What is your pain telling you?
Regular columnist John Myhill reflects on the occurrence of pain in our lives.
"I had seen birth and death but had thought that they were different.” T.S. Eliot imagines the birth of Jesus as somehow more like a death, in His poem, “Journey of the Magi”
Last year I experienced severe pain. It came suddenly and took away all possibility of action, all thought of anything beyond the pain. Nothing reduced it. I was terrified it would increase. I was convinced I was going to die. Death began to feel like a good alternative. It lasted for three agonising hours, and then passed as suddenly as it had come.
I have known pain before, of similar force, but never for so long without variation, without reduction by pain killers, without medical intervention. Never be a Job’s comforter to those in pain. Prayer was my first response, yet by the time the pain ceased I had long given up hope. My faith was feeble (Matthew 17:20).
During the pain, I remembered those previous experiences of suffering. Of course, I still fear a recurrence of that pain, but within hours, I became unable to remember what it had really felt like. Could any of us function, day in, day out, if we could really hold in our heads the memory of the pain of childbirth, of severe physical injury or bodily agony? (Matthew 26:36-38)
Yet pain is a messenger: “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt” Matthew 2:3. Just as Joy is a messenger: “Blessed are you amongst women” Luke 1:42.
Just as we should expect to feel the extreme ecstasy of God’s love flowing into us through the gift of the Holy Spirit; so we should recognise the rap of his rod (Psalm 23), reminding us that true comfort is not material pleasure, but knowing that we do His will; for His peace is not the absence of conflict, but His sword (Matthew 10:34) which provides wisdom, discernment, love.
In the same way, His Equality is not about seeking as much material wealth as richer people, (raising the pay of well-paid female executives to be as outrageously huge as their male colleagues), but accepting that poorer people are worth as much as you are; not seeking to overthrow those with power, but refusing to hurt others by the power you possess (Matthew 18:28), just another incidence of forgiving others as we are forgiven.
Personally, I know I was becoming lost in the pleasures of retirement, when I was supposed to be sharing the Gospel. I needed the reminder that time is short, every moment a precious opportunity for good.
But what is your pain telling you?
John Myhill is a Norwich Quaker, retired magistrate and author. His blog is at http://johnmyhill.wordpress.com/
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