So a few weeks ago I visited Premier Radio and made the most of the freebie mags in the reception area, stocking up my bag for later reading. Yesterday as I sat in a pain/drug induced heap I reached for the nearest thing to me to try and take my mind off my failing body. Youthwork magazine was on the top of the pile and in no coincidence I'm sure, features this fabulous article by Danielle Strickland about pain. She suggests, in a nutshell, that not only do we need pain but that it is a gift and through it God speaks to us.
(Note there is a link above but to read it you need to sign up for the free trial, or subscribe, sorry about that).
Do read it if you can, I've read it three times now and keep finding more things to ponder upon and it's sent me straight back to the book of Job for some theological reflection (my Tutors at #VicarSchool would be so proud).
Like Strickland, I've been taught in the school that says pain and suffering is never of God and that we should pray until it's gone. I don't disagree with that but equally I'm not sure I sign up to it 100% either. I'm not even thinking about the whole predestination thing or what prayer is about, I'm just thinking: why should we expect to go through a life without pain or suffering? Which is basically what this school of thought expects - a life of 'unsuffering'. I mean where does that come from? The bible is full of people suffering and in pain and yes I know there's also masses of healing too, but there's also those that live through it.
I think I see the idea of life without pain and suffering as the ultimate goal, the kingdom of God here on earth, which we'll one day see. But by the same token, although that kingdom is here and now, it's also not yet.
The danger of believing that pain can be dealt with by praying it away is that when it doesn't, where do you go? I spent months if not years praying against exhaustion and CFS. There was no instant miracle, there was a gradual recovery and perhaps that was of God, after all I did improve and I do lead a relatively normal life. But it was not what I was seeking. In fact I think it was when I let go of waiting for a miracle that I was actually able to find God in it all.
So now. Today. Still in pain but better than the day before. I want to sit and just be, but I'm not sure I'm capable of it so I'm varying my day with some reading and some vegging. And in the reading, as I said, I find myself drawn back to Job. I do find the book of Job a comfort. I did when I was ill with exhaustion and I do now. There's something about the not understanding what's going on and why awful stuff is happening, that Job helps with. And what is his reaction to the hideous things that happen to him? Simple: he falls down and worships God. Not after a good moan, then he turns to God. Not once he's got angry and shouted, then he turns to God. Not after the initial shock, then he turns to God. No, the first thing he does is to worship. And Job didn't just have a bit of back pain, he lost everything (except his wife - I'm sure there something in there to reflect on...). Everything. Home, business, family, all gone in one day.
I wish I could say I reacted as he did. But I am choosing to today. To seek God in it all. I don't think he made this happen, I don't think it's what he wanted to happen but I sure do believe he can redeem this pain. Even in my drug-pain-fuddled state, I choose to see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to spend time with him and to listen. I was scribbling notes in my journal earlier only to see at the bottom of the page written: 'Be Still and know that I am God' from Psalm 46.
Yes. Just this...