Continued from here.
Interestingly, C.S. Lewis’ take on pain in his book The Problem of Pain is similar to mine. He points out that pain is what alerts us that something needs to change – that the status quo is not OK. Think about putting your hand in a fire. If no pain was involved, you might allow your flesh to burn up before it finally occurred to you that a flame is not good for your hand. Thankfully, our skin has nerves that send us signals of pain when our flesh begins to burn so we will remove our flesh from the fire. If we want to enjoy a fire, we need to stay within the boundaries of keeping our body parts out of the flames. While it might feel great to move in closer to the fire, particularly when we are cold, at some point, our bodies send signals that we are moving in too close to the fire. If we ignore those signals and continue moving, our bodies use pain to get our attention so we will move away from the fire.
Lewis brilliantly explains this concept in this way:
Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Let me give you a concrete example. For four years, I wrote “emotional healing” every week as my only prayer request at a Bible study. I sincerely wanted healing, but I was unwilling even to consider obeying God’s command to forgive my child abusers. If God had miraculously healed my brokenness without requiring me to obey his command to love and pray for my child abusers, I never would have done so – I was far too angry and bitter to do so. The ONLY reason I forgave them was because my pain spurred me on to be willing to try ANYTHING to find relief. After trying many other ways to relieve my pain, in desperation, I finally did it God’s way, and that’s when He healed my pain.
To be continued on Wednesday …
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shouting into a megaphone. Courtesy Bitmoji.]
Continued from here.
A few years, I had lunch with an old friend who knew me both before and during my therapy years. As we talked about years gone by, I made reference to being in such deep pain during the years we hung out together. She replied, “But you know what? You were never comfortable in that pain. You were always seeking a way out of it.”
Her comment got me pondering about whether there might, in fact, be a positive side to pain. Before I continue, rest assured that I am no masochist. I absolutely DESPISE being in pain. (Just ask my family how much fun I am to live with when I have a sinus infection!) As I considered my friend’s comment, I had to concede that something very positive had come out of that pain. She is correct that I was in far too much pain ever to be comfortable with the status quo. While I looked to ease my pain in a myriad of wrong places, such as in friendships or food, the inability of those idols to ease my pain long-term is what drove me into God’s arms.
Am I better off for this? Absolutely! Had I not been in terrible pain, I might have been comfortable with eating myself into morbid obesity rather than recognizing that no amount of food could “stuff down” the pain from the childhood abuse permanently. While binge eating a family-sized bag of Dorito’s offered temporary solace, the pain always returned … along with 5 or 10 more pounds. Only in Jesus did I find a lasting source of comfort.
That got me pondering whether I, in my pain from severe and ongoing childhood abuse, was actually blessed – yes, I said BLESSED!! – because it drove me into my Father’s arms. Rather than envying the Christians I meet who grew up in loving homes, I now recognize that it’s actually EASIER for me to chase God BECAUSE of the pain of my past. When one is comfortable in the blessings and protection of God, it can be tempting to be lukewarm about your faith. When your options are severe pain or chasing God with all you have, lukewarm faith is unlikely to happen because there is no place of comfort outside the loving arms of the Father.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying. Courtesy Bitmoji.]
The Christmas season is historically a difficult one for me – too many memories of the child abuse. I was determined not to let myself sink into a holiday depression this year, and I’ve done better – not perfect, but better. So, it’s probably no wonder I felt drawn to reading C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain.
I had taken a break from reading C.S. Lewis’ theological books while I was in divinity school, and I continued the break for a few months after. This is the first theological book I’m reading since earning my divinity degree in August. I sure have missed Lewis’ writing!
In this book, Lewis seeks to address the reason for pain, specifically the age-old question of how a good God could allow so much pain in the world. That’s the crux of the struggle that some people I personally know have in holding onto their faith. They pray and pray for God to take away the pain, and when He doesn’t, they conclude that either there is no God or that God is not good. I was once there myself, so I have deep compassion for people who wrestle with this question. I continually remind them that the story is not over yet and that God can redeem even this. After all, if He can redeem child sex trafficking, what can’t He redeem?
However, that’s a difficult concept to embrace while your soul is bleeding. It breaks my heart to see people walk away from the only true source of comfort, but I respect that they must choose their own path along their spiritual journey just as I chose mine. One of the hardest parts for me is that when people walk away from God in their pain, they tend to distance themselves from those who love the God they are choosing to reject. I have lost several friendships over the years to this dynamic, and it hurts. And yet, having been there, I get it.
Over the next couple of weeks (excluding the holidays), I’ll address my personal reaction to Lewis’ writing in this marvelous book. If you wrestle with the age-old question of how a good God can allow so much pain and suffering in the world, you might want to read his book for yourself. I cannot possible do it justice, but I’ll at least hit some of the highlights.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cover of The Problem of Pain. Courtesy Amazon.]
Continued from here.
I don’t know about you, but I want to walk into the Hall of Faith. When God releases the updated list of people who “by faith” did X, I want my name on the list. I want to hear an angel say, “By faith, Grace …” But that’s not going to happen if I don’t do what those people did. What did those people have in common? They were terrified but did what God told them to do, anyhow.
By faith, Abraham offered his beloved son as a sacrifice. By faith, Moses’ parents defied the king’s edict and hid their baby for three months. By faith, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. By faith, the Israelites defeated Jericho by marching around it. By faith, David killed Goliath, and by faith, Daniel spent the night in a lion’s den. Is what I am facing any scarier than what they did? My head says no, but as I look my giant in the eye, it looms just as large from my limited perspective as a den filled with hungry lions.
Isn’t it the human condition to want to have strong faith but not have to go through seasons that require it? I want the Jordan River to part before I step into it, not after I do. And yet, it takes no faith to cross the sturdy bridge or dive into peaceful waters. How can I develop faith without being asked to do things that are terrifying without God’s intervention?
And so, I choose to dive in, and not because I’m fearless … My knees are shaking so hard that I can barely walk up to the ledge. I choose to believe God. I trust that He would not tell me to dive into the rushing waters below me unless He was going to ensure that I would be OK. I also trust that He has a purpose and plan for requiring this of me. And so, I walk up to the ledge, say a quick prayer, and dive.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace unsheathing a sword. Courtesy Bitmoji.]
Continued from here.
On her television show Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer pointed out that in the story of David and Goliath, David first spoke his victory and then ran quickly toward him. He didn’t do what I do – He didn’t size up the giant, look him up and down, take a few deep breaths, and try to muster up the courage to do what God told him to do. He didn’t give himself time! How much easier might slaying the giants in my life be if I followed David’s example?
While God has taught me assertiveness over the years, assertiveness does not come naturally to me. It is a learned skill that has served me well over the years. However, when I face a giant – particularly like the one God has instructed me to take down – AGAIN – all of that training flies out the window. I take a few deep breaths to build up my courage, and that’s just enough time for the enemy to whisper in my ear all the ways that I don’t measure up. The giant is much bigger … stronger … a more accomplished warrior… Who am I to believe I can take that giant down? And then I lose sight of the fact that this battle is not mine but the Lord’s, and I hesitate.
I need to follow David’s example and speak my victory. I need to remind myself that God is in control and that He would not tell me to go to battle without ensuring my victory. And then I need to step forth in faith, as David did, building courage with each step as I run into battle. And I need to do this quickly or I’ll lose my nerve.
I wonder if David continued to feel fear when he went into battle after taking down Goliath. I wonder if that one victory was enough for him never to doubt or question the outcome in all of his successive battles. Did his knees continue to shake as mine do when I’m called into battle again? Does this spiritual journey ever get easier?
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running. Courtesy Bitmoji.]