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A Catholic Response to Joel Osteen Broadcast: 9/2/12, Suffering

The title of Joel Osteen’s broadcast message this week was “Deal With It!” Joel wanted his audience to understand that there were things in life that we were just going to have to deal with and that would entail suffering. I was very interested to see Joel mention suffering in his broadcast, because suffering is not his usual topic.

Joel was clear that from his perspective, suffering caused by the evils in the world, such as poverty, disease, disasters, etc. were not God’s will for us. From other talks of his that I have heard, I gather that he believes that God intends to lift us out of such suffering. But instead of focusing on the different Catholic perspective regarding those matters, I want to focus on the thing he said about suffering that had this Catholic nodding in agreement.

Joel said that when we are convicted by God of some sin that we need to deal with we will experience that as a suffering. He gave such illustrations as having to bridle our tongues when everything in our flesh wants to lash out at others, or having to curb ourselves when we have a desire for revenge and know instead that God’s standard for us is forgiveness, or the kind of intense struggle that we may enter into to overcome addictions. He said that on such occasions we experience real suffering. But that if we will go ahead and go through that suffering that we will be greatly rewarded by it. It will, as he put it cause us to go “higher” or “to the next level” in our spiritual life.

It is certainly true that disciplining our flesh in its state of concupiscence is a real struggle that entails suffering. One portion of his message though, evoked in me a particular gladness regarding being Catholic.

Joel Osteen talked about a man of his acquaintance who was struggling with an addiction. This man passed into a time when he felt especially strong, as though God was bracing him to finally overcome his problem. But the man did not take any action. He kept putting it off until that sense of strength from God faded, and he felt thoroughly in the grip of his addiction again. He told Joel that he felt like he had “missed his season of grace.” Joel wanted to warn his hearers that when God is prompting them to deal with something they should take advantage of that season of grace and not allow it to slip by. He assured people that God would indeed send another season of grace but he cautioned that the next time it would be harder to deal with the problem, which by then would become even more entrenched.

Of course, it is good advice that we ought to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and not ignore them when He convicts us of sin. Otherwise we may be guilty of spiritual sloth! However, I could not help but reflect on what a wonderful blessing it is to be Catholic. I am blessed to know that a season of grace is not merely a subjective feeling I might have of conviction of sin and the internal sense of God strengthening me to endure the suffering necessary to overcome it in my life. Instead I know that this season of grace is objectively always available to me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I can, at any time, and should at regular intervals, ask the Holy Spirit to help me make a good examination of conscience, and then throw myself into the Lord’s merciful arms by the ministry of his priest. That’s how we Catholics deal with it!


Mary Kochan, former Senior Editor of CatholicExchange, is Editor-at-Large  of CatholicLane.com.

Raised as a  third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Mary worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996.  Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs. To arrange for Mary to speak at your event, you may contact her at kochanmar@gmail.com.

  • Claire

    Brilliant Mary! I appreciate your perspective on this, as I just watched this particular broadcast yesterday. I have to say that sometimes Joel really surprises me with some insights that sound almost Catholic (of course, there are other times when he doesn’t sound Catholic at all, like when he preaches the “health and wealth” gospel…). Another statement he made yesterday, which I really appreciated, was to say that God doesn’t send suffering, but that we are more prone to it when we separate ourselves from God. Many evangelicals feel that God sends suffering, so it was nice to hear him acknowledge that it does not originate from God (although God does allow it). A couple of times in the past I’ve heard him differentiate between Mary’s yes and Zechariah’s doubt, and those are also times when he has almost sounded Catholic. If he were to come home to the Catholic church, what a great witness it would be.

  • Gena

    Very Helpful. Thank you! Often I find myself resisting the call to change because old habits die hard, and for no other reason. This article comes at the perfect moment for me.

  • pete

    wonderful! thank you!

  • Warren Jewell

    Confession yields a double splendor from God and His
    graces.

    1st) I of course achieve that “peace
    of God, which passes all understanding,
    [that] will keep my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

    2nd) And, as I reconcile with God in repentance, I reconcile with my fellow
    humans in humble contrition. I hope for their kind forgiveness and gentle
    understanding, that “while they long for me and pray for me, because of the surpassing grace of God in me.” (2Corinthians
    9:14) The latter in its context does refer mainly to more material open-handed
    charity, but it is surely charity to give each other forgiveness at every turn.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    What I find very interesting, is that our Protestant brothers and sisters seem to be warming up to these issues in such a way as to make us Catholics nod and say, “Amen! That’s what we’ve been saying all along!”

    I heard Joyce Meyer talk about the Cross BEFORE the resurrection and I about fell over! Normally we Catholics are chided for focusing on the Cross as if we have forgotten about the resurrection–which of course we haven’t. Like Mary Kochan shares here, it was a moment where I was definitely nodding in agreement.
    I like that we are able to get more cozy with our Protestant brothers and sisters because I believe we are living in a time where we have to see how we are more alike than different since a house divided cannot stand.

  • alan c

    In the Bible, however, God’s favor simply means His unmerited grace, and
    we receive this freely when we receive Christ as Savior. We neither
    earn it nor speak it out. It does not mean an easier life, as we can see
    by the lives of the apostles and other saints throughout church
    history. Paul praised the Thessalonians, in fact, for their perseverance
    and faith throughout the trials they were enduring (2Thess.1:4). A
    secondary meaning of grace, indeed, is the spiritual supply God provides
    believers so that they can bear fruit and persevere through the hardships of the Christian life (e.g., 2Cor.12:7–10).