Jesus and First World Problems

I stumbled across a meme the other day that really struck me wrong.

Maybe it’s just me, but I cringed from the first moment I saw it:

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Funny, to be sure. Poignant. Worth a thought. It seems to be saying that because Christ suffered greatly, our sufferings aren’t worth comparing.

And I don’t like it. I don’t think Scripture likes it.

Perhaps the problem here is simply the nature of the internet, the inevitable misfire of a simple image broadcasted indiscriminately. We really need “HERE’S MY SPECIFIED AUDIENCE” tags on everything. Because for many of its readers, it’s probably the last thing they need.

Let me ask this: how would you feel if you paid a counselor to sit there and tell you that you’re not really hurting and that it could be worse? You’d probably feel…out of his office, quickly. And rightfully so. No counselor worth his salt would dismiss a human struggle.

I think God, being the Wonderful Counselor, is a step above that kind of incompetence.

Now…I get the spirit of the picture. Can we take our earthly complaints too far? Probably. The world is, admittedly, speckled with whiners. Broken nails and busted pipes are perhaps worth a sigh to God, but not a prayer of weeping. Self-pity is real. It’s not the same as reaching out to God. There is perspective. Part of a healthy outlook is keeping in view the provision, safety, and services we enjoy that most of the world can only imagine.

But consider this…

Suggesting that middle-class Americans have nothing to gripe about, is equivalent to suggesting that being a middle-class American is what should be bringing us joy.

I hope I explained that well.

Suggesting that middle-class Americans have nothing to gripe about, is equivalent to suggesting that being a middle-class American is what should be bringing us joy.

I can’t find that anywhere in the Bible.

What I do find is this.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

That doesn’t make his comfort sound scarce.

And this.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1)

The passage from Isaiah was among Christ’s first words, his inaugural address to Israel. When he offered it, he knew that he was headed for suffering greater than any of these. He knew that any possible earthly calamity was dwarfed by the cross. If we’re talking about “hurts that are less than the cross”, we’re talking about EVERY hurt. Yet he offered anyway. What does that say about his heart?

The Christ who wept over sufferings which he himself was about to undo (John 11) is not standing over us shaking his head at “first world problems”.

A few years ago, a respected mentor of mine struggled. Her daughter was moving away to college. It was an ache, part and parcel of motherhood. Now, I could have been a huge jerk to her and handed her a dash of “first world problems” theology. I could have reminded her (though I’m sure, being wise, that she remembered this for herself) that some women would give their left arms to be able to afford college for the child. Or to even have a child. Or live in a nation with functional kindergarten. Yet this would have done nothing for her. The ache was real. (Fortunately, I was not such a jerk.)

From this mentor and friend, I learned that the Fall has a way of finding all of us.

When God cursed the world, he cursed the whole of it. And since all are cursed, all are candidates for God’s comfort. Otherwise the rich would get to escape the curse. Instead, they face inevitable losses like sickness, change, and the threat of loss. They find their riches unsatisfying, groaning for…they know not what. Usually they just pursue more of what they have. What they really ache for is Christ.

This is a holy groaning. A pain dismissed can never lead to Christ; a pain acknowledged is an opportunity to invite him in. My friend found great intimacy with God through the hardship of losing her kids to college. Who can argue with such a result?

But no, Mr. Internet Meme-Maker. Go ahead and diminish others’ groaning; pile on guilt and embarrassment. Life is hard enough; faith is already easy to shake. Would you now rob them of his comfort and companionship during hardships?

 

Forgive me if I react too strongly. Among the things that I will most passionately defend is God’s charity and compassionate heart for the hurting. Maybe that image didn’t mean to diminish God’s compassion, but it does a good job regardless. We should never assume we’re beyond God’s comfort because others have it worse. The Fall finds all of us. And Christ himself certainly didn’t suffer to make himself aloof; he suffered to make himself available to us.

And call me melodramatic, but on some days, even busted pipes can trigger deeper issues beneath the surface. Sometimes that’s how God gets to them.

He cares.

His love is expansive enough to cover all.

Let nothing tell you otherwise.

Rant over.

3 thoughts on “Jesus and First World Problems

  1. Wow… Thanks for sharing this. Just a few days ago I was thanking my best friend for patiently being there for me as I walked through some of the hardest times in my life and for listening to me as my emotions take me up and down.. God cares. And it doesn’t matter what you’re going through, He cares. Thank you for that reminder that there isn’t ever a problem too small for His concern.. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading this one. Just a few months ago life’s annoying struggles seemed to be non-stop but I found myself feeling somewhat guilty for whining because it could be worse and others do have it worse. Nevertheless, I realized the LORD is LORD over everything and wants to walk with me through
    everything in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

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