of what is happening at the moment. See Matthew 6:34 and the previous verses leading up to it. If only we could keep in touch with that, we would do a lot less worrying. The pain of our suffering would be reduced as a result of having a different attitude by viewing it in a different manner based upon our faith in God. Subsequently, the experiences we will have to draw from in which we experienced overcoming our grief, pain, sorrow, rejection, and condemnation as a result of trusting God will in turn continue to strengthen our faith in God and help us overcome the pain of suffering faster if it occurs in the future.

Often we do not have much control over external forces which causes us pain, but we do have some control, depending on the intensity and the nature of the external forces inflicting the pain upon us. If someone stabs us or beats us up, there will be physical pain and we don't have much, if any, control over that kind of pain once it happens. On the other hand, if the external force is the result of someone calling us nasty names or rejecting us, we can have complete control over that type of pain and it is all a matter of our attitude. We can choose not to let it bother us or we can obsess over it until we are an emotional wreck.

Most people, unfortunately, do no experience control, however, because they do not have the right attitude nor the faith resulting from experience nor accurate information regarding the truth as found in scriptures. They may have the right desire, but the wrong information has been taught to them and they suffer consequentially rather than experiencing the peace that comes from the truth.

If our attitude is to react as a victim then we will experience the consequences of being a victim. If, on the other hand, our attitude is to respond like the victors that we already are in Christ, then we will not suffer the consequences of being victimized. We GLBT Christians are victors not victims just as much as any other Christian according to the truth found in the Bible.

In other words, if we have and maintain a mentally healthy attitude which requires that we have confidence in ourselves because of our victory in Christ, accept who we are regardless of what others say, think or do and if we keep our focus upon who we have been created to be and by whom we were created, then regardless of what others, who reject us, say, think or do, it will have no debilitating effect on us.

Rather, it will free us to have pity on them realizing it is they, not us, who are the real victims of Satan's lies and we do not need to be hooked into that kind of suffering unless we choose to. Sadly, a lot of people choose to be victims rather than realizing they are already victorious through Christ.

Is it easier said than done? Not at all, but in some cases it may take years to arrive at that state of being or it can happen instantaneously depending on one's ability to comprehend their relationship to God and/or surrender their lives to Christ resulting in a change of their attitude.

How do we get to that point in our lives where what normally would have brought us pain, suffering and depression no longer does so? We can either study to the point something finally dawns on us that the solution is merely to surrender our entire lives to Christ for Him to take care of based upon His Holy Word as recorded in the Bible when correctly translated and interpreted or we can just get so frustrated we finally give up and surrender by faith alone without sufficiently satisfying understanding. I guess you might say the latter is by blind faith and the former is faith by sufficient knowledge and understanding. Either works as long as we do it by faith and not strive to do it by works heavily steeped in legalisms. We can never have complete understanding so it is a given there is no need to start that venture. Actually, just giving up and surrendering without a basis for doing so manifests more faith, but most are not comfortable with this blind faith approach and need some basis for what they believe. Those who are less inquisitive usually get there quicker than those of us who seem to have a need to know why and on what basis. Those of us with a greater need to know also carry a greater burden of responsibility, but this is not the place to get into that.

We hear about "let go and let God." If only we could grasp the significance of what that means, it could happen instantaneously. Most of us, however, struggle until the pain gets so bad we finally give in and find out the only way to survive our suffering is to turn it all over to God. The result is the same. It just takes longer for the whiner, the fighter, the "oh ye of little faither," but it can happen instantaneously. Once it does happen, the person's immediate reaction is: "I only wish I would have done it sooner." So why not choose to do it sooner rather than later right this moment? Just tell God at this moment "I am turning all my suffering over to You. I am not getting anywhere by hanging on to it. In fact it has been hindering my desire to live an abundant life like You want me to."

Unfortunately, some just give up and commit suicide without turning their concerns over to the Lord. I always find it extremely sad when I learn about those individuals because it could have been easily avoided had they been able to be reached and had their attitude changed. That is why I am so dedicated to helping suffering individuals change their attitude. I know from experience it can happen. I was there, but I am not there any more, thanks be to God. I say this in all humility not to brag by any means. I was one of those slow learners, but I made it. Now I can look back and realize it could have happened a long time ago if only I would have met someone who knew and was willing to share the truth with me like I try to share with hurting individuals. But, then again, I also believe God had a reason for me, personally, not to have that instantaneous experience because I may have taken the experience lightly and not had the compassion then I now have as a result. Thus I can honestly thank God for my pain and suffering. I have learned from it. I have profited from it. It is behind me now. Does this mean I will never suffer in the future like I did in the past? Not necessarily. But it does mean I have a wealth of knowledge and experience to help me have a faith I didn't have in the past. Thus, I have no anxiety about the future and I have seen how God had a hand in bringing me to where I am today and I can believe with all my heart I have no need to fear tomorrow for it will take care of itself. Why not learn from my experiences vicariously rather than going through what I had to go through experientially?

When studying to be a counselor and while going through therapy myself as part of becoming qualified, I was taught, and eventually learned, depression is a state of choice in most cases and those who suffer from it suffer needlessly. If it is due to a chemical imbalance, then, most likely, those who suffer from it suffer needlessly, also, because there are chemicals available to help almost anyone. I believe God works through doctors just as much as He works through spiritual leaders and do not hesitate to suggest those who are suffering seek help medically as well as spiritually.

Easter 2000 has just passed. Often in pageants we are reminded how it was Jesus, rebellious attitude about the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (the religious and legal leaders of His day) that caused Him to be put to death. In Mathew 23:15, Jesus is recorded as saying: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." Many influential religious leaders today do the same thing. They go to extreme lengths to get one to receive Christ, join their church or organization and by guilt trips are made to contribute large sums of money and behave exactly like them. The guilt trips continue because their legalistic teachings seldom mention the love and grace of God except to make their sermons sound spiritual when in fact they are anything but spiritual. Next thing you know, the new convert is just as perverted in his treating of others as those who proselytized him or her in the first place.

Many of the pageants, also, remind us that the events leading up to Christ being crucified and the crucifixion itself were done according to prophecy. One striking example of Jesus putting them in their place indicating He is the fulfillment of the Law, as prophesied, is found in Matthew 22:36-39 when Jesus was asked, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

In contrast to the legalistic teachings of the Pharisees, Scribes and the Sadducees, Jesus went on to say a very significant thing that many people overlook. He said in verse 40: "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." In other words, if we obey those two laws it will be counted as if we had kept all the law and it was what the prophets were trying to convey as the eventual outcome in their prophecies.

Thus, there is no need to be so legalistic about our right standing before God like the religious leaders of His time were trying to impose upon their followers with guilt trips in order to maintain power, status and wealth or like the religious leaders of our time are doing in like manner. All to many preachers are hung up on preaching about sin and its consequences and how bad people are. They seldom preach about the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. Most people already know they are sinful. They just don't know what to do about it. Jesus repeatedly attempted to explain what could be done about it and for that He was put to death in our place. Rom:4:5 states: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." This applies to ever single person who walks the face of the earth. We are no longer under the Law. We have been set free. Set free to sin? No! Set free from the Law to live life free from guilt, and free from trying to earn eternal life by works. We don't have to be sinless to please God. He is pleased when we place our trust in His Son and acknowledge who He is We should try not to sin to express our Love for God and to keep Satan from robbing us the joy of leading an abundant life, guilt free, full of peace and joy.

Only because of Christ we GLBT children of God have just as much right to feel guiltless as anyone else, even though we are guilty of sin, like anyone else, homosexuality, not being one of those sins according to accurate Bible translation and interpretation. Like Jesus and again because of Him, we GLBT Christians have a right to rebel and a responsibility to rebel and ought, therefore, to rebel against the false rhetoric being spread by the religious and legal leaders of our times. We need to do so by educating them, in general, and their followers, in particular, with the truth regarding homosexuality. However, we need to do it with an attitude of love and non-violence else we are as guilty as those we accuse and rebel against.

A phrase I have coined and teach to those that I counsel with because it has become very meaningful to me is that we need to "understand that they do not understand, and love and accept them anyhow." Jesus indicated those who came to arrest Him could have done it a long time before they did. Why didn't they? Because it was prophesized to be done the way it happened. Dear reader, some of your suffering is in order that the will of God can be fulfilled and in order that He will be glorified by the manner in which He wipes away your pain and suffering. As a result, you will be both the recipient of His love and grace and a testimony to His power to heal. Thus, I encourage you not to despair, but to change your attitude and place 100% of your trust in God, not just enough to make it into Heaven. Romans 8:28 states: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Thus, your suffering will work for you good if you leave it in God's hands to deal with as He sees fit knowing He has your best interests in mind.

With this attitude one need not suffer as a victim of condemning words, but rather can rejoice in the victory, which is theirs through Christ Jesus.

If you are one who is suffering the pain of rejection and persecution by family, relatives, friends, the work place or depression, worry and may be contemplating suicide, please know there is hope for you and that there are many willing to help you. You can find some of those people on Whosoever's List on ONElist and many other GLBT friendly sites many of which can be linked to from this site, but I beg you not to give up on yourself. Please don't despair, there is no need to suffer, particularly not all alone.

Copyright © 2000 by the author
All Rights Reserved


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Other Articles By Steven Hopesharer:

Forgiveness:
The Key to Overcoming Guilt and Fear


Also In This Issue:

How to Transcend the Spiritual Sufferings of the Wildnerness Experience

Finishing The Journey:
A United Methodist Church Tackles a Thorny Issue






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