I was absolutely thrilled when My Friend Amy asked me to participate in the first Faith 'n' Fiction Round Table. I admit that I don't read a lot of Christian fiction, but I do enjoy what I read; and I always appreciate the books that Amy recommends. This month, we read and discussed WOUNDED by Claudia Mair Burney. I am so very glad I read this novel and participated in this round table because WOUNDED deeply affected me. I thought it was the perfect read as I headed into the Lenten season.
Below, you can read part of our round table discussion. I am especially excited to be posting the section on the theme of suffering because this aspect of this novel really touched my heart and challenged me to think.
Make sure you visit all of the blogs listed below to capture our full discussion.
Amy: My Friend Amy
Carrie: Books and Movies
Thomas: My Random Thoughts
Deborah: Books, Movies, Chinese Food
Heather: Book Addiction
Debbie: Down a New Road
Julie: What really touched me about this book though was the suffering aspect. Both Gina and Priest were definitely troubled and basically in a lot of pain -- both mentally and physically. I admit that I have a hard time accepting that we will suffer in this life and I often wonder why. At church yesterday, our priest touched on patience (which is another issue that I find fascinating to discuss) and suffering -- I almost pulled out my notepad to jot down some ideas for this discussion. Of course, I'm not as eloquent as he was but I did find this article on St. Paul and suffering. A few things really stood out for me:
- Paul understands that the suffering he endures serves as a way to be like Christ, as well as it being for Christ’s sake. Paul says: “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11)
- Another dimension of Paul’s thought on the meaning of suffering is his conception of suffering as a means for sanctification, keeping pride at a minimum and trust in God at a maximum. He says: “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’…For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
It is in weakness that we are more apt to trust in Christ because we realize that what we accomplish is not of our own doing, but the grace of Christ is working in us. Furthermore, it is in our weakness and suffering that we grow in humility and cannot pride ourselves in our accomplishments. We suffer “to make us rely, not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)
Did the suffering aspect of this novel cause anyone else to really reflect on their relationship with God? I can't seem to get it out of my mind!
Sheila: I often reflect on suffering and my relationship with God. I have been through huge trials in my life, beyond painful with loss and honestly, each one has brought me closer to Him. Closer in my faith. Gina appears to have this going on as well. As painful as what she is going through is, she is saddened when she thinks it is healing and going away.
Amy: And Julie, yes! I can't stop thinking about the provocative questions this book brings up about suffering.
Carrie: Okay, now I'm going to probably get myself in trouble with the whole issue of intimacy with God, but I'll jump in anyway. :) I grew up in a very charismatic denomination, and have come to the conclusion that a lot of what people say is "feeling God's presence" or "being intimate with God" or "being moved by the Spirit" can be simply coming from our own emotionalism. Not all the time - obviously God is present, and we can feel His presence at times, but if we don't "feel" Him, is He any less present? Of course not. I have seen the damage that a faith based on emotional experience can do in my sister's life. Once she didn't feel intimacy with God, feel His presence, she decide the whole thing must have been something she just invented. As she said, "I can get the same feelings by listening to a love song on the radio." I believe our relationship with God should be based on the truth of Who He is. If we get the fuzzy, "in love with God" feelings every once in a while, they are the icing on the cake, but those feelings will come and go, just like they come and go in a marriage. Our emotions can be fickle - they are not to be relied upon.
I'm not saying that in the book Gina didn't become very intimate with God - obviously that was what Burney was trying to portray. But I guess I don't expect to reach those same feelings of ecstasy in my own relationship with Him - at least not as a constant thing.
Hannah: I don't think even Gina expected to have that feeling of ecstasy as a constant. I know she says at a few points after she gets the stigmata that she's upset because she can't feel His presence anymore, but I understood that to mean she was shocked when the feeling left her and she still had the stigmata. I had the sense that pre-stigmata, her *feelings* of intimacy with God had ebbed and flowed, as mine do — or as any feelings do, for that matter. I took her statements as just one of the ways she was trying to understand what was happening to her.
Sheila: I thought it was on page 113 but I can not find it now, so now I cant recall if Priest said this or if it my own thought - but I wrote: I wonder if suffering isn't an invitation into a kind of intimacy with God. I believe it truly is. Personally speaking, I think my most intimate times with God are through suffering.... I also found those to be the times that I have the largest spiritual growth.