13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.Romans 1: 13-14
Do you ever feel a little bit dry in your walk with God? Or do you feel like you’re juggling too many pins and one of them is going to drop? The former state can be depressing, the latter, anxiety-inducing. Either would be a state of mild suffering (or severe suffering, depending on its intensity, of course).
You know, I heard recently that suffering is an excessive focus on yourself. I really like that, and even though it doesn’t come from a Christian source, I think it has biblical underpinnings. Think about it one more time, suffering is an excessive focus on yourself. The beautiful thing about that is, if we accept that statement to be true, then we can move ourselves into a can’t-lose/will-win scenario. No matter our suffering, be it physical or psychological or spiritual, we can overcome it by turning our focus outside ourselves. Think about Joseph in Genesis. After he’s roughed up and sold into slavery by his brothers, after he’s wrongfully accused of attempted rape, after he’s locked up for a long time, he doesn’t seem to turn his thoughts inward about his state of affairs. That only could have led to suffering.
Instead he turns his thoughts and motives outward. He seeks to help others to the best of his ability (Potiphar, his fellow prisoners, Pharaoh, all the people of Egypt). And he seeks constantly the will of God. He toils as if unto God at all times.
Now obviously it worked out for Joseph even while he was still on earth. But we are not guaranteed that everything will work out on earth. We could die a painful death. Everything could be taken from us and, unlike Job, never returned to us. But we do not have to live in a state of suffering. Suffering is an excessive focus on yourself.
If you still don’t believe that’s a biblical idea, then think about what that means in a Christian sense. To avoid suffering, focus less on yourself, and more on others and on Jesus Christ. Jesus himself boiled all cosmic imperatives down to just two simple commands: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. At their core, these rules are injunctions to get out of yourself. Focus more on God and on others.
Levi, how does this relate to the passage today? (Like, at all).
Why don’t you comment, and I’ll go into more depth with you. (No, seriously, it would be cool to have a conversation down below.)