The Doctor Who Lost His Pain (And The Power That Comes From Suffering)

Pain and Suffering ChristianA Doctor Who Lost His Pain

Paul Brand had just arrived home in London after a long train ride from India where he treated patients in a leper colony. In his own words, this is his story:

I pulled off my shoes to prepare for bed, and as I did a terrible awareness hit me with the force of a wrecking ball, I had no feeling in half my foot. I sank into a chair my mind whirling, “Perhaps it’s an illusion.” I closed my eyes and pressed against my heel with the tip of a ballpoint pen. Nothing. No sensation of touch whatsoever. A dread fear worse than any nausea seized my stomach. Had it finally happened?

Every leprosy worker recognizes that insensitivity to pain is one of the disease’s first symptoms. Had I just made the wretched leap from leprosy doctor, to leprosy patient? I stood up stiffly and shifted back and forth on my unfeeling foot, then I rummaged in my suitcase for a sewing needle and sat down again. I pricked a small patch of skin below my ankle. No pain. I jabbed the needle deeper, probing for a reflex but there was none. A dark speck of blood oozed out of the whole I just made. I put my face between my hands and shuddered, longing for pain that would not come. I suppose I always feared that moment. In the early days of working with leprosy patients every time I took a bath I made a visual check for skin patches. Most leprosy workers did.

Rest did not come to me that night. I lay fully clothed on my bed, except for shoes and socks, perspiring and breathing heavily. “Welcome to the society of the accursed,” I thought. I knew all too well what to expect. My office files were filled with diagrams charting the body’s gradual march toward numbness. Ordinary pleasures in life would slip away: petting a dog, running a hand across silk, holding a child. Soon all sensations would feel alike: dead.

At last dawn came and I arose unrested and full of despair. I stared in the mirror at my unshaven face checking for patches. During the night the clinician inside of me had taken over. “I mustn’t panic,” I thought. Since I knew more about this disease than the average doctor in London it was up to me to determine a course of treatment. First I must map out the affected area of insensitivity and get some sense of how far the disease has progressed.

I sat down, took a deep breath, and jabbed the point of that sewing needle into my heel: and I yelped. Never have I felt a sensation as delicious as that live electric jolt of pain. I laughed aloud at my foolishness. Of course it all made perfect sense. As I sat hunched in that train, my body too weak for the usual restless motion that redistributes weight and pressure, I had cut off blood supply to the main branch of the sciatic nerve in my leg, causing a temporary numbness.

“Temporary,” I thought.

Overnight that nerve had renewed itself and was now faithfully spitting out messages of pain and touch and cold and heat. There was no leprosy, only a weary traveler made neurotic by illness and fatigue.

That single sleepless night became for me a defining moment. The next morning when I had learned that my foot had come back to life, I knew I had crossed a chasm back to normal life.

And I breathed a prayer, “Thank God for pain.”

The Value Of Pain

You know, pain has value. Sure it’s miserable in the short term, but ultimately there’s great power in pain and suffering, and I’m not alone in thinking that.

Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best seller The Purpose Driven Life, recently lost his 27 year old son Matthew to suicide. But even before that happened Warren wouldn’t hire anyone for leadership in his organization, unless that person had experienced significant suffering. Why might that be do you think?

C.H. Spurgeon was one of the most successful and respected preachers in history. In fact if you google “Prince of Preachers,” it’s Spurgeon who shows up in the results. He suffered from depression (and arthritis, and gout during a time when there was no effective medical treatment for these diseases). Spurgeon had this to say about suffering.

“I bear witness that the worst days I’ve ever had have turned out to be my best days. And when God has seemed most cruel to me, he has then been most kind. If there’s anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else, it’s for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest tenderest love has been manifested to me. Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the boullion of His grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in that vessel, that boat, the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.”

In my own experience the times of greatest suffering have without question been the times I experienced the greatest closeness to our Father. My best most fervent prayers were uttered when I was at my lowest. My most difficult times were the deepest times in Him.

Music Born From Pain

Some of the greatest hymns ever created were composed during great times of suffering. Horatio Spaford’s three kids had just died in a ship wreck when he wrote It Is Well With My Soul. Charlotte Elliot, Fanny Crosby, and Francis Havigail all wrote great hymns while enduring great suffering.

God’s Work Born From Pain

So maybe it’s a little like a coach in a sport. Take a basketball coach for instance. Greg Popovich does some of his best work when he chastises his players and causes them to suffer–and they know it. I think some of God’s best work in you and in me happens when he allows us to suffer.

“In my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me,” Saint Augustine said.

Or to put it another way, Spurgeon also said this about suffering.

“I believe the hardest hearted, most unlovely Christians in all the world are those who have never had much trouble. And those who are the most sympathizing, loving, and Christlike are those who have had the most affliction. The worst thing that could ever happen to any of us is to have our path made too smooth.”

Take Heart. Sometimes God’s greatest power is manifested in your greatest pain.

God’s Work Born From Jesus’ Pain

And of course, God’s greatest work was born out of His Son’s pain.  And because of that He relates to what we go through. Jesus came to earth and he suffered. He suffered horrible physical pain at the hands of the authorities. And he also suffered rejection by the people. And he also suffered betrayal from his friend Judas. And he also suffered separation from God for the first time in eternity. And he also suffered the burden of the sins of the entire world. If you need a reminder of how much Jesus Christ suffered you might want to watch the movie The Passion of the ChristSo He knows. He knows what you’re going through and he grieves, even as he grieved at the grave of Lazarus. (John 11:35) And He did that suffering for you. His perfect justice requires that He deal with your sin. And His perfect love requires that He provide a way for you to dwell with Him, in heaven. And Jesus Christ is His way to reconcile you to Himself. So open yourself to him, to Jesus. Accept him into your heart and into your life. Surrender yourself to him.

Ask him in and let Jesus Christ help you with your pain.

Resources:

This blog post relies heavily on Skip Heitzig’s Christians in the Crucible of Pain, Connection Communications, 2012.

Bible Gateway

Dr. Paul Brand, Pain the Gift Nobody Wants

After A 13 Year Old Girl Was Murdered, This Is What Her Parents Did

Pain Suffering Christian

Pain

Pain and Suffering

We’ve been exploring the topic of pain and suffering and one of the worst kinds of pain and suffering is the kind caused by the loss of a child. The following is a quote from Wilma Derkson who lost her daughter at the age of 13. (You can learn more about the Derksens and their remarkable response to their daughter’s murder in this TED Talk video: TEDxManitoba – Wilma Derksen: When Polarity in Forgiveness Happens)

Losing A Child

For six and a half weeks we didn’t know what had happened to Candace. She just disappeared into thin air.  But everyone knows that when a 13-year-old girl goes missing then something is terribly wrong.  She was a child in a woman’s body, that moment of vulnerability when one minute they’re a child and the next a woman.

Eventually Candace’s body was found in a shack not far from our home – her hands and feet had been tied. Someone had forced her there but we lived with the mystery of not knowing who had done this for the next 22 years.

The day her body was found all our friends came to visit bringing warm food with them. There was so much love in the house that it helped us get through.  Then at around 10.30 that evening, when most people had left, there was a knock on the door and this stranger stood there. He told us, “I’m the parent of a murdered child too.” He was saying we now belonged to an exclusive club that no one wants to belong to. We invited him to the kitchen table and for the next two hours he told us in vivid detail everything he’d lost – his health, his relationships, his concentration, his ability to work. He’d even lost all memory of his daughter because now he could only think of the murder, the trauma and the hate that followed. –Wilma Derksen

Losing 10 Children Continue reading

Robin Williams and Suicide

Robin Williams SuicideThe Waves That Batter and Break

A friend posted this on Facebook the day Robin Williams died:

I don’t struggle with depression.

Not yet anyway.

I might someday.

My father did. Robin Williams did. I’m sure a lot of people you know do too, or have.

But I have seen it close up, and I have seen the way it comes in like waves, and I have seen it batter and break.

Last Monday night I drove home from Portland where I had a great visit with my sons Gabe and Nathaniel, and their families over the weekend. Kathy couldn’t go because of work. When I walked in the door one of the first things she said to me was,

“You heard that Robin Williams died didn’t you?”

Wow. No. I hadn’t. It was a shock. I heard that he struggled with depression (as well as alcohol and cocaine addiction). But even so, it caught me off guard.

The Great Clown Pagliacci

Also on the day Robin Williams died, someone on Reddit shared a page from the Watchmen comic that had this dialogue: Continue reading

An Open Letter To Those In Pain and Suffering

Christian pain and suffering

Dear Friend In Pain,

I feel so sad and so sorry about what you’re going through right now. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I can guarantee you that what I’m sharing in this letter won’t take the pain away. And I want you to feel perfectly free not to read it. If you don’t I won’t take the least bit of offence. I only want to share with you what made the biggest difference for me when I went through my time of pain. Continue reading

The Holy Spirit: How to Know if You Have Him

kurt bennett:

Easily our most popular post. (from the archives)

Originally posted on God Running:

Pentacost by Jean II Restout (Photo Credit Wikipedia)

The Holy Spirit Better Than a Burger?

At church the other night our pastor directed anyone interested in receiving prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to go to the prayer room after the service.

I was amazed.

Only a half dozen or so showed up. On a normal summer Sunday, our church offers free burgers and the line is a mile long. How much better is God’s Holy Spirit than a burger?

I recently wrote a guest post about the importance of the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit for Not Ashamed of the Gospel and this prompted someone to ask, How do I know if I have His Holy Spirit?

The person asking the question is referring to God’s Holy Spirit being poured out upon someone in such a way as to provide supernatural inspiration. As distinguished from having the…

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The Control Freak And Jesus

Control Freak

There’s This Thirty-Something

There’s this thirty-something in my life who is always asking me these great questions about the Bible: provocative questions, hard questions, but very interesting questions. And it’s caused me to look at the Bible differently. I read and hear so much about how the Bible is restrictive. But this person with the questions has got me thinking about the freedom God has given us. Freedom to make our own choices. Have you ever considered what’s not illegal in the Old Testament? For instance, prostitution is not illegal in the Old Testament, and neither is polygamy. I’m not saying that either of those are good, I’m just saying neither of those is illegal in the civic code given to Israel in the Old Testament. People are free to engage in these activities without legal repercussions, though the spiritual ramifications and life consequences are still there.

God is radical when it comes to our freedom. He wants us to have the freedom to do what we want, even when it’s wrong. And it’s really made me look at my own ideas about what God wants me to do concerning the behavior of others. Because sometimes I want other people to do what I want them to do, and I can get frustrated when they don’t.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Maybe you want to spend money a certain way but your wife wants to do it her way. Or maybe you want more time to recreate with the guys, but she has other ideas. Or maybe it’s just deciding what to do for dinner (not that this question would ever result in a disagreement). Whatever it is, our perspective changes when we Continue reading

Framing Faith by Matt Knisely–Book Review

Framing Faith Matt Knisely book reviewWho Is Matt Knisely?

Matt Knisely is an Emmy Award winning journalist who shares his life and his inspirational insights with the purpose of helping you to connect with God.

His book, Framing Faith, From Camera to Pen, An Award-Winning Photojournalist Captures God in a Hurried Worldwas written with artists in mind. By artist I mean bloggers, photographers, writers, painters, musicians, and filmmakers, or anyone who has a healthy appreciation for the arts.

The Main Message

Throughout the book I was inspired and occasionally amused–I found his interaction with George W. Bush especially amusing. The main message of the book might be summarized by what Knisely wrote in the introduction: “In this modern age, many of us fill every spare moment we have rather than taking an intermission to see the true works of God and realize that he is present in every moment.” That message resonates with me because for decades I did that, I scheduled every spare moment to the exclusion of the influence of God’s Holy Spirit. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really prioritized my relationship with God and Christ and what a difference that has made. Framing Faith delivers a great message to anyone in the habit of over committing their self to the exclusion of their connection with Christ.

My Favorite Part

But easily my favorite part of the book was where he describes his disability. Matt Knisely doesn’t take in the world the way you and I do. Matt Knisely doesn’t process words the same as a normal person. His first grade teacher told his parents Continue reading

Patriotism, God, and the 4th of July–Does God Want Me To Be A Patriot?

Patriotism and God 4th of July

And they sang a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9

Not Of This World

“…persons from every tribe and language and people and nation,” they sang. And Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” So patriotism is out right? I mean, Jesus died for every nation so, God doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t put our country at the top of His list of nations and say, Yeah, they’re the ones to root for, they’re who I favor in the world, so you should favor that nation too. No, He doesn’t say that. So patriotism is out, right? Continue reading

Why Is That Christian So Appalling?

Why are Christians soToday I read about a Christian man who claims to have the ability to teleport, cure cancer, and repair avionics problems in flying airplanes–while he’s standing on the ground. He was eventually convicted of fraud for taking money from the relatives of deceased people with the promise that he would resurrect them. Wow. That’s a Christian for you. (At least I think he claims to be a Christian.)

There was this firefighter I worked with and I found him to be obnoxious–and he called himself a Christian. And I said to myself the words, “Man, how can this guy call himself a Christian.” (We’ll talk more about him a little later.) Maybe you’ve never encountered someone like the guy who says he can teleport, but I know you’ve experienced obnoxious Christians before. I know you have because I have. And I know you have because I’ve overheard people talking. People saying things like, “I just can’t believe she said that–and she’s a Christian!” Or, “Man that dude was obnoxious–and he’s a Christian!” Or, “That guy is such an idiot–and he calls himself a Christian!”

So why? Why do they behave that way, these Christians?

How Can He Call Himself A Christian?

When I read this one certain passage of scripture a certain part of me cries out: “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

It’s the passage where Continue reading