The Storm of Jonah. (part 1)

take-shelter“as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.” Mt. 12:40

Jesus is dangerous—this statement alone shocks our consciousness, because most of us in America have grown up learning that Jesus is loving, caring, forgiving, and all about grace, mercy, and peace….anything but dangerous.  But over and over in the stories we are told about how his arrival disrupts everything in a clash with the powers of the world that ends with everyone abandoning him and his violent death on a Roman cross.  

John the Baptist said of Jesus: “one is coming after me who is stronger than I.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Mt. 3:11)  For John, the arrival of Jesus didn’t mean peace and forgiveness, but meant separation, fire, and judgment. 

Later, Jesus, while sending his disciples into the cities of Galilee & Judah warned them against supposing that he had come to bring peace claiming “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mt. 10:34)  His kingdom is one that divides fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.  Entire families will be split apart in divided loyaties.

Jesus’ first words upon the beginning of his public teaching and healing ministry were “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Mt. 4:17)  You don’t go around announcing regime change if you are a citizen in one of the client kingdoms of Rome, and especially if you’re a citizen in one of the most volatile areas of the Roman empire.  Recent history in Palestine was fraught with revolt and uprisings.  Everyone knew what had happened to every single would-be messiah in Israel’s recent history. There was only one outcome for these rebels, an outcome of which everyone was aware.  So when we read about a Jewish peasant suddenly announcing a new Kingdom, the horizon in the story immediately begins to grow dark.  There is nothing that points to a happy ending.  This new Kingdom announced was bound to clash decisively in a storm of epic proportions, a storm for which the clouds of judgment are now forming in the skies.  And at the beginning of the Gospel story, this Galilean peasant, along with a small band of followers, surprisingly begins to travel directly towards it…

5 realizations that have changed the way I read the Bible.

The way I read the Bible has dramatically changed over the years.  I grew up in a conservative family that pretty much taught me to read the Bible straightforwardly and literally.  The Bible was frequently called the “Word of God” and as such could not be questioned, could not contain errors of any kind, and could not disagree with itself at any point.  The older I’ve gotten and the more years I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve realized a few things that not only have changed the way I read it, but have helped me to grasp its story in a fresh way, to grow into a deeper encounter with God, and to emerge with a greater trust in the testimony of the Bible.  Here’s 5 things that are guiding my reading of the Scripture right now:

1.  The Bible is not our authority, God is.  God is the one who possesses all authority.  The Bible is a collection of inspired writings of people struggling to know God.  At times those people may disagree or emphasize a different perspective, but that’s okay because the words aren’t our ultimate authority: the God who speaks through the words is.  The Bible has authority inasmuch as God speaks through it.  This is not to encourage a subjective reading of the Bible in which anyone can choose any interpretation that suits them: we must submit to the assumption that the writings of Scripture were written in a particular context in which a particular people struggled with what it meant to be ‘the people of God’, knowing that an understanding of that context often eliminates things that the words could mean in favor of what the words probably mean.  When the Bible is our authority, it can be used to sanction all kinds of racism, oppression, marginalization, and atrocity.  When we approach the Bible knowing that God is our ultimate authority, we approach it with an attitude of humility, laying our interpretations down before the One to whom the words attest.

2.  What flows from this first realization is that we are all equal before the text.  No one’s interpretation possesses a monopoly on truth.  No one can use their interpretation of Scripture to subjugate another people group, ethnicity, or race to their ideology.  God speaks into our situations and circumstances in different ways through the same text.  This staggeringly important reality underlines the importance of being in community and in conversation with others who interact with the text in order to approach what God is communicating through it.

3.  The goal of the narrative of Scripture is not so that people will be able know something (i.e. doctrine, theology, intellectual facts, historical observations) but that they will know Someone.  Even when John records that “this are written so that you may believe,” for John believing means knowing, trusting, and reorienting one’s life into the object of their belief (“so that you may have life in his name”).  The Bible is a record of people who claim to have “known” God.  Thus, studying the Bible isn’t a matter of knowledge and cognitive beliefs, it is a matter of encountering a Person … namely the covenantal God of Israel who has a purpose for history and who fulfilled his purpose for humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

4.  The Bible is a story and must be read as such.  At its essence, the Bible is a narrative.  Its a story about a relationship with God and his people.  Its a story about God electing a people to represent him among other peoples, to be holy, to steward his law and expectations.  Its the story about how that people rebelled and how God remained faithful in spite of it.  Its the story about how God entered into human history and became one of us, in order to draw that story to a good ending and new beginnings.  The Old Testament is a vital part of the story, and thus the New Testament must be read as a coherent chapter in an already existing story.  We cannot ignore the Old Testament and the story of Israel as is the tendency of many Western communities of faith: because the story of Jesus is a part of the story of Israel.  While sometimes its helpful to draw important lessons from stories, as well as theological assertions, the Bible presents itself as a “meta-narrative,” a story that explains all other stories.  The conclusions we draw from this story must be at the places where we see our story intersecting with the greater and encompassing story of God.

5.  Finally, the Bible constantly urges its readers to hear the voice of the marginalized.  There are ways in which we have adopted the language of empire and the ideology of the state, and then have altered our religion so that it ultimately supports and legitimizes the State.  What results is a fake spirituality that reduces the God of History to an imperial deity that exists to encourage ultimate allegiance to country and culture, not to Christ.  The emphasis on the “triumph of Christianity” promises people ecstatic “worship” experiences, & communities of homogenous peoples that agree with each other so that they will lose sight of the reality that commitment to Christ has anything to do with real life, and has everything to do with what a person believes or the experiences they have at church on the weekends.  The first casualty in this loss of sight is the marginalized.  The consolidation of power in groups of people possessing unexamined affluence, always leads to the oppression of the marginalized and the support of a religion that justifies that oppression.  Thus, the Bible is a call to critically examine our allegiances and to be aware of voices of critique and irony which arise from the margins (like Jesus) to confront the “dominant culture” and imagine alternative futures.

DrlRmZK

The Pit and the Wings. (part 1)

the-dark-knight-rises-pit-1

The power of the Psalms lies in their ability to liberate our inarticulate experiences.  Many of the emotions we feel are held hostage by a world characterized by a denial of death and suffering, but the Psalms refuse such a denial.  This collection of poetry represents the raw human refusal to deny the pain and disappointment that is so common to the human experience.  Our world is one that has suppressed, numbed, and desensitized our humanity.  It is in the metaphors and stanzas of inspired poetry in the Psalms that we find permission to stop censuring the deep complexities of life as it actually is and finally discover the hope of newness.

The psalms seem to oscillate between despair and hope.  Some Psalms are celebratory and joyful, as if the poet couldn’t keep silent in his exultant gratitude and triumphant exuberance and can’t simply seem to find enough vocabulary to describe the wonder that is God.  Some reach into the depths of the darkness of humanity and echo the ageless sorrow of the universe.  Hebrew scholar Walter Brueggemann says that the Psalms are filled with images of place … that is, images if disorientation and reorientation (read this book!).  Sometimes the Psalmist is ‘out of place,’ speaking from a state of exile, or from a place where things aren’t as they ought to be.  Sometimes the Psalmist is in place, proclaiming reality in hopeful words that stand as a barrier against the sea of chaos, and gladly exulting in his/her status of position as the people of God.  Prayers are different when they come from different ‘places.’

Place matters.  There are the static prayers filled with language from the numbed reality of empire, and there are place-prayers, that fully acknowledge the place they’re coming from and aggressively refuse denial

The main metaphor the Psalms hold out for being out of place is the metaphor of the pit, the dungeon, the tomb, or the grave.  The pit is a place that you throw people to “render them null and void.”  Its where Joseph’s brothers threw him in order to render him powerless.  The pit was used on Jeremiah by his enemies.  Its a place where you put someone to deny them all the resources for life.  The pit also means alienation from community.  It is a place for people who have no place, who have lost all sense of dignity and control.

In Psalm 143 the poet cries out “answer me quickly, O Lord, do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down into the pit.

In Psalm 88 the cries of the poet ring clear: “I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.  You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.”

In Psalm 28, the cry resounds: “if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit.”

What does it mean to be like those who go down in the pit?  The pit is a removal from life-as-you-know-it.  The pit is the ultimate picture of being out-of-place.  The pit is social ostracism.  The pit is every deep place of depression and mental anguish.  The pit is every moment of loneliness and despair.  The pit is a place where not even worship can rise up to God … where you don’t even feel like you can sing anymore (Ps. 30:9).  Its every season of life where you felt powerless or cheated.

Though the ancient poets write of the despair, darkness, and death that happens while we are in the pit, another strange thing happens with this image.  They also write of a hope beyond the pit.  Sure, the Psalms don’t pull any punches in acknolwedging the anguish of the pit, but it is the honest articulation of that very anguish that leads to the hope of restoration.

“He lifted me out of the pit!  Out of the mud and mire!  He gave me a firm place to stand!”  Ps. 40:2

“Praise Yhwh! … who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion!”  Ps. 103:4

Often times it is the memory of the depths of the pit that leads to the joy and thanksgiving once one is delivered from it. And it is often only the honest cries to God from the pits of life that begin the process of restoration.  From within the pit, it is a metaphor of despair and death, but the vision of the Psalms is that often those very pits become images, chapters in our story that provide the highest ground for thanksgiving and true, lasting joy.

Afflicted Minds. (part 2)

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all.”  Ps. 34:19

“He cured those who had need of healing.”  Luke 9:11

The anguish of mental illness is that the sufferer often bears the pain alone.  Mental illnesses usually aren’t tangible, observable, or assessable to others.  They are in the mind.  Often mental illnesses develop out of deep pain that’s never been dealt with.  The dominant culture around us tells us to deal with it, bottle it up, bury it, numb it, and mindlessly repeat the triumphalist messages that American religion has to offer us, wear painted smiles, and ignore the emotional trauma which over time has eroded our ability to see the world clearly.  Therapists often approach it cognitively, asking great questions and pointing out flaws in the thinking of the mentally ill person.  The logic of cognitive-behavioral approach is that correct thinking leads to correct living.  But thinking patterns come from pain and wounds.  Anger comes from fear & frustration.  Fear & frustration come from pain.

One time I knew a guy who’s wife cheated on him with another man.  This was not a success story.  This man’s life had fallen apart from the dark thoughts he had allowed to poison his mind.  He blamed himself and felt he never deserved another woman as long as he lived.  This one wound had come to define his entire perspective on life, and that perspective had cast a dark shadow over every relationship in his life.  How do you help a man like this?  How do you help yourself work through the shattered pieces of the narrative you’ve been telling yourself about yourself and others so that you can be free from it?

The Bible often offers unapologetic portraits of great leaders and catalysts in the story of God who constantly fought mental illness.  In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul, the leader of the early expansion of Christianity, once wrote to a community of believers in Corinth about something that happened to him: “we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced while we were in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself(2 Cor. 1:8).  We do not know exactly what happened to Paul in Asia; he doesn’t say.  Whatever it was, he got to the point where he didn’t even want to live anymore.  Yet, even in spite of this horrible experience that Paul went through, he expresses hope that came from the community of believers.  I want to suggest a few things as we wrestle with the question of hope as it relates to mental illness.  There’s three words that emerge from Paul’s experience for me:

Theology.  Paul appeals to bigger ideas.  He appeals to the suffering of Jesus that established forever God’s victory over evil.  He appeals to the Cross.  He reminds himself that whatever he suffers, he is sharing in what Jesus had already suffered.  “We share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings.”  People are critical of theologians these days.  People are sensitive to those that want to quote the Bible all the time, because they’ve had too many negative experiences in which arrogant Christians have misused Scripture to condemn, accuse, and take stands on political issues.  But for Paul, the theological truths of the Gospel were NOT for taking stands and winning arguements and living holier than anyone else.  They were sustaining truths.  This is where depression and mental illness must be met with the Gospel of Jesus Christ: the message of hope in the midst of suffering, life in the midst of death, and comfort in the midst of affliction.  It is the theological reality of Christ’s death on the cross, as proclaimed through the Scriptures that provides us with hope and energy for life.  If you’re aspiring to coach or help someone through depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, realize that you have a God who has entered into the same suffering and who understands.  That’s the power of theology when its used to encourage and uplift.  A life rooted in the love of Christ is opened up to a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Solidarity.  If you’re not into any of that Chrsitianity stuff, Paul still mentions something you’ll probably find helpful.  He says that “our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”  He is given hope because he knows there is a community of faith and there are people out there that are going through the same kind of thing he is.  That’s what the word solidarity means.  It means joining a community of people with shared experience.  Its when people shave their heads because their friend has cancer and they don’t want him to be the only one.  Its where alcoholics gather in groups to confess and pursue healing together.  Its where popes live in poverty and strip the Vatican of ornamented thrones so as to relate to the poor.  When someone is suffering mentally, the last thing they want is advice on what correct thinking is.  They don’t have the energy for it.  What they need is someone to identify with their pain.  They need someone to say “me too.”  They need someone to be with them.  Part of embracing solidarity is choosing to enter into the suffering of another and suffer alongside someone.

Prayer.  Paul finishes his short passage about his mysterious affliction (which I think had something to do with a recurring illness or mental anguish) by telling the Corinthians that they “must also help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayer of many.”  There is something supernatural that occurs when we pray for people who are suffering.  There’s something uniquely uplifting when someone calls, unannounced, and says “I’d like to pray for you, right now, on the phone.”  It is taking the cries of people we love to the deepest place in our spirits, the point of connection with God himself.  It is boldly asking for God’s healing power, and leaving it up to Him if He wants to say no.  It is beseeching God in behalf of someone else.  In essence, it is participating in the life of God through the faithful community of His praying people.  Prayer is a protest against sickness and death.  Some of the early Christians even believed that the “prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.”  Prayer is representing the pain of others before God, and thus it is a way of suffering alongside someone.

Theology.  Solidarity.  Prayer.  These are what those of us who wrestle with mental illnesses need.  These are what those of us who know the pain of mental anguish ought to be prepared to extend to other people.  You’ll never imagine how far God might take even the smallest acts of choosing to suffer alongside others in their behalf.

PIT3AmO

Afflicted Minds. (part 1)

You don’t see it.  Most of the time we don’t want you to.  That’s what makes us feel so alone.  We can’t tell you because we’re afraid you will give us the same responses everyone else does … the false optimism of Job’s friends, the quick fix list of bullet points of things we’re supposed to do, or maybe we’re just afraid that you really don’t care to meet us within our own messiness.  Most people are fine with pontificating bullet points of how we’re supposed to take back control of our lives, and maybe even going with us to coffee once or twice, but when it comes to walking with us and being purely and consistently present, we understand that most people just don’t care enough.  And most of us don’t want to trouble anyone with our problems so we hide them in a backpack that we carry with us into every single moment.

One of us described our condition like being in a burning building on the top floor, watching the flames engulf the room around us.  This is every single day for us.  Those of us that end up taking our own lives: its not that we want to die, but that we just don’t want to bear the pain of living anymore.  Jumping out of the building seems to be a quick and easy way out of the pain of our daily existence.

This is what its like to be depressed.  This week I’ve been thinking a lot about Rick Warren, who’s 27-year-old son committed suicide last week.  My heart goes out to the Warren’s, and I can’t help but wondering about Matthew Warren in light of my own lifelong struggle with depression.  I wouldn’t even say depression … I would say self-hatred.  There have been times where I hated my own life so much that I will deliberately do things to punish myself.  I don’t tell people about this because I don’t expect anyone to care.  If I don’t want to hang out with me, why would I expect you to?  Small attempts at vulnerability are often met with token responses and hopeless legalism of what I’m supposed to do to get myself out of this pit.  Most of all, its the strangulating loneliness, like being in a world filled with people but knowing no one, having no community, and having no one who cares.  Is it easier to jump out of the building?

One time Jesus met a man who everyone thought was demon-possessed because he lived in the tombs and would cut himself.  It says that this particular man had an “impure spirit.”  It also says that no one could bind him because he would always break the chains and irons.  Depression is destructive.  If we cannot act out on something, we will act out on ourselves and punish ourselves with crippling thoughts.  This man was uncontrollable, either by himself or by other people.  Often that’s the reason we feel depressed is because we have felt a complete loss of control over our own lives… that no matter what we do, it will make no difference.  Jesus came up to the man and said “come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

In the world of the Bible people believed in demons.  They didn’t have the same kind of scientific terminology that we have today to describe mental illness so they assumed that every sickness was the result of some spiritual force of evil at work.  We are not sure whether this man was filled with demons or not, but we are sure that he believed that he was.  Who is to say that those of us with afflicted minds are not under the torment of the spiritual forces of evil?  It certainly seems possible!  The man sees Jesus from far off.  Recognizing him as the popular miracle worker, he runs and falls at his knees before Jesus.  “Don’t torture me!” he says.  Depressed people carry their guilt around everywhere, and it cripples them.

Whether this man was actually filled with some dark spirits I’m not sure.  But either way Jesus met him where he was at and went along with his delusions, and helped him come back to reality.

Coming from someone who has constantly struggled with depression, who is constantly in recovery, and who has found hope and help in Jesus Christ, I want to give you a couple ways to help people who are depressed:

Text them.  Right now.  I mean it.  Nothing means more than when people reach out, seemingly at random, and say something like “you have been on my mind for some reason lately.”  Not only does it feel that there are people thinking about you…it reminds you that God is aware of your pain and is enlisting the help of other people to show you love.  Be the answer to someone’s desperate and broken prayers!  Don’t ask them if they want to talk … they will always say no.  Tell them you want to talk.  Force your way into their pain if you have to.  Affirm them and tell them you care.

Don’t give them quick fixes or token answers.  What people deep in depression are looking for is presence.  They need consistent presence and friends who seek them out just to hang.  Just to be there.  Nothing fills a thirsty soul with nourishment like good, Godly friendship.

Share positivity, hope, and humor.  One thing that helps me during dark moments is the knowledge that there is much in life to enjoy and be thankful for.  It especially goes a long way when a friend says something that makes me laugh.  One moment of laughter can change a person’s entire day…seriously.

Listen.  Consistently.  Don’t just meet up one time and never ask them about it again.  Many times that’s worse than not reach out to them at all.  Be attentive.  Learn to read between the lines with that person.  Most of us try to subtly reveal that we are hurting in socially inappropriate or offensive ways.  I do it using sarcasm or cutting remarks.  Those come directly from my pain.  Most of the time, if I say something critical about anyone it is because I am speaking out of my wounds.  You have to learn to listen for those things and ask questions like “where is that coming from?”

Tell them about the God who understands.  The truth is that just like Jesus helped that man long ago who didn’t have a great view of himself, he wants to speak healing and hope into the lives of the mentally ill and depressed, and he wants to use you and I to be beacons of compassion for those whom most people misunderstand.  Especially those of us who are well aware of the pain of loneliness and depression: we must be on the lookout as to how we can encourage afflicted minds with the truth that Jesus knows exactly what its like to be abandoned and lonely and is willing to meat you in your loneliness and depression to lead you out of it.

___alone_by_nunoramos0

There is a Way.

Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner opens with this sentence: “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.”  

He’s confessing something.

He continues: “I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek.  That was a long time ago, but its wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it.  Because the past claws its way out.  Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.  One day last summer, my friend Rahim Khan called from Pakistan.  He asked me to come see him.  Standing in the kitchen with the receiver to my ear, I knew it wasn’t just Rahim Khan on the line, it was my past of unatoned sins. 

Sometimes we can never predict when our past of unatoned sins calls to us.  Sometimes it comes in the middle of the night.  Sometimes it peaks its ugly head during off chance conversation.  Sometimes its something small someone says that triggers it.  Nevertheless, like Khaled Hosseini, many of us are defined by one moment that has made us what we are today.  

Khaled continues: “I sat on a park bench near a willow tree.  I thoguht about something Rhim Khan had said just before he hung up, almost as an afterthought.  There is a way to be good again.  I looked up at those twin kites  I thought about Hassan.  Thought about Baba.  Ali.  Kabul.  I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything.  And made me what I am today.”  

The Christian doctrine of the atonement means that Jesus Christ took on the sins that we inherited from Adam and his suffering on the cross at Golgotha thus reconciling us from a state of alienation from God.  Our sins were imputed, or charged to his account.  When Jesus died, the perfect life that he lived, his untouchable & unshakeable righteousness was imputed, or credited to the account of all who would believe in him.  Because of the cross of Christ, we don’t have to be defined by our past any more. 

No more fear of our past calling to us by surprise because it no longer defines us. 

His blood atones for our unatoned sins.  There is a way to be good again. 

Silver Lining Playbook Theology

*SPOILER ALERT* The Silver Lining Playbook is a fantastic, award winning romantic comedy about Pat Solitino, played by Bradley Cooper, a man with bipolar disorder who has recently been released from the mental hospital to the care of his parents.  He was ordered to serve time when he walked in on his wife Nikki cheating on him with one of the history teachers at her school while their wedding song “My Cherie Amour” was playing.  Pat is obsessively determined to get his life back on track and win Nikki back. 
While having dinner with his friends Ronnie and Veronica (Julia Stiles), who are still close with Nikki, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence of the Hunger Games), Veronica’s younger sister.  Tiffany’s husband recently died and she has resorted to sleeping with all sorts of different men.  Tiffany and Pat become unlikely friends, and in their pain begin to help each other sort things out.  Tiffany agrees to help Pat get Nikki back, even though Nikki has a restraining order against Pat, in return for Pat to help her with a dance competition that she’s always wanted to compete in, but her husband would never do it.
The Silver Linings Playbook, as the title suggests, is about two broken and hurting people who meet each other in the midst of their pain, and discover that no matter how deep your wounds and present your loneliness there is always silver lining on every cloud, and hope is found in unlikely relationships.
From a theological perspective there are several themes that the film seems to emphasize about how we approach suffering and pain and illustrate a biblical theology of suffering:
Your pain can become your greatest platform for helping others.  What draws Pat and Tiffany together initially is that they joke about which anti-depressant medications they’ve both been on.  A lot of times in life its easy to see ailments we have, or struggles we go through as hindrances, burdens, and terrible things.  But as many can attest to, those terrible things that have happened to us create a connecting point with other people who are going through the same thing.  Often times people who have had a loved one die of a disease have been the ones who start fundraising organizations to raise support for those diseases.  Cancer patients can only be truly comforted by other cancer patients.  I think its why the Apostle Paul was able to write to the Colossians : “I rejoice in what I am suffering for you,” because his suffering caused him to be able to relate to them on a level he otherwise could not.  Similarly to the Ephesians he says “don’t be discouraged by my sufferings for you, which are your glory.  Our PAIN, when surrendered to Christ, can become our PLATFORM for loving others.
The only way to lead people out of pain is to meet them in it.  There’s a scene in the movie where Tiffany writes Pat a fake note from Nikki just to get him to enter the dance competition with her.  Also, when Pat threatens to pull out of the dance competition, Tiffany and Pat’s parents agree to lie to Pat and tell him that Nikki is going to be there.  Their justification for lying to him is that “we gotta leave a trail of bread crumbs so that he can live his life without ruining it.”  Pat later admits in a letter to Tiffany “that’s okay, because the only way you could meet my crazy was by doing something crazy yourself.”  Sometimes the only way to help people who are hurting is to hurt with them.  To have compassion on them.  That’s what the Scriptures say that God did for humanity by entering into human history and dying a painful death on the cross.  It was there that he took on pain and suffering himself, so that he could meet us in ours.  1 Pet. 3:18 says that “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  Its by his wounds that we are healed.  Further, Hebrews 12:3 says that in our suffering, we are to consider “him who endured opposition from sinful men, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Jesus entered into frail humanity to suffer on behalf of the world.  A Christian theology of suffering is one which compels followers of Jesus to embrace his example, of entering into suffering on behalf of others in order to bring them out of it.  Its what compelled Mother Theresa to give her life serving the destitute and dying in the slums of Calcutta.  We enter into the suffering of others (“compassion” means to have co-passion or to suffer alongside).  
You can’t heal unless you suffer honestly.  Throughout the movie Pat continues to tell his therapist and everyone around him that he’s “doing a lot better” and “on the right track” and “getting his life together,” but its all an illusion.  He’s obviously volatile and messed up.  Sometimes its easy for people to minimize their pain / suffering because they think that it is silly from the perspective of other people and even from the perspective of God.  They feel like the things they have gone through are things that God isn’t really concerned with, and so they minimize the pain. 
This movie is a great reminder to suffer honestly … to confess your brokenness to God and to others.  Psalm 147 is a favorite here: “the Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  The Gospels are full of Jesus meeting people in their pain and need and healing them, from bleeding women to embarrassed prostitutes to short guys that everyone hated, Jesus meets people in their pain no matter how small.  God cares about the pain you feel because of that marriage that failed, that relationship that went sour, that loss you experienced even though nobody else on the planet may understand and when you try to tell people they seem to almost laugh it off as petty. 
So no matter how intense your pain or your wound, realize that when you allow God to speak healing into it, that very pain will become your greatest platform for ministry.   Follow the example of the One who went before you and enter into the pain of others; you’ll never imagine the ways that God will use you to comfort people that no one else could.  And always remember that to those whose hearts are open, you have a Savior who suffered for you, who understands what its like to be alone, betrayed, afraid, and abandoned.  You are never, ever alone.  Remember that there is always One, Jesus Christ, who understands and who is close and present with the brokenhearted.  And remember that when you choose to trust Jesus Christ with your pain, no matter how ominous the storm seems or how dark the clouds may get that there is always a silver lining.