Monday, January 30, 2017

When Pain Screams

When there's pain, it screams.” At best, it was a summary statement. Something to help make a point of a strategic discussion we were having about our ministry. Yet, I paused to ponder it. “When there's pain, it screams.” Now... to be honest, I probably didn't remember it correctly word for word. But it resonated deep within my soul.

In our culture it is easy to overlook deep pain. We see it clearly in the response to the protests. Rather than ask, “why are they so upset that they would devote time, energy, and emotion to this?” We say, "stop protesting" and "do it our way". When people are grieving, we can overlook their grief and give sharp rebuke for how they are missing things. We misdiagnose, misapply, and, I think if we are honest with ourselves, we are hasty to fix the “problems” so we don't have to deal with them anymore.

That's not to say that we should ignore sin or bad behaviors, but rather, recognize that when there is screaming, it's because there is often legitimate pain. And when there is legitimate pain, the initial need is not a correction in behavior. The need is to walk alongside, to empathize, and then fix our eyes on the God who is big enough to heal.

There are three things from the scriptures that have helped me as I think through dealing with pain:

1. It's ok to not have immediate “progress” → This is not to say that we shouldn't move through pain to deeper faith. Rather, it's ok if it's not on our timetable. Psalm 88 ends like this, “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.” Why would the psalmist end there? Why isn't there any resolution? It just ends hopelessly.

I think it's because the psalmist understands that it's ok to be in a season of struggle, doubt, and sadness. It's not an ending of faithlessness, rather one that says, “I know that the Lord is with me even when I feel like all hope is lost.” The fact that's a song meant for praise and worship in the temple says so, because it's a communion with the Lord.

2. Know that Jesus cares about our circumstances → In Luke 8, we see Jesus heal a woman who was bleeding for 12 years. The implications are overwhelming. She's an outcast, would be outside the temple, and would have numerous societal disadvantages. Jesus allows her to come up from behind, hidden, for her to have healing. While Jesus exposes her later (to restore her hope further, by having true faith in Christ, not just her healing), He knows that this woman had little to no contact for 12 years, and the way He heals her is to let her touch Him. He begins to restore her circumstances, healing her, letting her touch Him, and even concealing her until the time was right. He cared not just about her salvation, but also her deeply traumatic circumstances.

3. Know that contentment comes by coming to God and seeing His Glory → The story of Job is a case study in misunderstanding suffering. Job loses everything and his friends blame his sin for the calamity that has befallen him. When God shows up (in chapter 38!), He doesn't rebuke Job's friends (yet), nor does He apologize for what has happened to him. He reminds Job of who HE is.

Where were you when I lad the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? (Job 38:4-5)

Job's response to the Lord is shocking. While his pain hadn't subsided, he finds an odd contentment in 42:6, saying he repents in dust and ashes. The note about his repentance is that it could also mean he is comforted. What comfort? It's the comfort of knowing more of the fullness of God, that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. And that even in the midst of the hardest storms, He is in control.

Pain is hard. Sometimes it feels uncontrollable. And that's ok. Be honest about your pain. And, if you're listening to someone in pain, don't judge. Ask. Understand. Care. Then look to Jesus, the one who went through the deepest pain. In Him, you will find the one who can perfectly understand, and in Him, you will find the God who will rock you to the core, leaving you comforted in the midst of any pain.