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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Some more thoughts on being in pain..

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...


UKViewer said...

Pain and suffering are part of the human condition, brought about by the fall.

I do pray for those in pain, and that I hope that prayer helps to give them peace, but would never offer recovery as the miracle outcome. Prayer doesn't work that way.

Prayer is about Glorifying God, so it has to start with prayer and adoration. Supplication comes a poor third to those two. But in my view, it is capable of being answered, but not necessarily to meet our expectations, surely it will be to show God's grace and mercy at work.

Now, I've known explicit examples of prayer being answered, but most of the time I live in ignorance of whether they've ever been received - but I pray in faith all of the same.

I've screamed at God on occasion, and I was told that this too was prayer - perhaps more screaming is the answer?

Red said...

Hey Ernie,
yes I think prayer can take many forms, and in my book screaming certainly qualifies!
Not sure I agree prayer is solely about glorifying God, I think I would say it's more about communication and relationship. Yes adoration features but I see it more as an ongoing conversation...

Pam Smith said...

I don't tend to subscribe to the idea that God has sent pain and suffering to teach us something - although I can see that in the book of Job he allows Job to be tested, which doesn't seem too far off. I'm never sure where prayer fits on, because you're right, if we're praying for a world without suffering we're going to be disappointed. For me, in pain and illness, I think in a way it's the opposite - it's about placing myself and my suffering into the wider context of God's love.

I can think of two occasions when I was very distressed in hospital, and somehow I became aware of great peace within me. Each time it felt as if the peace brought healing to my body - but the peace was enough in itself.

Red said...

Thanks Pam. Yes I think that's key, recognising where we are in the wider context of God and his love. Actually despite the pain I am relishing this week, although I did go a little stir crazy yesterday (!), actually there have been many blessings within it. Not least having the time to pray and seek God.
I also feel peaceful, rather than fretting about all the things I should be doing, I just know, it's all ok!

Anonymous said...

Apologies for using you as a sounding board. Other believers have treated me like what you call "shit" for over three decades. People in responsible positions. We're supposed to love one another.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Sorry you're ill. Will pray.

Red said...

no problem, happy to be a sounding board!
agreed, we should love each other, it's simple as that but often people get side tracked with their focus.

PS: this blog has moved to www.pickingapplesofgold.com if you want to join the conversation there?