Monday, May 30, 2011

What is pain?

Sometime ago, I asked my wife to give her perspective on what we have been through and how she has confronted the massive changes and stress we have encountered together over the last three years. I can say this, I am very proud of my wife for the inner strength and the wisdom she has but most importantly for never giving up on me or on the Lord. I hope this ministers to you as much as it has me.

Her Post, My Wife, Vicki:

What is pain? The dictionary describes it as “physical or MENTAL suffering caused by injury or GRIEF.” What is grief? Again Mr. Webster says,“intense emotional suffering caused by a loss. Come to grief to fail or be ruined.” I know pain. I know grief in the most personal way imaginable. I was paralyzed by grief. I had come to grief to fail or be ruined.
Some examples about grief in the Word are:

• 2 Samuel 19:1,2: Then it was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourns for Absalom.” And the victory that day was turned to mourning for all the people, for the people heard it said that day, “The king is GRIEVED for his son.”

• 1 Samuel 1:10,11: And she, (Hannah) greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. (She was experiencing intense emotional suffering.) And she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thy maidservant and remember me, and not forget Thy maidservant, but wilt give Thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life…
These examples speak of children. There are many more scriptures that deal with the grief of the loss of a child. Or the heart wrenching desire to have one. These are only a few that I used to make a point. I’m not alone. My Father speaks to us by His Holy Spirit that this is not an unusual problem that plagues women and (men) such as me. Yet I haven’t always been so in tune to this fact.

When I was in the pit of despair, little by little, the Lord started showing me these examples. At the time I thought, “Well, great! Misery loves company.” But this was only the beginning of a miraculous healing process that my Father had planned for me. There was a plan. I couldn’t see it then. You can’t see when you’re doubled over holding your womb or through a curtain of constant tears. Looking up, my line of sight stopped when I would observe the pain in my beloved husbands face.
But thanks be to God! The Word gives us a promise. Isaiah 53:4: says: Surely our GRIEFS He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried.

I knew that. I had heard it for 38 years. But I never had to really apply it to my life. All the inconsequential circumstances that had been a thorn in my flesh from time to time, completely faded in the wake of THIS pain, of THIS grief. And the reality of the scripture seemed to be light years away. We all think we are immune to such tragedy. That it happens to other people and our responsibility is to be there for them like a good christian, to help pick up the pieces.

Surprise! I was as broken glass spilled all over the floor and at the time, I didn’t think there was anyone or anything that could put the pieces back together again. I had forgotten the definition of grace and mercy. They had been “trained” out of me. They were considered gifts of weakness that condoned weakness, and ‘only the strong survive’. I wasn’t strong anymore.

Then the beginning of my healing process happened. After a few years, I heard a quote that reminded me of God’s love and mercy. Faintly in the distance I remembered something, it started to become more and more evident and then –the eyes of my heart were opened and the essence of what I was hearing flew straight into my very soul! Thanks be to God, I was broken for a different reason this time. It was the working of His Holy Spirit.

There are people who go after your humanity.
Who tell you the light in your heart is a weakness.
Don’t believe it.
It is an old tactic of cruel people to kill kindness
In the name of virtue.
There is nothing wrong with love.
Have you forgotten the message of our Savior
- Love for the people.-

This old tactic had not only allowed my love to grow cold in the stead of introspection and judgment, it had also taken the knowledge and the experience that God loved ME. How can I love others when I don’t feel the love of God? My mind reeled during those dark months. If God loved me, how could this have happened? How could He allow my precious children to be stolen from me? If He works all things for my good, how can this be good?

I had quoted scriptures through my years as a Christian such as : I Peter 5:10: And after you have suffered for a little while, the Lord of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm,
strengthen and establish you.

I Peter 4:19: Therefore let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful creator in doing what is right.

I Peter 4:12: Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.

It was strange alright! I prayed to be numb. I prayed for the Lord to take me. I prayed someone else would kill me. I even thought of killing myself.
I realized that my self - righteous preaching had been nothing more than dung, during the fog of sorrow and misery I was going through. I thought I had been so wise, teaching about suffering. Even my life threatening illness was nothing to compare to the “suffering” that I was now experiencing.

Yet, though I didn’t feel His presence, looking back He was there the whole time. He was holding me like a straight jacket, making sure that my feet weren’t stepping toward destruction.

Hope? Didn’t have any. Still, that quote continued to play in my mind. Although I knew about renewing of the mind, I wasn’t interested. But, without realizing it, my mind was being renewed in spite of myself. The Lord began to bring certain people into my life who left a small token of light that began to feed my soul. Extended family was so instrumental in making sure that I was O.K. on a daily basis. Different old friends, whose relationships had been taboo, began to filter back into my life, each representing part of the body of Christ. His hands, His ears, and His mouth to comfort. Again, not knowing at the time, the Lord was in the process of orchestrating something miraculous.

My husband and I met a pastor and his wife who wanted to rent our building that had been sitting there as empty as we were. A relationship was sparked and the beginning of retraining my spirit to receive the love of God was in motion. We began to attend the services that were being held, by someone else, in OUR building. I have to admit, things were peculiar at first. Then we were just glad that the building was being used. We understood that not only were we being blessed, but the people that were using the building were being blessed by its use. For the first time, in my walk with the Lord, I can say with conviction that,” God’s planning is always perfect and on time.” The fog was beginning to dissipate. My heart was beginning to thaw out and the remembrance of love and mercy was becoming normal again.

We saw souls being saved at the altar that we had built. We saw broken hearts being healed. We saw lives being changed and we knew it was all part of God’s plan.
I began to rock drug addicts in my arms while they despaired and spoke to them about the love of Jesus. Each time I spoke to them, I was speaking to myself. I was speaking the love of God the Father into existence, once again. Jesus was using my arms to be a substitute for His arms and I knew He was loosening the straight jacket and was holding me as I was holding them. I started to realize again, after so many years, that Jesus really does love me.

What about the pain? Oh, it’s still there. Every day I pray for my children and my heart aches and year ns for them. But now, all those scriptures that fell away during the early years, are beginning to bring life. The love of Jesus has allowed me to love others. I know what mercy is. I understand compassion as never before. I know His grace held me when I felt that I was free falling into nothingness.

Hope? I can truly say, “My hope is in Him.” My fiery ordeal that came upon me for my testing is finally evident. Grief? My intense emotional suffering is becoming intense compassion for others. What a journey!

Bad things do happen to “good” people. Count on it. But if I can help keep anyone from the intense pain that I experienced for so long, become just a little easier, and a little shorter; if I can demonstrate that He wants to perfect, confirm and strengthen us, through our suffering, well – I can live with that.

Jesus said to the “religious” of His day that He, “desired compassion more than sacrifice”. What have I learned through this journey? I have seen my sacrifice turned into compassion and that compassion foster mercy and love. And above all else: He has to be first! In all things, my Lord has to come before my children, before my ministry, before my husband, before….

A final thought:

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world".
C.S. Lewis