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Lessons from ME/CFS: Finding Meaning in the Suffering
If you're aware of my previous articles here at Phoenix Rising then it's pretty clear that I don't generally spend my time musing upon the philosophy of the disease. I find it better to spend my time reading research and trying my best to break it down to its core elements and write...
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CFS turned my spiritual life, and my church world, upside down

Discussion in 'Spirituality and ME/CFS' started by Jody, Dec 29, 2009.

  1. Snez

    Snez Senior Member

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    This is exactly how I felt, I hate the trite and thoughtless way in which scripture is quoted to those that suffer. Like you Brenda, it does get too much to bear. I've seen this in my own life and in the life of others. I had a severely depressed Christian friend who committed suicide- obviously she had been "given" too much to cope with. Another Christian friend with CFS tells me how she barely hangs on, she thought that God told her that he would heal her. These crises throw me again and again, and I tend to re-evaluate my beliefs with every new thing that comes my way. I question and question till I get to the end of myself, and there I find God.

    The early church model is very attractive and I yearn for its simplicity, the real sense of community, its loving focus on people in need, the distribution of wealth (out of love and not compulsion).
  2. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Resting,

    I have read your lament. And ... I heard it. :)

    You expressed yourself very well. It will not fade away into a void.:)
  3. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    We definitely want to hear more.:)
  4. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    I agree with you Snez. And for me, if there is life after church after cfs, it will be along those simple lines you describe.
  5. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    I found that tithing originally was not done to a pastor or to a church in a building to pay its mortgage and its bills.

    It was to priests and Levites, who have no equivalent in the modern day church. They were more the ... civil servants of the day. And extra giving on special feast days was used to prepare feasts, so it was eaten by the people. By the people who brought the offerings or money and by the people who they shared it with. The poor who had none of their own. In other words, it went right back into the people.
  6. RestingInHim

    RestingInHim Realist

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    i hear you

    these are the very things i have been contemplating...not only thru my illness, but since a missionary friend who is here now began a home church that functions just as you described.

    i believe property is going to be taken away from churches in the U.S. soon and then churches will get back to the beginning.

    may i ask, how do you find a way to interact with other believers now?
  7. CJB

    CJB Senior Member

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    My sister is a Quaker and this is very much how their meetings are conducted.
  8. RestingInHim

    RestingInHim Realist

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    amen!

    i couldn't agree more. i believe it's out there...but not easy to find. house churches are on the rise. take heart.
  9. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    I found that the early church fathers generally did not believe in hell.

    I read the early documentation for myself as this really surprised me. But it was there. The couple of early leaders who initially taught about hell made no secret amongst themselves that they did this to keep the congregation in line.

    Oh yeah.

    What I was taught, in different churches and in different denominations about hell originated in Egyptian religion, and other religions, and from pagan mythology in what is now the UK, and other parts of the world that were "conquered" by Christianity as it spread across the world.

    When I went back to the New Testament to test whether this new perspective could be so, I got new meaning from the writings of Paul about Christians being the happiest of people. About the writings that said they will know we are Christians by our love for one another.

    What I took from this study (which I did carefully and in depth and with great thought) was that Christians according to the early teachings, are open armed and welcoming to others. That the judgment that I had thought to be an inevitable if regrettable part of this belief system, springs from this focus on a hell. And that having discarded this piece of belief, ... it changed how I saw everything in any spiritual vein.
  10. RestingInHim

    RestingInHim Realist

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    Thank you!

    Thank you. i believe God hears...and He is answering.
  11. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    LOL

    That's the million dollar question. :D

    I don't interact with hardly anyone in "real" life. My family. That's about it.

    Most of my life is "virtual", here on the net. On the forums, on facebook ... a few friends that I email.

    I still have friends who are happily entrenched in their churches, in their old ways, it still suits them and that is fine with me. We still have a relationship, I just don't bring up these things with them. Unless it seems that they are doing some questioning on their own. Happens once in awhile.

    I vacillate between considering myself a Christian, and not. I do believe that I've experienced the presence of God in my personal life. I believe he is actively given me guidance and direction at different times and as I look back on it, some of it twenty years after the fact, I still see his hand leading me in ways I would never have thought of on my own.

    But, because I don't believe the Package of doctrine anymore ... I don't know if I am a Christian. And I'm not sure it matters really. I stay with the One who knows me and who I know, and that seems to be enough. Occasionally I cross paths with someone who seems open and hungry for spiritual things (not really sure what THAT means anymore, but we'll use the word for now) and I will share with them as far as it seems good to do.
  12. Snez

    Snez Senior Member

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    I totally agree. I have seen this for a number of years now. I get so frustrated that the church has this mindset of running more and more programs. It makes me feel tired thinking about it. And a lot of the time there is hardly any reference to God - it is often a human idea, done on human terms, with human effort. Very little reliance on God.

    Despite my frustrations, I still go to church. I acknowledge its imperfections but need the fellowship of other Christians. Besides I believe I can affect some change (one tiny step at a time) even if it is to help people think about how we treat the chronically ill.
  13. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Then I think they're onto a good thing. And from what I understand this is the way they have always operated.
  14. RestingInHim

    RestingInHim Realist

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    Hell is separation from God. i agree...we are to welcome all with open arms and share with others so they might know Him. period. we are not the judge.

    what a great example in Paul of how to live with suffering...and not waste it! Thanks for that reminder!

    have you read Francis Schaeffer's tiny book The Mark of a Christian? all about love.
  15. RestingInHim

    RestingInHim Realist

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    good thing we're not required to adhere to a Package to know God...we only need to accept Him...His claims...found in His word.

    i'm really pooped now...i'll come back to this thread later. this has been a wonderful gift to me today!! thank you!!
  16. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Well, I'll speak for all of us on this thread, and say,

    You're welcome. :)
  17. Marylib

    Marylib Senior Member

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    for Brenda and all

    There is always St. Theresa of Avila....she had unbearable circumstances at time. But her faith was born of personal experience, like most Christian "mystics."

    In my life, I have found that personal experience leaves doctrine and current forms of Christianity in the dust.
  18. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    I am so glad to see this topic. Isn't it wonderful that we come together, each with our own experiences?

    I was raised Catholic, learning my faith at my very loving grandmother's knee and, in primary (grade) school, at the hands of nuns who made your hair curl. High school was a different experience. Taught by Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, I was taught to question. And question I did. Right out of the Church. When I think back, I was filled with so much (self)righteous anger at everyone who called themselves Christian but did not live their faith that I spent some years away. Then I went back, then away again.

    Eventually at the age of 32, I needed major surgery. After the operation, instead of being sedated like everyone else, I spent a night thrashing about in my bed, in a pained sweat. I never knew such agony could exist yet had maxed out on the amount of morphine they could give me. After about 18 hours, I remember saying "I am thirsty," and a nurse telling me she did not think a little sip of water would harm. Then I finally slept. Two days passed, then I learned that my friend's newborn baby had died. I cried, "There is no God." Then, "I need a priest." In a town with six Catholic churches, the only priest they could find was a good friend of mine. We'd worked together on some political issues and he was the last person I wanted to see. Confession and Communion later, I had an experience I will never forget. I felt as if I had been lifted off my bed, surrounded by light, and I heard "I love you, just as you are." I don't know what that experience was, but I have never left since. And I do have a clean psychiatric bill of health. :D

    ME/CFS drew me closer to God, into that deeply personal relationship I had only read about. I was not depressed because I knew - really knew - that He had everything in hand. The hardest time for me was when we first moved over here. My in-laws shunned me, afraid that they might catch something. I didn't know another living soul and my husband was working very long hours. But there in the isolation - John Of The Cross' dark night of the soul - I was aware of the presence of a loving God and He gave to me what St John would have called consolations, to keep me close.

    Now, I did not expect to ever share any of that. Phew. There's more, but suffice to say for now that sickness drew me closer to God and gave me a deeper understanding of Jesus' suffering and the meaning of the Cross.
  19. brenda

    brenda Senior Member

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    the path of suffering leads to the summit of union

    There is so much on this thread that resonates with me - it is wonderful to hear that others have/are going through the same things, having the same thoughts.

    It is not easy to talk about my pathway recently as I have been/am going through a trial for a while and it seems to be that, I have stopped so far on the 'mountain' that is, the spiritual pathway, and am looking back instead of forwards, and trying to make sense of the path I took, and berating myself for my frequent stupididty, as now, of course, being higher up, I have a fuller perspective and also a different view of God and my relationship with Christ. It has been at times as though I was holding on by a thread but now I see that this is the pattern.

    This discussion has started off a breakthrough for me which I am very grateful to you all for helping me by being so open about your thoughts. Perhaps it is a necessary stage that we must go through, to re-evaluate everything, even though it is difficult and can really knock us off balance to think that we were so sure we were right but now we see we were wrong. Can we know anything?

    I think it is a good thing and not a bad thing. The bad thing is to be stuck and hold the same beliefs for years. There must be a continuation of growth and understanding.

    Martlet, yes it is the times when we are transported to the 'top' for a short taste and into the sunlight of God's overwhelming love for us and His acceptance of us as we are, that it makes sense at last. And as you said, gives insight into the meaning of the cross not just regarding Christ, but also for us. All of my growth has centered on this understanding and how it is the centre of all creation, everything revolves around it.

    Jody yes I went through that too, seeing the early church's expression of the real thing and wondering why it has not happened much since and all that you say about the role of the priest/pastor the building, the order of service etc etc.

    I came to see that not too many climb up very high on the 'mountain', it is so difficult and I cannot judge them because it has only been through suffering so much that I was forced up it as it were in order to remain alive. And indeed we need this lower level I think because however high we each climb there will be times when we stop and look back or indeed fall back down some of the way. So the conventional form of Christianity keeps things ticking over when the spiritual climate is low and the Holy Spirit is not actively involved in us or the church. It's just to risky to attempt real Christianity without Him leading.

    I think that the church is in a bad way at present and what seems to be the work of the HS is not because it has its basis in emotion, whereas the true movement of God is by the spiritual and there is a big difference between them, and it shows in the 'fruit' in what it produces in people and what I have seen is very unripe indeed in these quarters. There is an emphasis on the future - that one day God is going to heal me, that I am broken but one day God is going to fix me that I am poor but one day God is going to make me rich. I see many people who are confused and unable to get over their emotional pain.

    The real thing however is in the present - in the union between God and man, and that suffering is the means to this and must be accepted and even embraced before we can come into deep union, and be abble to echo the words of the apostle Paul - when I am weak He is strong - I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me etc. It is a place where the credibility gap is breached and we can see our lives echoed in the new testament.

    This is where I found a different path to evangelicalism. I found Christian mysticism, Martlet and Marylib which as you know is about the steep climb up and the reaching of the summit to dwell there in the light and union with God and knowing Him as a present reality, more real than the closest person to us, and know His voice and His speaking to us, not through scripture, the sermon, the icons, the councils or mere men, but a direct hearing of Him and sharing of His heart with us.

    This is what I found, that all religions seek, to be one with the 'other' because ultimate truth at basic level is universally recognised by the spirit of man, and we all have the same longing within purely because God put it there. I felt that many go astray, and/or take a long pathway because they look at what is supposed to be the real thing ie conventional Christianity and see that it is not, but missing what is at the core of it and go after fanciful notions that fail in the end because the cross is not there nor is Christ. I had to find out that it did not accomodate deep levels of suffering first in order to find the kernel.

    Jody I found that heaven and hell are for this life, hell is seperation from God and heaven is union with Him, the kingdom is for this life, but the kingdom is within us not something that we are to see in the future. If we are not in the kingdom then we have no future as far as being united with Christ for eternity.

    I also found that the clearest expression of my new found beliefs were in early Quakerism and the mystic George Fox who had an amazing testimony of the path of suffering then enlightenment. I agree with so much of what he taught that those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth and everything else is put there when the presence of God is missing. This is what happened at the closing period of the OT when the Jews made a tabernacle to replace the temple where God had dwelled with His presence.

    This period fascinated me because the church is patterned on this period with the reading of scripture and the sermon being the focal point of the meetings and all of sacramental religionis based on the OT symbolism of what the temple and priests would become spiritually not physically. The Quakers did away with it all and sat together to allow God to speak to them instead of they doing all the speaking. And He did.

    Sorry to ramble, I am really on a roll. :D

    Basically what I am saying is that it was on the climb up the mountain of suffering, which is a necesary journey to break our outer shells, and it is very painful but God gives us comfort on the way, and reaching the top makes it all worth it, and the light we receive on the way there helps us to go further on, and the wooing of God touches our hearts and souls in just the right places so that we do not become babies needing attention all of the time, but that we learn the way of the cross and the dark night, not just of the soul, that is the first part, but the dark night of the spirit which is terrifying at times, but if we will just trust Him that He knows the way He is taking us, and instead of fighting against our circumstances, yes even indeed this terrible illness, accepting all things from His hand good and bad, then we will evolve and make quick progress instead of stalling at the lower slopes where I have been for many a year..
  20. Countrygirl

    Countrygirl Senior Member

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    Thank you.

    I'm so glad to have found this thread and thanks so much for sharing so honestly. I, too, have experienced much the same as you folks and find it a great encouragement to read your posts. I haven't the energy-time to write anything else at the moment , but will get back when I can.

    I just wanted to say thank you....... :) :)

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