Archive for the ‘Making Sense of Suffering’ Category

Forlorn and lost and bereft of hope,

            Embraced by fear and pulled down the slope

Of pain and fear and desperation

            And dying from our separation

From our source of life, the God of love

            Who supremely rules from above.


In His holiness, He judges all.

            Yet to the sinner, He sends the call

To turn aside from all pride and sin

            And through Christ’s blood he is ushered in

To His presence! Be cleansed and made new!

            Pardoned and changed completely through!


O come and find His forgiveness now!

            And set yourself to discover how

Great and good is Jesus’ love for you!

            How beautiful and perfectly true

Is Jesus Who died to set you free

            But lives and reigns eternally!


Copyright © Thom Mollohan


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Ever been hurt by someone? Ever been dealt an emotional, mental, or spiritual pain that may or may not have accompanied a physical hurt? You know the kind of hurt I’m speaking of… a soul-searing ache that shoots into your heart and mind, eliciting responses of fear, anger, and hate as well as the temptation to react with fight or flight. For those who try to run away, pain has a way of pursuing them relentlessly, like an awful hound of anguish keeping them constantly looking over their shoulder in dread. Or the pain slyly disappears from view for a time, hidden in the waters of busyness and life, only to resurface unexpectedly, laying hold of its victim with its icy fingers and tempting them to either hide from life or lash out even at those who love them.

Perhaps you’ve tried to numb yourself to such pain, burying it with pursuits of other things that promise to mask the hurt as you medicate yourself with activities, accomplishments, pleasures, drugs or faulty relationships. Maybe you reason that such vices are better than violently seeking revenge on those who have hurt you. Still, in time the pain one buries has a way of taking root and shooting forth tentacled vines of regret, suffocating you and even controlling you like some alien weed that makes you something you never dreamed you could be – even in your worst nightmares.

At first, such strategies seem to work. You have a “respite” and so you buy into the lie that ignoring what hurts you, closing your eyes to the pain and locking memories in a closet of denial, will somehow make the hurt go away. But the problem with masking painful hurts, running from painful memories, or avoiding painful situations is that the pain remains. It’s still there, all the while injecting the poisons of bitterness, fear, and despair into your spirit. You can neither live fruitfully nor fellowship fully with others as long as pain is allowed to control your choices. Nor can you enjoy God and what it means to be His child as long as your pain is unaddressed. Consequently, you cannot be all you could be because of the control that unsurrendered pain has over you.

Let’s not oversimplify things, but let’s recognize that addressing pain victoriously begins with engaging the source of the pain itself. Acknowledging the pain and its source is essential to recovering from it. As you admit and “own” your hurt and what it is or was that hurt you, you can move on to the healing act of forgiveness.

Letting it go through the grace of forgiveness has less to do with letting someone else “off the hook” then it does with letting yourself “off the hook” of keeping score of what others deserve and the weighty obligation of taking them to account for their sins against you. And as you forgive, hearkening to God’s admonishment to forgive others (Matthew 6, Mark 11, Luke 6, 2 Corinthians 2, Colossians 3, etc.), you then trust in God’s forgiveness of you (1 John 1:9) and finally begin to find the holes in your soul beginning the process of healing.

Forgiveness, as opposed to running away from your pain or taking revenge out on those who have wronged you, allows you to move on to the new things in your life that God has in store for you. You let go of the former things (even your broken dreams) and press on (Philippians 3:13) allowing these new things (and new dreams) to fill up the empty spots in which your past experiences try to keep you trapped. This applies to even your own mistakes, failings, and sin… you set right what you can but you know that all the rest is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Walking obediently with Him (in even your attitudes as well as actions) allows His healing to become effectual in your experience. The more of God in your mind, heart, and experience, the less room for the bitter fruits of the past.

Healing takes time, by the way, and only the faithful and patient application of “waiting on the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31) allows you to experience the reality of recovery from the powerful grip of pain.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Many thoughts and prayers have been centered around the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Much dialogue, also, has (as usual) flurried around the matter of gun control and the answers to the questions of why it happened and how now to respond to it. There is so much heartache and brokenness emanating from this tragedy, so much that is horrific about taking the lives of the 26 people killed in what can only be described as a truly evil and cowardly act.

The day after it happened (Monday), I took a brief moment to pause and reflect on our own community and to consider its need for the hope in Jesus Christ that drew together believers there in Sutherland Springs, many of them for the last time.

As I looked out over Gallipolis and the Ohio River from Fortification Hill, my mind was filled with the thoughts of the people in our community, the men and women, boys and girls, their families, their homes, our schools and our churches and I prayed.

I prayed that God would open the hearts and minds of each of us to His presence and to His love. I prayed that He would open our lives to His power and to His hope. I prayed that He open our eyes to recognize that the only true hope that there is the world is found in His “only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

The terrible events of Sutherland Springs were insidious and contemptible in every way. Yet there is for Christians so much that resounds with an unspeakable glory and an unimaginable hope. The child of God has heard and accepted the truth that Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of all who repent and believe in Him (John 1:29) and that knowledge grants him a sure place to plant his feet and stand.

Truly, there is an unbearable pain being felt by the people of Sutherland Springs, a pain that we, in some measure, must each face. But it is not a pain that we must carry upon our shoulders; it is a pain that we find, if we will trust Him through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), that allows Him to lead us onward and upward to an eternal home in His presence.

“For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…. We ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:18, 23b-24a ESV).

Satan’s enticements and the resulting enslavement of minds, lives, hearts and souls often erupt in obviously wicked and horribly violent ways at times and our initial reaction often is to shy away from God and question His goodness or His power. But when we remember that this life and its trials and pains are not about this life, but about preparing us for the life to come, even death loses its terror as its shadow shrinks in the light of hope in Jesus’ love and power.

Even God has suffered the pain of loss, yet He endured it so that you and I could have a hope that conquers sin and death. His Word delivers to us, by His Holy Spirit, a conviction that He Who faced down death yet rose from the grave, will be with us even today to strengthen us in our walk and fill us with joy, granting to us strength to carry on and to hold out that truth for others to hear and receive as well.

What happened in Sutherland Springs can happen here in Gallipolis, Ohio. But Satan cannot conquer the heart that is already conquered by the glory of Christ. He cannot steal what is eternally grasped in the mighty grip of God Himself.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He Who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-32,35-39 ESV).

And that, dear one, is reason for great joy.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan


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Yesterday afternoon, the stunning horror of the massacre in Las Vegas reached my ears. I, along with the rest of the nation, was shocked by the unveiling of evil in another senseless tragedy. My prayers and the prayers of my family and church go up for those whose lives have been terribly changed by this unexpected intrusion of wickedness.

Many questions arise as the country strives to comprehend why a deeply disturbed man would do such calculated evil. And, as usual, folks from all sorts of political positions are jockeying for an interpretation of what has happened, why it happened, and what must be done to prevent it from happening again. The gun control debate, for example, is finding plenty of explosive fuel for renewed battles in our government and media arenas everywhere.

GrievFolks are looking for easy answers, and, by extension, easy solutions, but are dangerously prone to overlooking the subtle nature of the problem. It isn’t a gun control problem. A person who intends to do a terrible thing will certainly find a way to do it (as the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9-11 terrorists demonstrated for us). It isn’t even a violent game or a violent movie problem, although horrible violence acted out in the name of entertainment doesn’t help in the least and should alarm us at the level of cruelty that can be imagined.

The problem is more basic than these things. The problem is within the human heart. What happened in Las Vegas is nothing less than evil, whatever the motive of the attacker. What was the purpose of his assault? While Stephen Paddock sadly may have been a tormented person (no one seems to know clearly what his story was), the actions of this 64 year-old retiree can in no way be construed as trying to defend himself. It is clear that he was simply driven by a cruel desire to inflict pain and suffering.

However, if we are really concerned about getting right what is wrong with a country in which something so terrible can occur, we need to call this what it is: evil. Somehow evil was given such leeway in his mind and heart that it grew and eventually exploded in this unthinkable storm of hate and rage.

And now families across America are shattered with gaping holes left where loved ones once lived. People like you and me are wounded, not just physically, but in their very souls with images seared into their minds which no one should be forced to see. People like you and me everywhere find themselves confronted by the utterly sobering truth that nothing can be taken for granted and that very bad things are ready to leap in and take what is most precious to them.

In one brief moment, the entire world somersaulted for the those impacted by the Las Vegas attack. Bodies were broken, dreams were shattered, and lives were snuffed out. The tragedy grew and grew, bringing with it a firestorm of anguish that will never completely heal while this world lasts.

As people discuss the terrible events that have taken place, the question arise (quite naturally I might add), “Isn’t there ANY place that one can be safe?” On the one hand, the answer is, of course, “No.” There is no corner into which human presence has entered that there is absolutely no potential for violence and pain. Our social stability hangs upon a mere thread, as we depend on complicated systems of checks and balances to regulate the affairs of each day, recognizing that basic human nature cannot by itself govern and sustain our nation benevolently. In fact, it is a somber reality that any venue in any city, small town, suburban neighborhood or country road can become an arena for the darkest manifestations of evil just as readily as any late night subway or dark alley. Concert halls, shopping malls, athletic stadiums, college campuses, childcare centers, school playgrounds, church sanctuaries, Amish school houses and even living rooms cannot guarantee safety, let alone peace of mind.

But on the other hand, there is hope. The hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ cannot be derailed by sorrow and loss, even when it is of this incredible magnitude, because the hope that we have in Jesus Christ recognizes both the capacity that humanity has for rendering great evil to itself as well as the nearly bottomless depth of sorrow that we bear when faced suddenly with unthinkable loss. As surely as we suffer and mourn the events of today, we can know that God also suffers with us and mourns with us in our hurt, His heart aching from the pain that we bear.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled…. Jesus wept” (from John 11:33, 35).

The fact that our basic nature is not in harmony with His is deeply troubling to God. And when the awful fruits of our “independence” from Him ripen, yielding us a feast of trouble and grief that we cannot swallow, the compassion of God is stirred up and His Spirit reaches out to ours with an invitation to repent and turn to Him. And if in spite of our spiritual blindness and deafness, we can finally discern the truth that we truly DO need God to help us, sustain us, lead us, and purify us, we’ll finally actually begin living in the freedom with which God desires to wrap us.

“Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!… ‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me. I, I am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I am God. Also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from My hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 43:8, 10-13 ESV).

When He acts to redeem us from our sin and the hopelessness that characterizes a life that is bound to it, no one can reverse it. As we turn to Him, we come to the one place that truly is safe no matter the howling gales of trouble and cruelty. As we walk with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, abiding in the center of His will, we find that we are also in the center of His mercy and are the recipients of wellsprings of His grace.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Whom I trust…. If only I will pay attention to His commands, my peace will be like a river, my righteousness like the waves of the sea’” (from Psalm 91:1-2 & Isaiah 48:18).

One whose eyes are clouded with hurt and despair might ask why God doesn’t just do something. But he or she should take heart… God is doing something: He’s reaching out with mercy and grace, calling us to trust Him and to step out of the poisonous vapors of bitterness and despair. And He’s calling us to lift our hearts and voices to Him in prayer, seeking His help in an age where the only help we can truly have can only be found in Him.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Perhaps the most pernicious calamity assaulting people anywhere and everywhere in our area today is the epidemic levels of addiction. The most obvious expression of this plague is, of course, the deluge of opiates flooding our homes and families as “regular people” find themselves reeling from its merciless grip.

Billions of dollars of research both in private and in public sectors underscore the complexity of the problem indicating physiological causes and effects, psychological ones, and even sociological factors that contribute to and result from addiction.

This naturally leads us to various treatment options that approach the problem of addiction from these different vantage points. It often creates confusion for us when we see it from only one of these perspectives while others approach it from still another.

The truth is that there is legitimacy in these different philosophical approaches and we are wiser when we treat the “whole person”, aiming to get at the roots of each individual’s struggle with addiction.

The most essential quality for a person’s recovery is a “heart” that is ready for it.

However, there is one aspect I cannot underscore enough as fundamental to one’s ongoing victory over addiction and I truly believe it to be essential. In the many people that I encounter who have struggled or are struggling with addiction, it has become clear to me that the most central quality for their recovery is a “heart” that is ready for it.  In other words, it is necessary for a person to hunger within the essence of himself for real and lasting change and to recognize the spirituality of life and the purpose for which he has been created.  When that hunger is acknowledged as a real need for something that drugs cannot satisfy or fulfill, then the eyes of the heart can turn to the one thing that can.  It is what turns one from the downward spiral of selfishness towards an attitude that can look outward and upward.

Addiction is often viewed as a kind of terrible bondage, a heavy and burdensome chain that shackles a person, enslaving her with a feeling (the “high”) that relentlessly eludes its pursuer. It’s a good comparison.  It IS a chain.  And it mocks and torments its victims even while it boasts of its empty promises of pleasure and happiness… or at the very least, pretends that it can provide us escape from pain whether emotional or physical.

I have been asked, “How do we fight addiction? How can we overcome it?”  The answer, while some may think it overly simplistic, is that we lead the victims of addiction to the one pleasure that makes all other so-called pleasures pale in comparison.  We must unveil the “pleasures” of drugs for the anemic counterfeits that they are by holding them up to the “real thing”.  And what is the pleasure that transcends all others?  It is the joy of the Lord.  It is what can deliver the life that wants change.

But a person’s heart must be ready for real change and not just a temporary release from the intensity of addiction. If that were all, it is only a matter of time before the person slips back into the folds of whatever drugs they depend upon or, just as bad from an eternal point of view, would settle into another phony sense of purpose for his life, content perhaps for a time, but still ensnared with something less than God’s purpose for him.

Time and time again, I have found that when a person has come to the end of herself and finds that drugs cannot now nor ever will fill, only then is she really ready to look towards the one thing that can complete her.

When a person receives the gift of God’s cleansing forgiveness, there comes upon him a newness that begins to reframe his outlook and expectation for himself. Indeed, there is now an awakening that arises within him, as he shrugs off the shame and condemnation for which Jesus died on the cross:  “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him (Jesus), having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV). Because Jesus gave His life for us by dying in our place on the cross, God counted the sins of all who turn to Him for salvation as being paid for through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Then, for each person who turns to Jesus and learns that he has been made a new creation, God tells us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).  This knowledge is so powerful in a recovering addict’s life that comprehending it and then accepting it as true is the equivalent of dynamite when he comes up against the walls of resistance that addiction’s proud owner, Satan, throws in his way.

And finally there is the priceless gem of hope that Jesus grants us through His resurrection life, bequeathing to us (through faith in Him) the same power that brought Him back to life in His glorified form! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV).  When a recovering addict sees himself as something new and no longer bound by an old nature that was enslaved to a temporary, fleshly passion, he can then give himself over to love, forsaking all the illusions that addiction threw up previously and pursuing the higher, heavenly reality of an eternal God Who created him for His own glory.

Nothing conquers the short-sightedness of addiction like an overwhelming sense of the pricelessness of an eternity with a holy God Who loves us in spite of ourselves and holds open for us an open door to a forever kind of victory.

My heart’s desire then is to share with anyone whose heart is open to it, the message that God loves and God saves.   Jesus is proof of that reality.  In fact, Jesus is the way to that reality.  For the addict.  And for everyone else, too.

Whether addiction has been part of your story or not, Jesus is the Way.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jesus in John 14:6 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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I found myself this week reflecting on the tsunami disaster that struck twelve years ago this week. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands… dead. Within mere hours, in a cataclysm of monstrous proportions, a tsunami literally wiped countless numbers of people off the face of the earth.

Unsuspecting tourists, among the extremely vulnerable, perhaps intended to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Indian Ocean shoreline. Yet death came.

All along the 3000 miles of the coastal rim surrounding the Indian Ocean, children were walking along the beach, sitting on the floor of their village homes or playing in the streets… then death came. Even those wrapped in the arms of mothers or fathers were savagely ripped away and lost.

There were no easy explanations or cliché speeches one could share that would take away the hurt or mend the brokenness of all these lives even in the years that have followed.

Nor are there easy explanations or trite sentiments that I can express that erase the pain of tragedy today when it hits on a colossal scale as it did in 2004 or when we are alone, privately reeling from a personal loss whether the passing of a beloved child, the unexpected advent of cancer, or financial ruin so severe that there seems no recovery.

There is nothing that can be written here that would cause us to wake, when crisis and trauma afflict us, from what we wish was only a bad dream. Death and pain are permanent residents of planet Earth and at times gallop madly through our lives, trampling everything and everyone in their path.


While God has never promised us that we would not face death, pain, loss or sorrow, He joins us in this path that we walk.

But in spite of all the horror hurled at humanity by our broken and ravaged world, however and whenever it happens, God does not look on passively. While He has never promised us that we would not face death, pain, loss or sorrow, He joins us in this path that we walk. He grieves with us over our sorrows; He is pained by our hurts; and He laments our losses as if they were His own. He knows pain and loss intimately even as He Himself looked death boldly in the eye and willingly embraced it for our sakes.

Yet… on the other side of loss, there is hope. On the other side of grief, there is joy. On the other side of death, there is life.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-3 ESV).

Where do you turn when the world turns upside down? Where do you turn when you lose everything you ever wanted or ever needed? Where do you turn for hope?

And what do you say when it is someone else who has suffered so? Do you tell them to “just get over it” and walk away? Do you turn your eyes away, so afraid of facing pain yourself that you try to keep your distance?

May it not be so. If God had done that, we would never have had a Savior. “By this we know love, that (Jesus) laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV).

If you are a child of God, your purpose is to be an extension of His heart, a receptacle through which His love may pass and enter a beaten and battered world.

Be a vessel of comfort for someone who grieves. While it’s likely that there isn’t much you can say to make everything okay again, your loving presence in the life of someone who hurts can touch a broken life with comfort.

Be a source of help to someone who is struggling to survive. In your church or in an outreach center near you there may be found avenues for helping others who do not have enough.

God, speaking through His prophet five centuries before the Lord Jesus was laid in a straw-filled manger, said of Christ, “Behold My servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen, in Whom My soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations… a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for His law” (Isaiah 42:1, 3-4 ESV).

Still in the business of lifting up bruised reeds and rekindling smoldering wicks, the tender heart of God even now seeks to bring hope to the islands: the islands spread all over the Indian Ocean as well as the private little islands of the struggling souls of those with whom we work and play every day. Let us then be His hands and feet in this New Year.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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A thousand things may come to mind Reaching Hand

When one’s calling he seeks to find.

Riches, pleasure, fame and power

May bloom like a fading flower.

Yet their promise fades in the end

Or turns away like a false friend.

So sense of purpose has been lost

And to dark despair hopes are tossed.

But piercing clouds of doubt and fear,

The light of Jesus’ love shines clear.

We cry aloud to Him Who gave

His life for us so He could save

Us for His purposes and plans.

Our Blessed Savior understands

The strife and pain we suffer through

And helps us know what we must do.

He is the Goal for which we reach;

To our souls He’s the Song we teach;

The Living Water our hearts crave;

The Reason that this life we brave.

The rest of life falls into place,

When we believe we’re led by grace.


Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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