Showing posts with label pain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pain. Show all posts

13 May 2013

The problem of pain

CS Lewis wrote two books that may help us to understand pain and suffering. The article includes some quotes from one of the books and then offers some advice for those intending to spend time with a person suffering emotional pain or loss.

A shocked and grieving womanThis month's Synchroblog is on being with those suffering pain.

(The list of links to the Synchroblog contributions is available at the bottom of this post.)

CS Lewis wrote a book entitled 'The Problem of Pain'. In it, Lewis explores pain as it relates to an omnipotent and loving creator.

The book was popular in his lifetime and has since become such a classic that it's still in print and available as an e-book too.

What follows below is a series of quotes from Lewis's book with short comments from me.

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say 'My tooth is aching' than to say “My heart is broken.
CS Lewis was no stranger to pain. Long after writing these words his wife, Joy Davidman, died (just four years after their marriage). He wrote another book about that experience, 'A Grief Observed'. Both books are worth exploring.

Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.
Lewis correctly sees that this is true of all love, both human love and the love of the eternal Father.

The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.
This, I think, is profoundly true. We need to remember this wisdom when we are suffering pain, and we need to remember it even more when we are free from pain.

Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.
This connection between pain and free will is extremely deep. The universe is predicated upon chance events and freedom to act independently. But this freedom is essential and makes love possible. If we are to love we must choose to do so, if we had no choice it wouldn't be love at all.

...when pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.
I think Lewis has this absolutely right, do you?

Helping others in their pain - The synchroblog for May 2013 asks how we might best respond to the pain that others suffer. In particular it asks, 'As followers of Jesus, how are we to respond in such situations?'

The first essential is surely that we must approach every person with unique sympathy. Sym-pathy... the 'sym' part of this word means 'with' and 'pathy' is 'suffering'. If I cannot 'suffer with' you in your pain I have no sympathy. It is better for me to come and cry with you than to come saying, 'Cheer up, put a smile on your face, it could be worse'.

Job didn't need speeches from his friends, he needed them to sit there on the ash heap beside him.

And the idea of leaving the person alone is not a good one either! Just because it's better to be quiet and not attempt to 'fix the problem' doesn't imply that it's best to be absent.

I would suggest that the right way to respond includes being there and that it includes listening. It may well involve offering an arm or a shoulder or a hug. And it may involve simple practical things like making a cup of tea, bringing a meal, looking after a child or a household pet. It probably doesn't include giving advice, being cheerful, or finding distractions.

It does require understanding without necessarily intervening, and it also demands patience and gentleness and the wisdom to speak, be silent, act, or remain inactive in appropriate ways at the right moments. It will not involve cajoling or nagging, theorising or explaining.

All of this sounds complicated and difficult. But the essence is simple, it is to understand without needing to be understood in return.

Prayer is good, but pray for yourself as much as for the other. Pray for insight and for prompting from the Spirit. Be prepared to pray inwardly much more than aloud.

You will help just by being there. But be sensitive and alert for signs that you should leave and return later. Aim to be a blessing, not an additional burden or an irritation.

Carol Kuniholm writes from deep within her heart about this topic, don't miss what she has to say in 'Like a motherless child'.

Questions:

  • Have there been painful times in your own life?
  • Can you draw on those experiences to enrich your sympathy for others?
  • Do you see why your presence and listening might be so helpful?

See also:


Synchroblog links:

13 March 2013

If there's a Creator...

If there's a Creator, why is suffering permitted? Perhaps we are looking at life in the wrong way, it's not about ease and safety. It's about living a more free and abundant life, about loving one another, about knowing the Creator intimately. Life is not supposed to be me-centred, it's other-centred.

A royal doll's house
Haven't we all heard this question? 'If there's a Creator, why does he allow suffering in the world?'

Or it might be, 'Why did he let my wife/husband/child/parent/friend die?', or ,'Why didn't he stop a terrorist incident?'.

Why are there earthquakes, why is there disease?

It's a question that comes from a great missing of the point. Our Father didn't promise us lives without trouble. Indeed, Yahshua specifically told his followers that they would face severe trouble in the world.

He himself faced ridicule, scourging, and a ghastly death. Why would we expect to suffer any less? And if we who have trusted in him and follow him face hardship, danger and loss, why would those who have not trusted and followed expect a better deal?

The fact is, he did not necessarily come to bring us health and happiness and security in this life, he came to set us free and pour into us the essence of a new life - a life that will never end. We begin to live the new Kingdom life now even while we still struggle daily in our old, temporary lives.

We rarely think about the alternative to a universe in which suffering is allowed. The alternative would be no free will, no self determination. Only chaos (in the mathematical sense) makes life possible.

Why is this so hard to grasp, so hard to come to terms with?

Perhaps it all depends where we are standing as we review the situation.

The view from this world - Looking at it from the perspective of this life alone it is natural for people to want comfort and security. If we expect to die and pass into an empty obscurity, why would we search for anything else but benefit now? More money, more fun, better health, more happiness, more time, less work, more to eat but a slimmer body, less working out but better fitness, less effort but more achievement. Are these reasonable goals? No!

As long as we think of heaven as a place of lazy happiness and easy joy we are trying to find the wrong reward. And if the truth be known, we are still wanting to enjoy that reward in this life.

The view from the kingdom of heaven - But Christ did not come to reward us. We did not (and cannot) earn a reward. We are too often like children opening a wrapped gift and saying, 'But I didn't want a key, I wanted a doll's house. This comes from a failure to understand from a grown-up perspective. Which is best for us, a doll's house now or the key to our Father's house so we can freely come and go?

We need to learn to live our lives from this new perspective. It's not healing now, or food now, or safety now that truly matters. By comparison with receiving the heavenly and eternal healing, food and safety and having them in the here and now are of little value.


Heaven invades the world - And if this is all true, why do we see people healed when we pray for them? Why did Yahshua tell his followers, 'Ask anything in my name and it will done for you by my Father in Heaven'?

One of the greatest joys and privileges we have as believers is the gift of being able to come to the Father in the name of the Son. It is one of the means by which the kingdom of heaven invades this physical universe in which we live. Other ways include direct communication through the action of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, through dreams and visions, in prophecy and teaching, words of comfort and wisdom, and above all the growing knowledge believers have of the Father's heart and nature.

Some will say, 'But it doesn't always work!' This is true, sometimes we pray for healing and there is no perceived change. It might be due to lack of faith in the heart of the one who asks or of the one who is prayed for. But it might also be because we have not clearly heard the Father's will and purpose. It may be because we give up instead of persisting in prayer. And sometimes it may even be because the hard experience is essential for our eternal well-being or for someone else's.

We need to become like Yahshua who said, 'If it's possible, let this cup pass from me. But even so, Father, let your will be done here, not mine.'

Isn't this what Paul had in mind when he wrote, 'Let your bodies be made spiritual sacrifices'? We must lay down our lives daily. Lay them down and not take them up again. Lay them down and leave them for Papa to use and bless in his own way and at a time of his choosing.

And while we are here, in this world, it is our responsibility to help other people whenever we have the means to do so. We must pray for the sick and feed the hungry. We are the hands and feet of Jesus.

Questions:

  • What does it mean to you, personally, to 'let your body be made a spiritual sacrifice'?
  • How do you answer someone who says that unanswered prayer shows you lack faith?
  • Has anyone ever said that to you or someone you know?

See also:

10 August 2011

St Neots (Cornerstone) - Distressed by church life

< 3rd August 2011 | Index | 25th August 2011 >

I had arranged to meet a couple at Cornerstone this morning but was late arriving. In the end that was not a problem and we spent several hours together. These two lovely people shared a story of church life causing pain.
Cornerstone Cafe and BooksMuch to my shame I forgot about the meeting and was only reminded when I received a 'We're here, where are you?' text on my phone. By the time I arrived at Cornerstone they had already left.

I ordered a coffee, called them, and was relieved to discover they were just exploring St Neots High Street. Very soon we were finally in Cornerstone together sitting, drinking tea and coffee and chatting.

The conversation was encouraging. They told me about some of their history in church life, a not unusual mix of good and less good. Church life tends to be good when we are all listening to the Holy Spirit and obediently doing whatever he tells us to do. It tends to be much more difficult when we are 'doing the best we can'. Rather than doing our best (which is never good enough) we need to get out of his way and let him do his best in us and through us. Sometimes the things that other earnest, well-meaning people do to us in the name of religion is distressing and disappointing.

I felt Father nudging me to give my new friends a copy of 'The Grace Outpouring', and shortly afterwards one of them said something about 'grace pouring in'. I popped down to the book counter, Angie sold me the last copy on the shelves, I scrawled a brief note inside and passed it across the table to them.

Because we were rather late starting, we still had plenty to share with one another as lunchtime came along so we stayed together and had a light lunch - sharing food as well as thoughts and conversation.

I showed them the meeting room and the healing room and we spent a useful time praying together. Father gave me a picture and a word for them but I'm going to share it here too as I think it applies to all of us.

I saw a pathway leading slightly uphill amongst scrubby woodland. I knew it was the way we should be following despite its poor condition. There were large rocks blocking the path, potholes, nettles and brambles. And the Lord said, 'You are on The Way, it is the right way, it's the way I have planned for you. The road ahead is not going to be easy, the road I have walked wasn't easy either. You will have to move some of the rocks, pull out the nettles and thistles, and fill potholes. Move those you can and the road will be a little easier for those following behind you.

I had a sense that The Way as it originally existed was perfectly straight and flat, but two thousand years of religion and tradition have damaged it and made it unsafe. But as we pass along we all have opportunities to improve the Way. Perhaps this is a picture of church life, rough, uneven, hard and sometimes painful yet improving little by little by the action of obedient servants who hear the Spirit's murmurings and obey him.

All three of us enjoyed our few hours together and were encouraged. We will meet again for sure and we will keep in touch. And we will walk The Way in the church and in the world - wherever the Master sends us.

< 3rd August 2011 | Index | 25th August 2011 >

28 February 2011

Brampton - An easy prayer turned hard

< 22nd February 2011 | Index | 3rd March 2011 >

Meeting with Sean this evening provided an unexpected dimension to prayer and faith. What began as a simple prayer for children to be happy turned into a deeply significant personal challenge. Life with Yahshua is full of surprises.

Whatever our age, we are all childrenI suppose by now nothing should surprise me! Here's what happened.

We sat drinking coffee and I wittered on for a while about the situation in North Africa, and Libya in particular. Not particularly illuminating stuff, but something that has preoccupied me over recent days. Sean listened but had little to add as he's been busy with other things of his own.

The prayer - Over the weeks and months he has been working his way through prayer circles on a T-shirt. Here's Sean's explanation. Read what he says and then come back here. If you don't, what follows may be a bit of a mystery.

I asked how this process was going, and wondered if it would be OK to pray about one or two of the circles together. Sean thought that would be a good plan and picked one out at random. We looked at it together, someone had written, 'For all children to be happy'.

What a lovely prayer request; simple, pure, and certainly worthy. I thought, 'What an easy thing to pray for.' Boy, was I wrong to think that!

The problem - As we began to pray, this 'simple' prayer challenged me more and more about my own faith. Perhaps the words 'all' and 'be' are the main problem. Do I have the faith to go to Father and ask, in Jesus name, that all children will be happy? All children? There is so much pain and suffering in the world and children are not immune. Here are some of the issues faced by children every day in our world - hunger, pain, sickness, abuse, no parents, uncaring parents, poverty, dirty drinking water, isolation, bullying, loneliness, fear, violence, self doubt, abandonment, loss... The list could go on, add some more yourself.

How can I ask for all children to be happy? It's easy to say the words so let's rephrase that. How can I believe that such a prayer will be answered? It seems easier to pray for one child with a particular known issue to be met. 'Father, please bring happiness into the life of {name goes here}'. But all children?

Yahshua loves children. He told his disciples not to prevent the little ones coming to him. He told them that unless they themselves came like small children they wouldn't even enter the Kingdom of heaven! (Mark 10:13-16)

Challenged - Whoever wrote that simple T-shirt prayer could not have known that they were setting me such a mighty challenge! The Holy Spirit didn't make it easier for me; he told me, 'If you can't pray for such a simple thing, how will you be able to ask for anything more difficult?'

I recognise that the Creator and King of this universe truly loves every child and certainly has no wish to keep any of them from happiness. Jesus himself walked through this same broken world and saw (and felt) the suffering and pain for himself. Love is the answer, but it's an answer he wants me to live out in practical ways as part of his body. I may be an ear, an eye, a foot or a hand. I must play my part by hearing or seeing suffering and going and reaching out in love.

I've rarely felt more challenged. What about you? Do you have views or thoughts about prayer and faith? Why not leave a comment? Let's have a discussion.

You can see more of Sean's T-shirt prayer circles on his 'Children in Need' Prayer Spot. The photo is image 54 from a collection on the recent earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

< 22nd February 2011 | Index | 3rd March 2011 >

28 October 2010

THOUGHT - Unbreaking the pot

If I drop a pot it will shatter into a thousand pieces, some of them quite large, others very small, some just the tiniest specks of dust. And what I have broken I can in no way repair.

PotsherdsI may decide to sweep up the mess and throw the remains in the bin, the broken pieces are no good for anything. If the pot has sentimental value the best I can do is gather the larger pieces and spend a while with a tube of glue. But it won't fool anyone, it will never be the same again. What was shattered in a moment cannot be mended even if I labour with adhesive for all eternity.

I'm happy to say that Papa is a whole lot cleverer than I am.

When a person is broken, shattered into a thousand disjointed shards by circumstances or by the unaware (or all too aware) actions of others, he is capable of making truly invisible repairs. He will never sweep up the mess and throw the remains in the bin. He can rebuild a person so that they are not just mended, but repaired, renewed, and fully restored.

This is a miracle, of course, but what we cannot do is possible for him. It may take much time but he is infinitely patient and he does the work with extreme care and attention, motivated by his perfect love.

He gave us free will and had his reasons for doing so. He will not prevent us from harming one another. Nor will he force restoration when we are determined to resist it. But he is a great encourager, he will leave no stone unturned, and he will never tire in his attempts to woo a broken heart or a shattered soul.

I cannot restore a broken pot to factory new condition. But he can! Just don't ask me how he will do it. I have no idea. All I know is that he reaches out to every one of us in ways we can respond to - even when we believe we can't. Sometimes people say, 'Oh, I understand, I know how you feel', when in truth they have no idea at all. But he does understand.

Mags posted something special and touching yesterday. As I read it tonight I saw a picture of a broken pot. I understood that nobody can restore a broken pot and nobody can restore a broken person. And in that moment I knew I must write about the broken pot.

A pot may have all kinds of functions. It might contain something precious like the jar of nard (John 12:3). But a broken pot can contain - nothing! Restored, it can again contain something precious.

The jar of nard was made to be deliberately broken to release the precious contents - but broken at the right moment and in the right way. The jar was not made to be carelessly dropped, trampled underfoot, or hurled against a wall in anger.

There are two kinds of brokenness. There is the empty brokenness of damage and there is the brokenness of sacrifice. They should never be confused. We must first be restored so that we can contain a treasure, and then we can be broken in a pure, fulfilling, and purposeful way. Broken for glory, broken to bless others, broken to release the treasure contained within us.

How great is the One who restores us, fills us, and shows us how we can be broken for glory and for blessing to release a treasure. He is the treasure! The enemy wants to break us by crushing us, but Abba will break us by loving us. Our breaking will be beautiful like a fragrant flower breaking from the bud or a butterfly breaking from the pupa.


See also:


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