Unrequited Suffering – Be Still, My Soul

Pain.  I feel so close and so familiar to pain lately.  The past couple years have been so difficult, and this past year especially has been trying for me.  Sometimes it feels like this battle is never-ending, now with the bone marrow/low WBC, tomorrow likely with something else.  The questions out-number the answers which are so few and far between.

I been reading “Be Still, My Soul” over the past month – 25 readings on pain each by different authors.  One piece has been on my heart ever since I read it.  It’s by Philip Yancey, and I believe it is from his 1982 book “Open Windows.”

It has tremendously encouraged me, and I want to post some quotes from it for you.

In the passage, Yancey, talking about pain, gives the example of leprosy.  Lepers cannot feel pain.  They don’t know when they’ve touched something too hot, cut their finger, or sprained their ankle.  Leprosy actually in a sense numbs bodies.  The author gives the example of a leper cooking potatoes.  When the potatoes are done, he puts his whole hand and arm into the pot to remove the cooked potatoes.  He doesn’t feel his hand get scalded.  It will burn, and likely get very infected, but the person feels nothing.  His body may be intact, but leprosy removes all warning signs of physical danger.  In this instance, Yancey says, “Thank God for pain!”

Likely, he argues, “Pain is a megaphone of God, which, sometimes murmuring, sometimes shouting, reminds us that something is wrong.”

Next,  Yancey says there are two contributions to pain that are true in all circumstances, whether they result in healing or death.

First, Christ’s terrible death shows us we are not abandoned.  “Because Jesus came and took a place beside us, God fully understands,” and I love this next quote by Dorothy Sayers:

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – He had the honesty and courage to take His own medicine.  Whatever game He is playing with His creation He has kept His own rules and played fair.  He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself.  He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiation, defeat, despair, and death.  When He was a man, He played the man.  He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.

Jesus chose – of all lives possible – a life of suffering.  We could never blame our suffering on sins we have committed because Jesus, who never sinned, still felt pain.  And we cannot say that suffering and death must mean God’s forsaken us and left us alone because Jesus’ suffering and death was a great victory, pulling man and God together.

Secondly, “To the person with unrequited suffering, [hope] is the most important contribution of all.  Christ did not stay on the cross.  After three days in a dark tomb, He was seen alive again… he came to [His disciples], letting them feel His new body.  Christ brought us the possibility of an afterlife without pain and suffering.  All our hurts are temporary.”

I was brought into great perspective by Yancey’s next idea… “Who would complain if God allowed one hour of suffering in an entire lifetime of comfort?  Yet we bitterly complain about a lifetime that includes suffering when that lifetime is a mere hour of eternity.”  He says that our time on Earth is “a dot in eternity.”  We have no idea what this tiny span of life will amount to in the grand scheme of things.  Let God work His plan out.

Pain “reminds us of where we are, and creates in us a thirst for where we will someday be.”

So true. Praise the Lord.

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