May 2014-Mountain Haven Newsletter
Responses to Pain
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” Khalil Gibran
“The tragedy of life is in what dies inside a man while he lives – the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or the glory of other men in yourself.”
Pain comes in many different forms. The loss of a loved one, chronic sickness and disease, a strained and unreconciled relationship, a financial struggle, a job loss or loss of identity, a mental illness, a wayward or rebellious child, an unanswered prayer, and the list goes on and on. It is so much nicer when we can just avoid pain or even put it off. This is impossible if we want to live our lives fully. Living like the great author and writer, Henry Nouwen, says in the “Here and Now”, is increasingly difficult when our goal is to ignore, run from, or hate the pain.
Personally, we are tired of pain especially the pain and frustration of Crohns disease. We have been battling with Crohns disease for almost ten years. There have been multiple hospitalizations and multiple bouts of madness dealing with an unrelenting enemy that is not easily subdued. This coupled with two back surgeries and ongoing back pain and degeneration are exhausting. We have tried all three of these approaches toward pain.
When we ignore it we find that we become bitter and frustrated. We don’t want to talk about the frustration with ongoing pain that we can’t understand. We don’t want to deal with the questions about what methods of treatment, we have tried and why they haven’t worked. We don’t want to talk to God about what might be wrong in our life that brought this ugly sickness into it. We want to withdraw from people because the pain of not knowing the answer is overwhelming. In essence, ignoring pulls us inward towards circular introspection and away from looking upward. Ignoring causes us to rely on our own strength and ignore the strength that Jesus offers us through His grace. The simple joy of just accepting that He is for us not against us and we are loved even in our misunderstood brokenness.
Running from pain often times stems from the belief that God created the pain or God is somehow behind it. It is not threatening to God for us to question or doubt Him or to even blame Him. But often, we feel afraid to direct our anger towards the creator of this universe and we run from Him instead.There are definitely times we have wondered if God Himself decided that He needed to give us this pain to contend with. Rather than look at the pain as something beneficial we look at it as an enemy sent to destroy us. We run from talking about it, and run from listening to others talk about it or ask about it. We distract with the busyness of life and run from intentionally trying to grapple with the pain by letting other things take us away. For each of us, those distractions take on a different form- whether it is another relationship, a new toy, a move to another location, a new hobby or even an addiction to help fill the pain. Whatever we choose to run to, running pushes us outward into the trap of pursuing external pleasures and away from looking upward.
When pain comes in unexpected and surprising ways to us, and continues unrelenting, we can start to hate it. A rising bitterness fills us up whenever we are reminded of the loss and ruin we feel. Hatred towards pain is probably our worst enemy because it amplifies the experience for us and causes us to feel trapped in a hopeless downward spiral. Lately, the desire to hate Crohns disease has been really strong. We feel like we are finally in a season of peace and then BAM a flare up out of nowhere. We can be tempted to hate these unknown and untimely surprises, and with the hate comes an inward bitterness towards pain. This inward bitterness has caused us to be tempted to stop praying for healing, and stop believing that it is even possible for life to look different. Resentment builds up a wall between us and God. This wall is self erected and it filters all that we believe about God. It creates a false belief system that pulls us farther away from God and closer to self pity. This is a dangerous trap. Hating the pain pulls us inward towards our broken self and farther away from looking upward.
Whether we choose to ignore, run from or hate our pain all of these responses lead us to be self-focused. Being self-focused is exhausting. We have to try to figure out the “whys” of life. Sometimes we have to figure out the character of God and even question it. I don’t believe G0d has a problem with our questions or our struggles and doubts. It is when those struggles, doubts, and questions cause us to need an answer and to strive for some kind of understanding that may not come this side of heaven. Then we withdraw from His unrelenting love and fall into the abyss of depression and unanswered questions. The fact is there are things in life that are painful, they hurt and cause us to doubt and challenge God with closed fists. It seems the proper response to pain is to look upward and if that sometimes requires us to scream for understanding or beg for a sign – then so be it. Pain can leave us with a feeling of forsakenness, but let us remember that it is in the forsakenness that something spectacular and invisible is happening on our behalf. Surrender-not defeated self pity allows us to live side by side with pain when there are seasons in our life that call for it.
So what about you? What tends to be your response to pain? What pain are you living with right now? What struggle and battle are you fighting? Think about how you typically react. Marriage, family, and life will bring pain. Perhaps we need to live like Jesus did; with our heart open to the possibility that pain can be meaningful and can even serve a purpose. We can choose to serve Jesus truthfully and honestly, despite the pain, rather than choose to ignore, run from, and eventually hate it.
Help us walk with others through the pain they are facing
Your gifts allow us to reach people who are in real pain. They face the pain of adultery, pornography addictions, divorcing parents, sexual abuse and other painful circumstances. We need more monthly supporters to help us continue our outreach to individuals and families. Will you consider partnering with our donation based efforts and become our monthly partner? Your gift is tax deductible and every dollar goes a long way.
Pray about how to support this effort. Give at www.mountainhavenmarriageministry.com or mail a tax-deductible donation to 1160 Diamond Back Trail Canon City, CO 81212. We can provide you with monthly envelopes for giving upon your request. Stay in touch with praise or prayer requests as well. Thank you and we love you.