Learning Pain

How do you handle pain as a believer–the physical kind especially? What do you do when you want to curl up in a ball, and to disappear? Pain isn’t in God’s original plan, it’s entered our world through human rebellion and sin. We who hurt must be aware of this. Pain isn’t normal, but yet–it’s very much real. Too much. There are 10 things you really must consider right now.

First, I need to tell you this. There is pain that at times you can’t even imagine how you are going to handle another day. And the doctors have the audacity to tell you point blank, that you need to get used to it, because it’s never going to get better. So now you must sort things out–as outside of a miracle, it’s only going to get worse. Often there will be little help or counsel from other Christians. What do you do as a believer in Jesus? What will your discipleship look like now?

Here are ten thoughts that come to my mind. They’re not in any order, so don’t look for one (smile.)

One–Treat false humility as a worse disease than you’re facing physically. You’ll be very tempted to to milk it for all its worth. You’ll try to take advantage of others, you’ll want to complain and put yourself in the best possible light. But pain and your ego, were never meant to mix–especially as a disciple of Jesus. Renounce it now. Turn from it constantly. It will always be an issue, to one degree or another.

Two–Never find fault with God. He’s not to blame no matter what the evil one tells you. The Father loves you, and he will carry you all the way through this. Satan always tells lies. You must take a stand against him. Put on your armor! Super-glue Ephesians 6:19-18 into your thought life–and never let go!

Three–You can never lose track of eternity. My special verse is Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Please keep this front and center. It helps!

Four–You’ll learn to see others differently. There will always be another believer who has it worse. Think about them, and all that they must deal with. It helps a lot. Also you’ll discover that your pain will be like new glasses for spiritual astigmatism. You’ll see things much clearer now.

Five–Your walk may deepen. You will learn to be joyful when all you want to do is cry. The littlest things become a cause of great joy. God values your singing more now, especially when you’re singing out of excruciating pain. Your songs are now more precious to him. The Word, and worship music, seem to be more meaningful. Surround yourself with music (and preaching too) that builds you up.

Six–You will discover the art of blending pain into your discipleship. Sleepless nights become diving boards for prayer, reading and worship. You’ll change and deepen, and that’s always good. There is something that can only be burned into you by pain. Also, be open to brand new ways of ministry now. Look for doors to open up. They maybe different than you think.

Seven–You’ll discover that there can be solace in medications and treatments. I know that this is something really practical, but a handful of Motrin, or other pain meds will become a special delight, and something to look forward to. Also, listen closely to your doctor and therapist. Pray for them, pray they’ll have special wisdom for your situation. (And let them know your praying for them. They need your encouragement too.)

Eight–You start to see that you’ll never be able to do this alone (and man, do you know it.) God is giving you a gift. He’s designed to connect this way with others. You’ll also start to see people less in terms of their giftedness or ‘rank’ and more in the light of what they’ve had to endure. As you begin to see pain and sorrow as special friends, they’ll often show you who your true brothers and sisters are. They may come from unexpected places. Surprise!

Nine–You’ll understand the Father’s love in a new way. Like an old style pharmacist, God carefully measures out exactly what we need. He never gives you a single ounce of medicine more than is necessary. He’s exceedingly careful, and very conscientious. Trust him. All that happens to you has come through nail-pierced hands. He understands pain.

Ten–You must learn to laugh again. Little things become a source of real joy. The smallest things will make you laugh again. (Weird, I know.) Get a joke book, that may help, especially when you get sour and withdrawn, and maybe even mean. “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom will leave you bone-tired” (Proverbs 17:22, MSG).

Definitely this list is not complete. I apologize, there are many others that really should be added, but maybe this is a start. If I’m missing something fairly critical, let me know.

We must be aware that our pain allows us access to His ‘careful’ grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with special abilities. I’m serious. They are now our new ‘superpowers.’

(So, move over Batman!)

You must, must learn, to embrace your pain and your sorrows. They come us at too high of a personal cost. Don’t waste them! They’re precious, and far too valuable to neglect. Squeeze them and extract all that they can give.

Also–just one more (number 11?) Be easy on yourself. You’ll find that you’ve much to learn. And that’s ok.

Below is a quote that has always sustained me. It’s really good to remember–

“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?'”

–John Newton

A good site is Joni Eaerkson Tadas. She’s a believer who has suffered a great deal and has a ministry to the afflicted, Joniandfriends.org. Also, brokenbelievers.com has an older teaching post that may help, check it out if you want to go deeper into this–“Suffering Intelligently.”

I Will Say Nothing More

An interesting thought, for those patient enough to think it through.

“Not once did the disciples say, “Lord, have compassion on this blind beggar who is on the side of the road.” Do they say, “Lord, heal and restore this blind beggar on the side of the road?” “Do they reach out in any tangible way to this blind beggar on the side of the road?

“No, they simply ask an esoteric theological question, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?””

Ruth Harms Calkin

“Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

(All of John chapter 9).

Father of Mercies, forgive us. Help us to care, love and be full of the mercy of Jesus. We fall woefully short. It really seems we are the blind ones. We need to be those who wrap your arms around the needy. We need to be your hands and your feet. Forgive us of our heartless religion that helps no one.

Amen.

C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

I love the Psalms and C.S. Lewis’s reflections are inspiring. This quote in particular makes you think. Jesus really did say forgive “seventy times seven,” which literally means as many times as necessary. Ouch! That’s a hard truth to swallow along with our pride.

There is no use talking as if forgiveness were easy. We all know the old joke, ‘You’ve given up smoking once; I’ve given it up a dozen times.’ In the same way I could say of a certain man, ‘Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.’ For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence.

-from Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis

Seventy times seven to the tenth power seems to be how many times I must learn the lesson of forgiveness. I know how healing and freeing it is to forgive . . . until I forget.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says love “keeps no record of wrongs.” But when someone has wronged me I don’t much feel like loving them anyway.

Thankfully Jesus never said to His Father, “Don’t forgive them. I don’t much feel like loving them anyway.”

Last Year’s Transgression

Earlier this year I was holding onto an offence from summer 2020. I reached the hard decision to forgive. Really, I had. But every time I was reminded of it, I record anew how I was wronged.

“And she’s not even sorry,” I explained to God. She doesn’t even think she did anything wrong. Early on, He woke me in the middle of the night: “Pray for her.”

“You mean like David prayed for You to destroy his enemies in the Psalms?”

“No, not like that. Pray as Jesus prayed for you.”

So I did. And it helped to heal the wound and free my mind from the trap of bitterness.

I learned my lesson and each time the anger creeped in again, I forgave a little more quickly.

The Never-Ending Transgression

Until recently when someone who has said things that hurt me on way more than seventy-times-seven occasions. It’s been the story of my life, to have her speak words that shatter my heart.

I know I need to forgive her. And many times I have. But this latest wound was just too much. I was already grieving and she compounded my grief tenfold with her words.

She’ll blame it on her mental illness, and I get that it’s a struggle for her. She’ll blame it on her own grief, but that doesn’t give her the right to ignore my grief.

She’ll claim she doesn’t even remember saying what she said. And maybe she doesn’t. But I do. I remember every cruel word she has ever spoken to me. Every single one. Maybe that’s my problem. I’ve often forgiven but not forgotten.

I ruminated on what I might say to her when next we met and I couldn’t come up with anything nice. I’ve spent decades being loving and understanding and forgiving. This time I didn’t think I could.

But I did. It took the power of the Holy Spirit to draw from my mouth the right things to say, the forgiving thing to say. It helped that the focus was on the one we were both grieving over.

A Prayer for You and Me

Heavenly Father, Help me to forgive as You do, more quickly and completely, as You forgive me. Help the one reading this post, who may also be struggling to forgive a long list of transgressions, to turn to You for help. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

When the Storms Rage On

 

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Deut. 31:8, NLT

You can go to the British Museum in London, England and view for yourself old nautical charts that were made in the early 1500s. Written on them are things like, “Here be fiery scorpions” and “Here be giants” or the classic, “Here be dragons.” These notations were written I suppose, to discourage any future kind of exploration.

At this early point a man named Sir John Franklin wrote on each map, “Here is God.” His sincerity was well noted– and it strengthened the sailors, and helped them to trust in a discovery that would lead to salvation for many.

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.”

Mark 4:35-37

There lots of waves, plenty enough to go around. The disciples, most of them who are grizzled fisherman, are just starting to realize that their boat isn’t equipped with any life-jackets. They are in deep trouble, and I suppose many “crossed” themselves and prepared to die. Everything now is lost.

When death comes to visit it can be quite sobering. It clarifies so much. If you’ve ever been at this point, you will understand what I am saying.

“But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

Mark 4:38-39

Where is Jesus? Look! There he is–sleeping on a pillow. “How can He sleep, when the world is going to end?” They wake up him up, and pointedly say, “Don’t you even care? We are at the very point of death!”

Shaking off His slumber, Jesus stands. He looks at the vicious waves, and then announces, “Be at peace, be still.” Immediately the storm automatically ‘shuts down.’ There is no reluctance, no hesitation. The waves become calm and subdued, instantly. The Greek word he uses is “to be muzzled,” which is exactly the word he uses when he binds the demon several verses later.

Jesus turns, He focuses on His own disciples. “Why did you doubt?”  He asks. And they can say nothing. “Where is your faith?” he asks. And again, they can say nothing. They’re overwhelmed at the authority of Jesus. They’re more amazed at him, then they ever were at the storm. 

Confusion often rules over us, when desperation is present. But yet, this is not totally true, confusion will enter in, when everything we see is impossible. We glance back at Jesus, and we see and discover His power and significance. Rightly so, when our storm overwhelms us, it’s his chance to prove himself, and to show us who we really are–or rather, who we aren’t.

The disciples should have by now, realized the full strength of Jesus. Our Lord was so very tired. And yet before he went to sleep, he told his followers that he would bring them to the opposite side of the lake. Being drowned in the middle of the lake was never a factor, nor was it in his plans.

Our lives should be focused on Jesus leading us through to the other side. He is in our tiny little boat, and yet we struggle with such humongous waves. They threaten to cripple and completely dismantle us, and besides, so much water is getting into our boat. And unless he gets directly involved, we’re going to sink like a rock!

We won’t always travel through calm waters.

There will be definite times when we discover peace and confidence, and things will be fairly easy. Dangers that will visit us, and yet are not really a problem. But rain or shine, we are His children. We don’t know why, but he really does love us. We are his “property” and we must believe that we belong to him, and he’s fully dedicated to bring us all the way home.

Never, ever doubt His deep love for your soul.

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