What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part Two
December 21, 2014
WHAT IF THE PAIN DOESN’T GO AWAY!
Part 2 of 3
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.
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.
What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part One
What if the pain doesn’t go away! Part Three