Your Pain Is Amusing

3 09 2010

“There is great comfort and inspiration in the feeling of close human relationships and its bearing on our mutual fortunes – a powerful force, to overcome the “tough breaks” which are certain to come to most of us from time to time”

– Walt Disney

I am reading chapter one in the Bible book, Obadiah, and listening to God speaking to Edom, the descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob a long, long, long time ago. How does it apply to me?

You shouldn’t have gloated over your brother
when he was down-and-out…
You shouldn’t have talked so big
when everything was so bad.
You shouldn’t have taken advantage of my people
when their lives had fallen apart.
You of all people should not have been amused
by their troubles, their wrecked nation.
You shouldn’t have taken the shirt off their back
when they were knocked flat, defenseless.
And you shouldn’t have stood waiting at the outskirts
and cut off refugees,
And traitorously turned in helpless survivors
who had lost everything.

(from the paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, Obadiah 1)

I had to go back and bold those the things Edom did; they were relatives you know, Edom and Judah; brothers. Edom was put out about something and when Judah was in a bad place, Edom just made it worse. Edom took advantage of the situation and kicked them when they were down.

Out of all the things they did, I think the one I keep coming back to is the idea of being amused by someone else’s troubles; amused by how “other people” wreck their lives. It is a dark trait but alive and well; obviously, or Reality Television would cease to exist.

But am I, am I amused? Am I entertained by other people’s troubles?

This is a huge problem; other people’s bad days are interesting in that “glad-its-not-me” kind of way; but more than relief, other people’s bad days give me the opportunity to feel superior.

I don’t think I really need to pull this apart too much; I just have to read the verses again and be honest. Don’t I see myself in there? I might not be taking the shirt off someone’s back, but I can talk big. I might not be gloating, but if the person experiencing “bad luck” happens to be someone I have felt slighted by, isn’t there just a hint of satisfaction?

As I see it, there are three things I need to pay attention to and respond with

  1. How much press is someone else’s troubles getting in my conversations, and if the topic seems to be on the table a lot, why? How much information do I need to know in order to understand and respond? How much do I need to verbalize, and how much do I just need to process for myself in a private and personal way; a mindful way?
  2. How many seconds between “hearing the news” and praying are there? Prayer is anti-venom. And I am not talking about the prayer-circle that becomes the gossip-circle; I am talking about me bringing this person’s troubles straight to Jesus, sincerely, and earnestly.
  3. Am I asking Jesus what I ought to do about it? Not “everyone” or “everything” becomes my responsibility to engage with; but if Jesus is asking me to, will I? And if I am not called to engage person-to-person then am I doing my part to be a woman of peace, a person of good-will?

Christ-followers, of all people, should not be amused by other people’s troubles. God, help me to be pure about this and don’t let me get away with watching and waiting at the outskirts. Help me to be a burden bearer, led by Your Spirit in this, so that “I might not sin against You” in how I respond to my brothers and sisters when they are down.

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: there are so many things we can’t fix or solve but I can always encourage, meaningfully. I can always try, at the least, to inspire and lift up.  The call to this is all over the Bible: to be bearers of good news, to lift someone up when they are down, to carry one another’s burdens, to bring a good word, to listen well, to cast vision. There is also a time for truth-telling; but I ought not rush into this because there are some pretty important pre-steps to the Truth: a lot of prayer, a lot of motive-checks, a lot of sensitivity to the actual leading of the Spirit, a lot of love…

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