Friday, August 8, 2008

Pain

I've hinted around at this before, but I'm not the strongest tool in the shed.  In fact, my maladies are rich and varied.  As more than one person in my family has said, "C never gets normal things like colds and flus..."  True story, but I don't have life-threatening ailments either (though there have been moments when I think I'd like to shake off this weak body once and for all--but only for the best possible reason!).  No, I'm beleagured with things that interfere with quality of life.

Like today, the world is black with migraine.  And migraines have been a default setting in my head for most of my life.  Actually, come to think of it, I started getting migraines at about the same age I gave my life to Christ.  And I've become quite a connoiseur of headaches over the last forty years.  But many people crossing my path have felt the urge to give advice about them.  "I find if I take one aspirin and one Tylenol, it does the trick."  "Have you ever tried putting a wet washcloth on your forehead/back of your neck/ under your armpits? (well maybe not under my armpits!)"  "All it takes is lying down in a darkened room for an hour, and you'll be good as new."  And my all-time favorites: "Have you ever asked God for healing?" "If you have enough faith, God would heal you?" "If I/we pray for you, God will take them away."

Now I love advice, really I do...well, ok, not really.  But I do have strong reactions to these well-intentioned words for people.  First of all, any headache that disappears via one hour in a dark room, or washcloths on the head (both of which I've done--especially the darkened room.  I mean, that's standard operating procedure for migraine--turn off the lights and put a pillow over one's head, reduce the noise and lie still.  It's just the 'one hour' that I object to.  One hour?  Not for this head.) isn't the kind of migraine I'm talking about.  And by migraine, I mean any headache that make a person nauseous.  If you've had them, you know what I mean.

And the praying thing.  I've had oil and hands and loud, certain voices laid on me or lifted on my behalf before God.  Pastors and lay-persons, elders and youngsters have been sure that there was something amiss with me that God hadn't healed me from such pain.  Finally, I began to say no to such prayers.  My faith isn't the issue, my body is. I do not suffer from lack of trust in God, or even a specific lack of belief that He is the one who heals, and could heal even this, even for me.  What  I have learned over the years is that He has met me more in my suffering, become more to me, and allowed me to become more in Him than I can imagine being if I was strong.  I can never make the mistake of thinking I can live my life by my own strength.  A body that fails as often and easily as mine, makes that way of thinking an impossibility.  And I'm okay with this.  No, I'm more than okay.  I wouldn't be simply whole and strong for anything.

Because I believe these things:
Firstly, I believe that everyone--absolutely everyone in the world--suffers one way or another.  We live on this earth, where sin and disease and Satan seems to have the upper hand.  There are things to be discovered in suffering that one cannot learn any other way.   God uses for good what the enemy means for ill, to grow us into the likeness of the One who suffered ultimately.  How can we become like Jesus, who suffered to death for us, if we never suffer at all?  It's that simple.

So, secondly, physical suffering is not the worst suffering there is. Was the physical pain of the cross the worst that Jesus suffered those three days?  Obviously not.  The spiritual pain He endured, God turning His back on Him--that was the pain that killed Jesus, I think. Likewise, there are far worse things than what I deal with daily.  God has let me off the hook with my daily pain.  I don't know why, but I am thank God both that He allows me to suffer, grow, be transformed into a Christ-one, via this means.  And also that my suffering is so paltry.  He knows what I can endure, He never allows me to suffer beyond that. Sometimes when I get to feeling sorry for myself, I think of these words from Acts 5:41-- "The apsotles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name."  To suffer for His Name: the worst suffering, but considered a privilege.  It turns me right around, puts whatever pain I experience into perspective.  Being worthy to suffer for Christ...wow!

And finally, unlike Jesus, He never turns His back on me.  Whatever the suffering we endure--no matter how unbelievably painful our lives are, God is with us in it.  I believe this.  Where was God in the worst moments of life?  Kneeling beside us, crying with us.
"For I am convinced that neither life, nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8: 38-39

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