Archives For pain

I’ve recently been reading the most excellent Dresden Files series (by Jim Butcher), and was gobsmacked by the following:

“Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living, only the dead don’t feel it.”

I read this only hours after sitting in church hearing the pastor teach on the true vine, branches, and pruning. It dawned on me that I’d spent an inordinate amount of my life trying to avoid the inevitable: pain. There are times in the past year, or so, where God was simply trying to do what all vinedressers do: prune.

And I tried to avoid it, tried to run from it. Tried to cover it with other things.

It didn’t work out so well. In fact, in trying to avoid pain, I only created more pain for myself and those around me. By avoiding, I only made things worse. Conflict is inevitable, and must be, well, confronted. There’s no way around it. By avoiding the uncomfortable, I set myself up for all kinds of failure.

I’m not saying pain is fun–it hurts!–but it’s a privilege when we consider the alternative: the dead don’t feel it. In point of fact: I don’t want to leave this world with regrets. Things undone, words unsaid, love withheld because it was scary and hard.

Love is pain, my friends. If we are going to love, we will hurt. If we are going to be loved, it will hurt. To shut ourselves off from pain, we (however unintentionally) shut ourselves off from the one thing we all need:

Love.

In Hebrews, it says that the Lord Jesus “learned obedience through those things which he suffered.” If that was true of Him, how much more so of us?

My question to you is:

Is there some pain in your life you’ve been trying to avoid? Trying to cover? What are you going to do to confront it, embrace it, learn from it?

Challenge yourself. You must find that, in your weakness, you are strong.

Admit it. You’ve heard it. You’ve said (or at least thought it). It’s cliché: Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

But somewhere along the way, we often get lost, get comfortable. Too comfortable.

In fact, we maintain a tacit dislike of things which make us uncomfortable. If something doesn’t fit into our neat religious categories, we’re apt to do one of about four things:

1) Ignore it, hoping it will go away.

2) Actively shun it, shut it down, drown it out (this is but a manifestation of denial).

3) Label it, trying to make it fit into our “recipe box” of life (like forcing a square peg into a round hole). As of life is supposed to fit into our categories.

4) Crucify, and vilify, it. Actively speak out against whatever it is.

We give lip service to that cliché (“comfort the afflicted… “), but don’t like to made to feel uncomfortable ourselves? Why is that? What did we think? That coming to Jesus would solve all of our problems? That being in the world, but not of it means that somehow we’ve now arrived in Happy Land?

Jesus didn’t view the world that way; in fact, he’s on record saying that those upon whom the Tower of Siloam fell were not worse sinners. Things happen in a fallen world.

And coming to Christ doesn’t make us “in right, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.” Coming to Christ doesn’t mean we get magically delivered from the consequences of living in a fallen world. There is pain, suffering, evil… in short things we can’t understand, or explain.

For instance, a lot of you won’t go see a movie like The Conjuring, because you don’t do “horror.” It makes you too uncomfortable. Yet you’ll watch the evening news every night without batting an eye. And talk about horror! This despite the fact that both deliver the bad news in showing that yes, there is inexplicable evil in the world. Yet only one shows there is indeed a power greater than evil.

And it ain’t the evening news, folks.

The ironic fact of the matter is that sometimes it’s only through fiction that we can get to the heart of reality. We have to be willing to embrace discomfort if we want to grow. Growth doesn’t happen without pain.

But I’m not just talking about our media choices, rather about stepping outside our comfort zones. About reaching out in love, about doing that sometimes most difficult of all things:

Listening. Before we offer a snap judgment, or jump to an unfounded conclusion. For instance, and this is crazy! Sometimes (most time) people are just sick, and aren’t “harboring uncontested sin” in their lives. Or are not demon possessed (remember, “greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world”).

If we are going to say it (“comfort the afflicted…”), let’s act on it, okay?

The simple fact is that things (and people) don’t fit into our neat little boxes. God’s a person, too (the Person), and can we fit Him into one of our boxes? I don’t knew about you, but I’ve been trying all of my life, and he keeps shattering all of my paradigms…

My point in this rather long, rambling, post is this:

Do you want to be a shiny, plastic person with all the answers, or someone who embraces the uncertainty? It’s not all happy, but it can be holy.

My challenge to you today: do something outside of your zone.

Thanks for reading!

As a small child, I suffered from anemia. So much so that I was
frequently made to toddle across the street to the neighbor’s (a
nurse) house for iron shots. I guess I did not have a problem with
this for two reasons:

1) There was a cookie in it for me; and,
2) Prior to being diagnosed with anemia, there was a trip to the
hospital with my dad…

I remember the sharp tang of antiseptics, the scent of Pine Sol used
to clean the corridors, an endless descent down in an elevator, and a
long walk down a dimly lit hall. I was five, and I was to be getting a
blood test. At the time, I did not know what a “blood test” was
(having never had one). Honestly, I do not recall what I expected.

The stark reality was a cold metal chair under a sun-bright medical in
the middle of a chilly room. I was not, as they say, “down with that.”
I struggled, resisted, fought with every ounce of strength I possessed
to keep from being poked with that sharp, scary, needle.

“Keep him still,” the doctor said to my dad.

“I’m trying,” he replied. In the end, I was too much; I thought I had
won! There would be no needles piercing the delicate flesh of my inner
arm!

How wrong I was! My dad found an off-duty police officer (working
security) in the corridor, and invited him to assist with the
procedure.

I was sunk! Despite my best efforts, two grown men proved to be too
much for me. The needle delicately made its way into my young vein,
and…

I said, “That wasn’t so bad.” All of that fuss, all of that fight, and
it was not so very bad at all. I never feared needles again.

And yet…

How often do we, who should know better, react as I did under threat
of that dreaded needle, when Jesus promises to bring change (and with
it perceived pain)into our lives? We duck, and dodge Him, hoping to
avoid it.

And in the end, only manage to prolong the process, thereby making it
worse. God says that all things work together for the good (not that
the bad things are good–that would be insane) for those that love
Him. The fundamental issue, then, is that, as when I was a boy, we
fail to trust that Father knows best.

We kick, we scream, we fight, when what Father desires is our trust, our surrender. We fight because we are stubborn, willful, creatures–creatures wanting our own way.

And that includes avoiding the pain of growing up. It is past time to face facts: growing is inevitable, and we can either embrace the discomfort, or try to run from it. Either way, it will hurt.

But the path of willing surrender hurts ever so much less. Because it means we are humbling ourselves, surrendering our pride, and no longer
trying to hide.

It means we are partnering with a loving Father Who truly does know best.

The pain, the disappointments, are His appointments–and our opportunities to do that one thing we do not wish to do:

Exercise faith.

Because that means we are not in control.

But that is right where Jesus wants us: broken.

Speak on it: Where do you resist being broken in your life? How is that working out? Is God’s way really so scary?

Create Past the Pain

randomlychad  —  November 28, 2012 — 18 Comments

Towards the end of the classic movie, Princess Bride, there is a scene where Westley–recently resurrected–bluffs his way through a confrontation with the the evil Prince Humperdinck. He threatens a duel–not to the death, but “to the pain.” To my mind, this is what we who call ourselves creative must do with the “Resistance.” We must wrestle it to the pain, through the pain, to get to the work we were made to do.

You say you are not creative? I don’t believe you. Bestselling author Tosca Lee says, “We are made in the image of the most creative being in the universe… But we allow things to get in the way.”

Things such as the resistance.

What is the the resistance? Whatever gets in our way. Whatever fears, doubts, messages, which assail us, and keep us from creating. You already know this, but it bears repeating:

No one else in this world of seven billion souls has the same well of experiences from which to draw. No one else has your unique perspective and voice.

Because no one else is you!

And you can do it! We need your voice. I need your voice.

Because it helps me to know that I am not alone, not crazy, in the pursuit of my dream.

Now: create your hearts out, write until your fingers bleed, your heart bleeds, your arms ache from sculpting, painting… And then do it some more! Cast off the fetters which restrain you from doing the creating you really want to do, feel called to do.

When you do that, the magic happens–because honoring the gift, whatever it is, honors the ONE Who gave it to you.

Create through the pain, past the pain, and get up tomorrow, and do it again. Because the resistance is not going away. But like Prince Humperdinck, we can threaten it into submission, quell its voice, and get down to work. The resistance does not fear getting ugly with you, so be ruthless in conquering it. Because you will find that it is, afterall, just a bully.

And like most bullies, the resistance is really a coward at heart.

So resist the resistance.

And do it one day at a time. Because that’s all we have to work with: one day at a time. Your courage, in the face of your fears, encourages not only me, but everyone watching.

In A Boy and His Drug, I wrote of how I was not only allowed, but encouraged as a young boy to look at pornography. How that period lasted from the ages of ten-eighteen.

In The Unexpected Face of Grace I wrote of how God brought grace, and freedom, to me unexpectedly.

This is the rest of the story.

How I wish that had been the end of the story. How I wish, after breaking free, throwing out all of my posters and magazines, that I had never again looked at pornography.

As much as I’d like it to be true, I can’t say that. You see, as life got hard–had its trials–porn was there, cycling in, and out, of my life. I didn’t want to look, but I did. It was familiar. It was a friend from my youth.

Not really requiring anything from me, it had never let me down. Friends that is the insidious nature of evil, and of the evil one. First to tempt, then accuse. To first tell me “This will make you feel better,” only to follow it with “You horrible sinner! You call yourself a Christian! What would your wife think?”

Now let me be plain: Satan didn’t make me sin. I sinned–I chose to heed the voice of temptation. And true to his nature, the enemy was there to ensure I received a proper beat down for my choice. He’s not known as the “accuser of the brethren” for nothing.

In my guilt, and shame, I would cry out to God, confess to Him, tell Him how sorry I was. But in that spirit of that shame, believing I was alone in my wretchedness, I never told another human soul. And there was my undoing: I told no one. Not my wife, friends, anybody.

I bore the burden alone.

And so it went for many years–lather, rinse, repeat.

Until the time where I either wasn’t careful, didn’t care, or wanted to be caught: my Internet history found me out. Or rather my wife found my Internet history.

And what a blow that was–to me, yes, but much more to her. What do you suppose Satan’s message was to her? That her husband’s involvement in pornography was a way to anesthitize his pain, and stemmed from his childhood?

Not even close.

It was: “You’re not enough.” He looks at this stuff because you’re not enough woman for him. Thereby compounding his lies. He took my sin, and used it to assault her in the very core of her being: her femininity.

Even though to me it was never about sex, but rather medicating the pain of a life I couldn’t control. It was my besetting sin.

How I wish I’d never hurt her in that way, could take it all back. But I can’t. However, it is now covered under the blood, and not something I struggle with anymore.

Why? Why don’t I struggle with it? Why is it not cycling into, and out, my life like before?

There are five key reasons:

1) I have a God Who loves me enough to not leave me as I am.
2) I have a wife who, despite the pain I caused her, loves me enough to not leave me as I am. And who encouraged me to seek help.
3) I found help at Celebrate Recovery, and confessed my sins to similarly struggling men. I was astounded to learn that I wasn’t alone. Of all the lies Satan tells us, that’s got to be the biggest: that we are alone.
4) As corny, as cliché as this may sound, God spoke to me through Dr. Phil. The good doctor was doing an episode that featured a segment on porn, and said something that was seared into my soul: “That’s somebody’s daughter.”

That’s somebody’s daughter. I have a daughter. Would I want someone, somewhere, looking at my daughter? That thought alone brought me up cold–because the answer was a resounding “NO!!!!”

5) There is accountability in confession: by choosing to put my story out there I disarm the enemy. He’s no longer able to accuse me here in this place–because it’s not a secret anymore. And having done so, I was again astonished to learn that I’m not alone.

——————

Mike Foster of POTSC says this: “Being brave with your story gives others the courage to be brave with theirs.”

Anne Jackson puts it this way: “By going first, you give others a gift. The gift of going second.” Meaning someone has to be brave, be courageous, share the uncomfortable–because you never know who you’re going to encourage by doing so.

Will you be brave today, give someone the gift of going second? You don’t have to share here, but please do find somewhere to share. You’re not alone.