The Thrill is Gone: B.B. King and my love of the blues and theology

The Thrill is Gone: B.B. King and my love of the blues and theology

Last night, another hero of mine died. BB King is one of the few artists who caused me to fall in love with the blues. Blues music gives an incredible parallel narrative and context to the Bible.

My Hiding Place [a prayer]

Good afternoon Father, You are my refuge and my strength. You are my hiding place in the midst of the storms that my life may bring. I look at your comfort and realize that you may never say a word to my soul, but I can know and trust that you are present in my pain and that is all I can ask for. I am more comforted by the one who just sits with me and weeps with me. I am more comforted by the one who tries his hardest to ache with me instead of telling me they know what I am going through. I am more comforted by the one who sits silently by my side while I ache instead of trying to fix everything.

You have been my comfort in this suffering world. You have been present with me while I ached, and though you may not have been speaking to my heart, I know that you entered into my pain and hurt with me. I know that you ache when I ache because no Father wants to see his child hurt. No Father wants to have his child know pain, but pain is a part of this life whether we like it or not. Pain is inevitable, and though a father would love to just take pain away, this suffering world makes that impossible right now.

So the best a Father can do is be there when the child aches and hurts. You have been there when I ached. You may not always speak to my heart, but I know you are present in my pain. I know you ache when I ache, and THAT is how you are my hiding strength; a very present help in trouble. Because though the trouble still remains, you are my hiding place.

- St. PC of the Comforted

What Tylenol has to do with compassion

Dr. Paul Brand wrote a book called The Gift of Pain.  He has had exposure to great pain and has learned a great deal about it.  He has seen several different cultures and their response to pain and how that affects those within the culture.  I found his perception of American culture and its response to pain very interesting. “...a society that seeks to avoid pain at all costs.  Patients lived at a greater comfort level than any I had previously treated, BUT THEY SEEMED FAR LESS EQUIPPED TO HANDLE SUFFERING AND FAR MORE TRAUMATIZED BY IT.” (EMPHASIS mine)

We are one of the only cultures in the world, which avoids pain at all cost.  The pain relief industry in America is a more than $63 billion A YEAR industry.  What has been the result of that avoidance?

Because of our exceptional avoidance of pain, we have continually made ourselves more and more unable to handle suffering.

What I have challenged myself with as a Christian is to try and understand what compassionate love is going to look like with this information.

The Latin break down of “compassion” is “com” + “patti”, which ends up meaning “to suffer with”.

As a Christian, I have been called to compassion toward those around me.  I have been called to SUFFER WITH those around me.

Now as an American Christian, this is going to be a greater challenge.  For me to be compassionate I will need to suffer with others; but in order to suffer with others, I will need to give up trying so hard to avoid pain.

It is no wonder being compassionate is so difficult!


“I learned that pain sends a signal not only to the patient but to the surrounding community as well.  Just as individual pain sensors announce to other cells in the body, ‘Attend to me! I need help!” so do suffering human beings cry out to the community at large.” – Dr. Paul Brand

Potential Suns of Suffering

"Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation--since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business." -James 1:9-11

Remember the tone of this entire chapter is in light of suffering, and the idea presented here is one of roots.

Suffering and trials and troubles, like the sun, are potentially dangerous and destructive, but they have equal potential for light and growth.

Our suffering and our trials have the potential to create destruction in our lives, but they also have the potential to help us grow and refine the person we are.

Like plants under the sun, the issue at hand is how deep the root runs, so is our suffering. If our root is shallow and dependant on our riches or other things, we will wilt away under the scorching heat of suffering.

But if our root runs deep into the richer soils of humility, family, and Christ, the suns of suffering will come, but we will find beauty and growth from the Light.

When Suffering Becomes Sinful

I have been taking a very slow walk through the book of James. Coming to it nearly a verse per day! Though my personal time is at James 1:4 right now, I am still thinking a lot about 1:2.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds."

A stronger look at the word "trials" has revealed more than ever really noticed before. It comes from the Greek word pierasmos and it means "putting proof to". It is a sense of is a sens of temptation. Some translations actually read 'temptations'.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters when you face temptations of many kinds."

Now we cannot get too far away to forget the sense we originally understood of trials being similar to the difficulties, struggles, and tensions we face and here and now. These are suffering! We are not to think the author did not mean suffering or trials.

What we need to understad is that our suffering is temptation.

When we face trials, struggles, difficulties, and suffering, we are being tempted. We are facing pierasmos. We are being put to proof.

Regardless of the circumstances, when we are tempted, we are not sinning. It is when temptation places in front of us a decision whether or not to obey God's command's and we choose not to that we sin.

Now again, remember, our suffering is temptation.

When we are suffering, we are faced with a decision. We may choose to obey God's command in response to our suffering (which is to choose joy) OR we can choose sin and disobedience (which would be bitterness, anger, pity, etc.).

Each moment we face suffering or trials, we are being tempted, and we would do well to look to God and his Word for wisdom in what reactions and decisions to make in those moments.

It is not easier a temptation to face than lust, greed, or pride.