The tagline for this blog is "Investing, Entrepreneurship, Faith". So far I've noticed that I've been slacking in the faith category. What better way to talk about faith than by talking about suffering and suffering well.
We all suffer. Whether its a lawsuit, losing a job, the car breaks down, or any other calamity, if we've lived long enough we can identify with suffering. I know that when I suffer I feel like life is unfair, and I can't help but feel like I've suffered an injustice. Why shouldn't things go my way, or exactly as I've planned?
During this season my family is in, 2 passages of scripture have rocked us to the core, as well as given us hope and encouragement.
Philippians 1:27-29 "27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have."
Romans 8:12-18 "12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
The main point of these verses is the fact that suffering is a gift. Yes, suffering is a gift God gives us for the purpose of becoming more like His Son Jesus. With this blog, as well as with the rest of my walk, I've been challenged not to avoid suffering (because it is unavoidable anyway), or to feel defeated when the weight of my family's situation floods my thoughts. Instead, I'm trying to steward the gift of suffering well by trusting in Jesus and seeing how he suffered on my behalf as a beacon of hope. Having to change my views on suffering and see it as a gift of God has really forced me to try and see the beauty of Jesus in all things. It's also forced me to reconsider my faith in the "American Dream".
In his book The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams, stated that the American dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."
In essence, the "American Dream" (AD) is the ideal that our freedom grants us the right to prosper if we work hard enough. Anything that would threaten that right to prosper should be avoided, which must include suffering. The "AD" also worships our self determination rather than a God who is in control, and would allow his children to go through suffering so that they can fully trust in him rather than themselves. If the "AD" is close to the core of my beliefs, then its easy for me to put my confidence in my "Free Will" rather than the Sovereign God who is gracious and loving towards his creation. The fundamental difference in these ideologies is that one's god is Control, and the other's God is in control. For a long time, my god was Prosperity, Control and Self rather than Jesus Christ.
We don't simply have trust issues, we have control issues. The idea of the "American Dream" had caused me to cherish and worship my self-determination, entitlement and self-reliance. It is for this very reason that God gives us the gift of suffering. Our egos need to be lovingly deflated, we need to realize we can't predict the next five minutes, and we can't simply depend on ourselves to fix our issues. We aren't God and we need a Savior. Suffering keeps us in check, and should cause us to set our eyes to the hills, because our help comes from the Lord. Jesus encourages us, while guaranteeing our future suffering, in John 16:33 to put our faith solely in him.
Hear me out. I literally write about investing for a living, and help people navigate their financial future. I'm not against wealth, but I'm staunchly against treating wealth as my god or viewing wealth as my source of hope and validation. My identity isn't found in my bank account, in the work that I do, or in my pursuit of happiness in the "American Dream". My hope and identity is found solely in Jesus, and that frees me from treating wealth as an end goal rather than a means to see Christ's kingdom here on earth. I'm not interested in Poverty or Prosperity gospel. I'm only interested in the gospel of Jesus, and count it as joy to suffer for it.