Christianity 201

September 21, 2021

Christians and “Failure Porn”

A recent popular Christian podcast series was accused of creating “failure porn.” The term is a reference to those reports and stories of people who experienced failure in ministry — for whatever reason — and the resultant charge or excitement that others seem to get in hearing or reading such accounts.

It’s been compared to the “thrill” — and I hate having used that word — that someone might get in seeing a train wreck. It does seem to be a trait of human nature that people slow down when there has been a bad accident on the freeway. Is that mere curiosity or something else?

A Washington Post headline called it the “celebration of failure.”

Such reaction is antithetical to Christian living.

Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Or, other translations: weep with those who weep.)

We’re told that Job’s friends didn’t just drive by and later relay the details of Job’s tragedy to their friends and family, but rather they entered in to his suffering. We read that, “When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.” (2:11)

This can also include entering into the suffering of those who, rather than have external circumstances befall them, have brought about their condition by their own doing. The writer of Hebrews tells us, Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (13:3)

Paul echoes this in Romans: We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (15:1)

“Bearing with” or “taking on” the consequences and circumstances of those who have fallen, as though it befell or happened to us will help us see these situations in a different light. Again, Paul writing to the Corinthians this time says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I-12:27-28)

He’s speaking about what it means to be part of a body. Even when someone with a high profile experiences catastrophic, headline-making failure, our response should be, “That’s my brother,” or “That’s my sister you’re talking about.”

…The thing I like about the podcast against which the charge of producing “failure porn” has been leveled against is that they are going out of their way to find the redemptive value in us hearing the stories and learning from them. The host has said many times he wants to do this in order to benefit the church, and I personally trust that this is indeed his genuine motive.

Furthermore, many of the Old Testament narratives — and a few in the New Testament as well — are accounts of colossal failures; stories of people who perhaps failed to listen to God (or the prophets) and committed grave errors and made huge mistakes.

Paul in Romans says that, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us…” We’re not to look at Noah’s weak moments, or David’s failure, or Samson’s character flaws and experience some type of endorphin rush, or what the Washington Post called celebration.

But even there in Romans, Paul is thankfully focused on the more positive things that are written for our benefit. The full text reads,

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (15:4-6)

all scriptures today, NIV

 

February 25, 2012

There is a River

The most interesting part of this blog is the part you never get to see: The discovery of all the wonderful things God is doing in the lives of unique individuals as reflected in the Christian blogosphere. Today’s post is part of a much longer story that will be especially of interest to women, and because the blog is relatively new, you’re encouraged to visit Faith Rises and go back to the very first post in January of this year, and follow Faith’s continuing story. You can probably read the whole narrative (to date) in less than 30 minutes.

After combing through, I decided to stay with the most current blog post — the one that led me to Faith Rises initially — that will be most meaningful to those of you for whom tears of been part of your experience this week.  The original title was Two Rivers.

Once, when I was invited to speak at a Women’s Conference to share my story, I opened by saying that I had cried a “river of tears”… That may not sound very encouraging, to some people, but I knew that there were  women present who could relate, because they too had experienced the pain and disappointments that lead to crying lots of tears. I knew, because I had been there…

Sometimes people, in an effort to be comforting,  may say,” I know how you feel”… but it’s much more of a comfort when you know that someone has actually experienced circumstances similar to your own. As women, we feel things so deeply, and “crying a river of tears” was the best way that I could describe the heartfelt sadness that accompanied me through this difficult time in my life. I knew that I was not the only one to feel this way.

Many mornings,when I was having problems with my health, and praying for a miracle, my husband would wake to hear me quietly crying, with my head sunk in my pillow. He would try to comfort me, but after a while, I think he just wanted me to let go of what he considered to be an “obsession” with wanting to have a baby. But I was not obsessed, and I would not let go.

In spite of all my tears, I knew in my heart, that there was another river…

Psalm 46 says that,

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,…God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early… Be still and know that I am God…”

Sometimes we need to have a good cry, and that’s OK,… but we mustn’t cry as if there’s no hope… There is true comfort in knowing that God sees our tears, and will answer our prayers. Just remember,

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!”

Again, at risk of repeating myself, I strongly encourage you to read Faith’s story.  This link should take you to the oldest January ’12 posts where you can begin.

March 7, 2011

Seeing Illness as a Blessing

Yesterday’s and today’s items here don’t have any specific scripture references.  I wrote this three years ago at an obvious low point, and thought it might be applicable to someone reading it today; maybe you are that person.  Readers may want to add a scripture verse in the comments that references one or all of the points here…

  • Illness forces us to slow down, and that forces us to do the things that really matter, and that forces us to decide what really matters
  • Illness forces us to ask God for help on behalf of ourselves, which seems selfish at times, so first we have to apologize for asking
  • Illness causes us to ask other believers to join in prayer for us, which can be rather humbling
  • Illness helps us remember others who are suffering, it helps us to identify and empathize with their situation
  • Illness – while not necessarily caused by sin -brings us to a wonderful season of self examination and determination to aim for greater holiness
  • Illness reminds us of our mortality; our material culture has forced us to cling to everything including life itself, but our lives have an expiry date
  • Illness has a mellowing, sobering effect on us – some things can become potentially more irritating, but some other things no longer matter as much
  • Illness forces us to ask bigger questions; Is God in control? Does He care about the details of my life? Will he intervene in a special way?
  • Illness brings into clarity other times we were ill, and reminds us that God brought us through that time
  • Illness helps us hear Christian songs differently; “I thank God for the mountains, and I thank him for the valleys…” Can I do that right now?

I’m sure there are other things, too. Most of the prayer requests in our churches are for issues people are dealing with in their physical bodies. Pray specifically for one another. If you are the person for whom this was for today, listen for God’s voice in the middle of all you’re going through.