Why Are You Coming Back!

Many of us are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. At some point the son realized that his life was in shambles and that returning to his father was necessary for staying alive. It says in the story that when the son thought about going back to the father his game plan was to throw himself at his father’s feet, beg for his forgiveness and ask to be accepted back as a servant. He did not know exactly how his father would respond but expected that he would want an explanation as to why he was returning. And the son expected that there would be conditions he would have to meet to be accepted back. The son knew he had brought embarrassment and shame on his father and the family, and as a result of his actions he most likely would never be restored to a position of sonship. However, that was okay with him as long as he could just be in the household and no longer separated from his father. He knew it was safe there and his needs would be met.

What is so encouraging about this story is the total, unconditional love demonstrated by the father. He didn’t require anything from the son. There were no questions like, “Why are you coming back?” No demands, no explanations needed just total, unconditional acceptance.

I am certain the father’s response stunned this young man. I am just as certain that many of us in some ways are like this prodigal. We may have strayed away from God and are not sure He will accept us back to the position we had before we left. Even if He does we think He will want to know why we are returning. In his book, The Road To Daybreak, Henri Nouwen wrote, “God does not require a pure heart before embracing us. Even if we return only because following our desires has failed to bring happiness, God will take us back. Even if we return because being a Christian brings us more peace than being a pagan, God will receive us. Even if we return because our sins did not offer as much satisfaction as we had hoped, God will take us back. Even if we return because we could not make it on our own, God will receive us. God’s love does not require any explanations about why we are returning. God is glad to see us home and wants to give us all we desire, just for being home.”

What an incredible statement! God does not care why we are back. He’s just excited to have us back. Our heart does not have to be pure; our reasons for coming back do not even have to be clearly defined.

Maybe you have not totally left but a part of you is in the “far country” and you have discovered it has not brought you the pleasure you thought it would. If you feel somewhat like the prodigal and know you need to return but hesitate to out of fear, rest assured He’s waiting for you to come home.

He is not standing there, with a raised eyebrow, a skeptical look on his face, waiting to ask you, “What do you want and why are you here?” Your Father God is so completely in love with you He does not want to know nor does He care why you came back. He is simply happy to have you back. Do not let the fear of having to explain yourself keep you from coming back to the Father. Do not feel as if you are going to have to justify yourself. The question He will ask is not “why are you coming back” but “when are you coming back?”

He Is So Proud of You!

It’s difficult for us to grasp that God is proud of us. Like a father is proud of his son or daughter so our Father God is proud of us. We might rightly respond, “What is there to be proud of? I’ve never done anything significant. I’m not famous; I’ve never written a book or composed a song. I do not paint or write poetry. I do not know how to build anything with my hands, fix the car or grow a garden. All the houseplants my friends give me soon die, though not for lack of trying. What’s to be proud of?”

In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning writes, “Has it crossed your mind that I am proud you accepted the gift of faith I offered you? Proud that you freely chose me, after I had chosen you, as your friend and Lord? Proud that with all your warts and wrinkles you haven’t given up? Proud that you believe in me enough to try again and again.”

Wow, can you get a hold of this? He’s looking at you through the eyes of a father looking at his child and saying, “I’m so proud of you, you have accepted what I have offered and you do not give up but keep trying again and again. That is so great! Do you know how proud it makes me feel that you want me? Do you know how much it means to me to see the hours you spend trying to learn more about me – your singing, praying, sitting quietly just to be with me. Do you know how proud it makes me feel that you want to be with me? All the things you could be doing and you chose freely to spend time with me. I know you have sins and struggles. I know that you are not where you feel that you need to be for me to love and accept you. But I still love you. And I am proud of you!”

We may not know how to handle the love and pride of a father for whom we do not have to do anything. If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a home with loving parents, then you know that from the time you were born, they were proud of you. Proud of your first steps. Proud of those crayon squiggles on paper that were taped up on the walls like Rembrandt paintings. Proud of you when you came running into the room to show them your latest Play-Dough masterpiece. You knew they accepted you even when you failed again and again. You did not have to prove anything to them. You knew that there was nothing that would keep them from loving you no matter how often you ran from them and hid in your shame and embarrassment. And our Lord loves us even more than our parents.

I remember a time when one of our sons was in the midst of serious rebellion. As his parents we could not stop him from doing those things that we knew could potentially destroy him. But we could love him. During one of those moments he screamed at us in frustration, “The problem is you love me too much! Why can’t you be like my friends’ parents who don’t care what they do?” He was actually frustrated because no matter what he did we never stopped loving him. That love was causing him guilt and frustration because it would have been much easier for him to rebel if we had simply rejected him. But we could not do that, and that love eventually paid off.

Your Father God is proud of you because you are His and He quite simply loves you. He understands all of your humanness. Take it into your heart and your soul – Father God is proud of you! Don’t try to analyze, understand or “live up” to anything you think will make Him proud because it is not what you do but, rather, what you are. You are His. Believe it, accept it and live in the glorious freedom of it!

What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part Three

WHAT IF THE PAIN DOESN’T GO AWAY!
Part 3 of 3

FOUR STAGES

I’ve discovered that there are typically four stages that one goes through when dealing with chronic pain.

Helping Stage. In the beginning the doctors prescribed medications for me so that I could cope with the pain. In this stage I went through innumerable tests, assorted physical therapies and a variety of medications. They were truly trying to help. When none of these provided much help in relieving the pain, the doctors, because of their busy schedules and frustration that nothing was working grew weary of dealing with me. I admit that this may not have been the case but it was my perception of what was happening.

Shuffle Stage. After being shuffled about to numerous doctors, one finally said, “Even though there is a discernible injury, there is nothing we can do about it so you will have to live with it!” Not willing to accept this I pressed on until I found a doctor who would sit patiently and listen to my story before prescribing treatment.

Up until this time one of the most frustrating experiences with the doctors was that they would breeze into the room with my chart tucked under their arm, ask a couple of questions, prescribe some medication and fly out the door. None of them actually sat down and listened to me tell them how the injury occurred and what I was feeling.

Being the persistent fellow that I am I continued to push for more testing, therapy, medication or even surgery if that would help. Whatever it was going to take to get rid of this pain I was willing to try. I was insistent that we could not stop until all the options had been explored. After a great deal of testing and probing by specialists scattered about the state they finally decided to try surgery.

Frustration and Confusion Stage. One doctor, highly recommended and one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the world for neck injuries, (why would I pick any less than the best), diagnosed the problem and said, “I can fix it and there is an 85% chance of getting rid of the pain completely.” I responded, “Great lets go for it!” However, before I went for surgery my HMO required that I to go back to see another one of their specialists. He advised me not to have the surgery for two reasons. First, that it wouldn’t help and second that it was very risky. Oh by the way, I was told that he was highly respected among his peers and also one of the best Orthopedic Surgeons in the world.

So here I am at the frustration stage, having dealt with this pain for years, standing between two of the best doctors in the world in dealing with this type of surgery and they are giving me totally opposite counsel. By this time I am willing to do anything to stop the pain. I had even contemplated cutting the more painful of the two hands off, hoping that would help. At one point there was such desperation that the thought of suicide entered my mind. I quickly dismissed it since I remembered hearing, as a little boy, that if you commit suicide you will go straight to hell. That thought terrified me more than the pain so I knew I didn’t want that. What’s a poor guy who only wants relief from pain supposed to do? Whom do you believe?

Desperation Stage. I finally decided, hey, what have I got to lose? I have tried medicine, I have tried physical therapy, I have tried meditation, and I have tried prayer. Nothings worked yet so let’s try the surgery.

OH, BY THE WAY

In desperation I went with the advice of the “best doctor” and said, “Let’s do the surgery.” When the morning of the surgery arrived I was lying on the table outside the operating room, with a needle in my arm and the anesthesia flowing. Just as I am drifting off the surgeon comes walking over and says, “I have revised the outcome to be a 50% chance that I can do anything about the pain!” As I am going down into the black hole I am thinking to myself, what do you mean 50%! I only did this because you said there was an 85% chance that all the pain would be gone!

Picture this; I am on the table waiting to go under the knife when he tells me! That’s the last thing I remember before I wake up in recovery. After he does the surgery I’m recovering in the hospital thinking everything is great until the morphine begins to wear off. It’s then that I realize the surgery didn’t work. Not only do I still have the pain in my hands but I now know that because of the surgery scar tissue will form that will increase the pain. Which was why the other world famous surgeon told me not to have the operation. In addition, I am placed on medication that, if I take as much as is needed to completely dull the pain, makes me into a mental zombie

LET’S START OVER

Let me recap this for you. I have tried everything I know to get rid of the pain. I am in a ministry of healing prayer and over the years I prayed for my own healing and I have asked numerous times for prayer from others. After awhile you tire of asking, not only because you begin to feel you are a bother, but you get this unspoken feeling that people are tired of you asking for prayer for the same thing over and over. You feel they are thinking, “Can’t you come up with something else, we’re getting tired of this?” You also begin to feel like a failure yourself. That there must be some reason why God is not healing you and as soon as you figure out what that reason is He will heal you.

I started this article with the question; “What If the Pain Doesn’t Go Away?” Let me answer that question as best I can. In our training manual, “Learning To Do What Jesus Did” we state emphatically that we believe healing is for today and then give a solid biblical basis for our belief. We touch on questions such as: What about believers who do not get well; are suffering and sickness from God; does everyone who believes get well; if you have enough faith will God heal you?”

We have answers for all these questions, but I still have the pain and it has been there for over 20 years eating away at me physically and emotionally. How do I deal with it? Honestly, some days better than others.

In this journey I have come to realize two things. First, although God did not cause this, He has used this pain to help me become more sensitive toward people in relentless, debilitating pain. I pray for them with a better understanding of what they are dealing with.

Second, it serves to remind me that we are in spiritual warfare and there may be numerous reasons why I have not been healed. It always brings me back to the issue of trust. Do I trust God or not? I know it is God’s will for me to be healed. I have absolutely no doubt that my Father in heaven can heal me in a flash if He so chooses.

Until then, I will live with the pain, sometimes under it, but most of the time above it. I remind myself that I am precious to Him and that He is helping me to overcome this adversity.

WE NEED SENSITIVITY

If you are reading this, I trust this will have helped raise your level of sensitivity to those of us dealing with continual pain. We need your understanding and sensitivity to what we are dealing with daily. I did not say we want your pity. We do not want your pity. We need your encouragement and we need your persistent prayers. We do not need trite, religious dribble. We need you, operating in love and grace, to come along side and walk with us through the pain.

If you are one of those dealing with never-ending pain, know that there are others who truly understand and likewise are walking in obedience and trust that someday healing will come.

Do not give in to the pain. You can learn to deal with pain in one of two ways. You can allow it to beat you down or you can live above it. Most days I can live above it, but there are days when it beats me down. When this happens, I accept it, and hope for a better day tomorrow. Do not allow the pain to keep you from seeking the healing and restoring love of God. Do not allow it to shut him out. He is a God of infinite mercy and grace and you are His beloved. This you must hold onto at all costs.

See also:
What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part One
What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part Two

It Has Arrived!

bygh-cover-full-400My newest book, subtitled Baggage To Drop On Your Way To Heaven, is a guide to assist in discovering freedom from the invisible burdens that oppress and defeat many Christians today.

Chapters include:
The Importance of Forgiveness
The Traps of Unforgiveness
A Look in the Mirror
I Will Never
Harmful Words and Harmful Connections
Let Yourself Be Loved By God
The Recovery of Intimacy
and more…

Before You Get Here is available here at Wholeness.org and at Amazon.com both as paperback and Kindle.

TESTIMONIES thus far from those that have read the book:

“Thank you for your wonderful new book! It arrived with it’s wonderful content at just the right time for me, laboring with a load of guilt for some rather unchristian behavior on my part yesterday and asking “how could I be so stupid and unkind, and it’s Christmas week!”…so bless you for your timeliness.”

“Mike I’m halfway through your book and I can’t put it down. It is absolutely excellent! Thank You!”

“Mike, I’m enjoying your book. I’m reading it slowly but it’s causing me to search for unforgiveness in my heart. I’ve usually only looked at big things but I’m asking God to show me all of it! Thank you.”

In addition I received a letter the other day from a lady that read my book Why Not Waste Time With God?

“I’m writing to let you know how your ministry impacted me 8-10 years ago. I was attending a conference and you talked a lot about Wasting Time With God and on how God formed your identity. I remember you said that for a long time you thought you knew God but it turned out you just knew about God. To know God we have to spend time (waste time) with Him. You talked about being picked on as a young fellow and how it impacted your identity, but that God gave you a sport that you excelled at, which helped bring you out of that time.”

“Since your ministry I have realized the truth of what you said, that we Christians may “know” God too superficially. I have begun to spend a lot of time with God and the difference is incredible. Your words settled into my heart and have stayed there for these 8 or so years. The Holy Spirit is still using your words. God bless you richly this day and may many be healed and blessed under your ministry and greatly impacted for Jesus.”

Both of these books are available in the Wholeness Ministries store at wholeness.org/shop

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January 21-25, St. Dennis Catholic Church, Lockport Ilinois
Healing Conference with workshops Friday and Saturday.
For more information contact: 815-838-2592
http://www.saint-dennis.org/

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Thank you for your faithful support over the years. You are very much a part of all we do both here in the U.S. and overseas.

Have a blessed and Happy New Year.

Mike

What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part Two

WHAT IF THE PAIN DOESN’T GO AWAY!
Part 2 of 3

THREE REASONS

If you are suffering from pain you will typically hear three reasons for your pain which are meant to adequately explain why you are suffering. And, once you hear and accept these reasons, they should bring you immediate comfort. Right!

First, God wants to heal you. Therefore, if you are suffering from pain there must be something wrong with you. This is always very helpful to know because it means that as soon as I figure out what is wrong and take steps to correct it God has to heal me. Makes sense to me.

Second, this is from God and it is your cross to bear. Just like Paul this is your thorn in the flesh and it will work for your greater good. (You know, I hear that one a lot, it seems to be a favorite.) So God is going to make you bear this physical pain to build your character. I know from first hand experience that God can take whatever circumstances we find ourselves in and bring good out of those circumstances. But I don’t believe He causes things to happen which bring pain in order to make you a better person.

Until this accident, for most of my life I have been very healthy. I did not have to deal with any chronic sickness or pain and therefore I had little empathy for people who were dealing with it. However, all of that changed as a result of a skiing accident. I now have a better understanding and empathy for those who have pain, which they can do nothing about. I have watched how in my own life God has brought some good out of this debilitating accident. However, I find it difficult to believe that God will not heal me because He wants to further refine my character. This way of thinking is not only discouraging but brings a sense of hopelessness. A pain filled future is not very appealing.

This type of thinking also affects how I pray for others. If I believe that the reason they are suffering is because God is building their character, isn’t it presumptuous on my part to pray for them to be healed? I heard a man once say, “If I treated my children like this I would be arrested for child abuse.” Honestly, would I use pain to build character when there are better ways to build character?

Third, this is suffering which you must accept because God is using this to teach you something. (Hey I’m listening God, what are you trying to teach me!) This one is especially demoralizing since you often have no clue as to what God is trying to teach you. It logically follows that the sooner you figure out what He is trying to teach you the sooner you will be healed. The problem is He rarely reveals what He is trying to teach you. If you were going to teach me something it would be helpful if you revealed to me what you are trying to teach me. Chances are I won’t get it if you don’t. This too is always uplifting and encouraging.

For most of us these three reasons are easy to give to someone else. But, if you are the one living in pain, these are the last things you want to hear. I have no doubt that perhaps there are times these statements are true, but I believe we unthinkingly speak them and expect the person suffering, once having heard our wise counsel, to accept their lot in life and move on. It’s sort of like when someone comes to you needing food and shelter and you say, “the Lord bless you and fill you my friend,” and you send them on their way without any food or shelter. What good is this?

WELL MEANING FRIENDS

In my twenty-year journey with pain I have heard all of these statements. Believe me when I say that they do not help. Moreover, I know that I am not alone in this journey. We need to be more sensitive to those in pain when we throw these statements around as if they are the last word from God. These words can and often do, cause deep wounding.

Over the years I have on occasion needed prayer for the anger I’ve felt towards others due to the emotional and spiritual abuse I’ve suffered at their hands. Admittedly, this was often unintentional and misguided help, but nevertheless it happened. Those of us in pain can suffer much emotional wounding as a result of being prayed for or given “Godly counsel” by well meaning but misguided “friends”.

I know this is a journey that is walked by many people, but I am in the healing ministry and logically it would seem that God would want me to be healed. What I do in full time ministry is travel around the world and conduct prayer seminars and healing conferences using our training manual Learning To Do What Jesus Did: How to Pray for Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Healing. I pray for people to be healed and a number of them are healed. Obviously if someone should be healed it would be me. What better example for God to use than me, right? Wrong!

Not only do I have to deal with the constant pain from the injury but also I occasionally wrestle with the tough questions regarding my own lack of healing. Questions which quite naturally arise as a result of spending much of my time praying for people dealing with a variety of physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Pain from which God heals them! There is also puzzlement over the fact that when I pray for people for extended periods of time my hands often throb with pain long after I am finished praying.

PAIN BRINGS DESPERATION

We know that pain brings desperation. Chronic pain can cause one to do stupid things. You may have a fairly high pain threshold. But even at that you can come to the point where you are willing to try anything to make the pain go away. This includes allowing yourself to be prayed for by some very unorthodox people. Their style and approach to prayer is a little over the edge for you but because of your desperation you are willing to try anything. Often the result is not spiritual or physical healing but spiritual abuse.

SPIRITUAL ABUSE

Let me share an example of spiritual abuse, which I have found to be quite common. I’ll call him Alex. I was attending a pastor’s prayer retreat and one afternoon we set aside time to pray for each other. In the process of sharing my needs I asked for prayer for the pain I was experiencing in my hands as a result of the injury to the nerves in my neck. As all the pastors gathered around me to pray, Alex, being the gregarious, get in and get after it fellow that he is, grabs my head with both hands and begins to loudly petition God to heal my neck; proclaiming all doubt to be cast away, and citing all of the scriptures that seem to indicate that if you name it, believe it, claim it, loud enough and long enough it’s going to happen. While he is doing this with his hands on my head he is turning and twisting my head and neck with no concern that he might be doing even further injury in his enthusiasm to get me healed! The most incredible part is that I sit and let this happen! Did I say earlier that pain brings desperation?

After the “healing prayer” I immediately got up to leave. I needed to get outside and take a walk. I felt violated and found myself becoming angry over what had just taken place. Also, in some strange way I felt as if I had failed, but I was not even sure in what way. I know intellectually that was not the case but that’s how I felt. As I walked down the road I became increasingly angry at what had just happened to me. As I later thought back on this incident, the only way I could explain allowing this to go on was that I was so desperate for healing and relief from the pain that I was willing to let anyone who could pray, try anything! When this was all over, the pain was still there. In fact it increased as the hours went by due to the irritation to the nerves caused by this twisting and turning of my neck.

I felt as if I had been spiritually raped. Later that evening I found myself still angry over what had been done to me and that I had allowed myself to be subjected to that insanity. How could I have been so stupid? When I left the retreat and headed home I was angry with Alex and I felt betrayed by my brothers in ministry who didn’t stop this nonsense. Soon I was asking, “God, how could you have let this happen?” Now I had to deal with anger, not only towards Alex, but my brothers, God and myself. It took some time but fortunately I did get the anger dealt with.

See also:
What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part One
What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part Three