Hell’s Kitchen — Part 3


Not Worthy to Compare


What about my own little, “Hell’s Kitchen”?

Well, I’ve endured church splits, church split attempts, the attempt of attempting a church split (just kidding), irate people, slander, gossip, anonymous (sniper) comment cards, threats (direct and indirect), false accusations, sniper letters sent to people, phone calls, secret meetings, made up stories, my own past (i.e. sins and mistakes already forgiven by Christ. Yes, pastors have them too.)…

And that’s just the church! I could go on and on with personal issues, but who couldn’t?

I thought, “God, I’ve suffered enough. Can’t I catch a break here?”

Then I stumbled upon this list (and particular individual’s “Hell’s Kitchen”) in 2 Corinthians 11:23:

I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.

That rocked my world! In comparison to the apostle Paul (and a whole lot of others, I might add.) I have not yet begun to suffer! This list left me reeling! Add to that what is says in the book of James about what our attitude is supposed to be like when suffering for Him here,

2 My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, 3 because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.4 Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need. James 1:2–4

We’re not done throwing in ingredients to this suffering soufflé. Check this resume out:

2-6The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
Isaiah 53:4–6

And Jesus had a few things to say to those who try to build a problem free life of comfort:

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? Matthew 16:24

So suffering is the single most common ingredient in Hell’s Kitchen. You won’t cook much of anything worthwhile without it. But suffering can be broken down to show all that goes into (or comes out of) it—A dash of discouragement here, a pinch of pessimism there, 3 scoops of sadness, a tablespoon of torture, a lump of loss, mince up some misery and stir it all together for the winning entree in Hell’s Kitchen.

And then count it all joy.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you how.