Shattering the illusion of self-mastery

By Dave Henning / December 22, 2017

“Suffering, like love, shatters the illusion of self-mastery.  Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease.  Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different. . . .  Instead of recoiling from the sort of loving commitments that often lead to suffering, they throw themselves more deeply into them.”- David Brooks, The Road to Character, 2015

In Chapter 10 (“The Deep Down Dark: The Intimacy That Comes From Suffering”) of I’d Like You More . . . , John Ortberg defines the Deep Down Dark.  The author states the Deep Down Dark is the place where:

  • you know you can’t make it on your own
  • you realize you need God

Yet, as David Brooks astutely observes, it’s not automatic that suffering leads to greater intimacy.  For most people, Mr. Brooks contends, there’s nothing intrinsically noble about suffering.  Yes, sometimes suffering simply destroys.  However, at other times, something strangely redemptive happens.

Writing in The Developing Mind (2012), Daniel Siegal observes that we’re “hard-wired” to express emotional states through the face.  Thus, when it comes to the heart, our faces communicate far more powerfully and poignantly than words.  While our words possess a limited range, God created our faces to indicate our feelings infinitely in number and intensity.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg distinguishes between groaning and grumbling.  Furthermore, John notes, the Bible uses these two words to describe how people respond to suffering.

Thus, in Ephesians 2:23-25, we read that “the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help went up to God.  God heard their groaning . . . and was concerned about it.”

And, although grumbling occurs as much as groaning, it doesn’t garner the same response- from God or others.  As John concludes, God commends groaning, but forbids grumbling:

“In a nutshell, it’s this: Groaning is complaining to God; grumbling is complaining about God.  Groaning happens to God’s face.  Grumbling happens behind God’s back.”

Today’s question: How has suffering shattered your illusion of self-mastery?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Groaning in suffering builds intimacy”

About the author

Dave Henning

Leave a comment:

Call Now Button