A time to learn
Pain is the greatest isolator of all. In a world learning to come to terms with what it is to be separated from each other physically, for many, this is not a new. Pain and suffering have been creating a barrier between individuals since time began. Even people suffering the same trauma will experience it differently. Pain is a form of solitary confinement. But it is also a time to learn.
This week I have been pulled back into a world of overwhelming, debilitating pain. It has been a cause of celebration marking how far I have come from the days of living in constant agony; a cocktail of steady chronic ache mixed with electric, mind-numbing fire.
But it has also been a nasty reminder of just how weak and unconditioned I have become; weak in my ability to stand the pain and unconditioned in carrying the load. This Easter I have been trying to focus on making Christ my all. But being more deliberate in my prayer for others and in my devotion every day–every way, has been a hard slog this week.
Much like a concrete wall, pain separates me from my intention. I have found that nothing drives me inward, making me more self-absorbed and self-centred than pain (a concept explored in my book Dangerous Salvation). Instead of praying for others, I now repeat the mantra; help me stand … help me stand until this passes.
At times I wish I could share my pain. To give a taste of what it’s like to those closest to me. Not so that they would hurt, but so they could understand. But this is impossible.
All things are possible
This week I have been reminded that there is one who understands. I have been blessed through this latest episode to be drawn back into intense moments of connection with Christ. I had forgotten how previously, when I had been in the well where no medication, position, or prayer offered any relief from the paralysing pain, I met with Christ.
Pain is not dark. It is electric fire. It’s Relentless. And inescapable. But it is here, in the mindlessness, the unbearable, Jesus meets with me. Not the baby in the manger, the teacher, friend, or King. It’s not even Jesus the Healer, Saviour, Redeemer who comes. But my Lord crucified.
I am in no way comparing my suffering to his. But when it gets to the point where I can’t possibly go on, there is no escape, when I have moved beyond the time of prayer, of calling out into the screaming silence, he comes. Arms pinned wide. Crown dug deep. Rivers of blood running free. He comes and meets with me.
There is no miraculous relief from the pain. I am not healed or rescued from the suffering. The raging fire is not diminished. But he looks me in the eye and I know I am not alone. His words, “this too shall pass,” carry greater weight than my brokenness. He knows. He has suffered and he has endured. My mantra is no longer desperate hope. It is truth.
This like nothing else offers great comfort. Silent company in isolated suffering, from one who has endured, enables my endurance.
Everything is useful
Years ago, when I travelled this road more frequently, a well-meaning Christian told me,
“God doesn’t want you to suffer”.
Whilst I believe God does not enjoy our suffering, I would argue that he allows it and uses it.
I do not enjoy pain, nor do I seek it out. I hate it. But for the opportunity it offers beyond the noise of the world, beyond myself, to meet with my Lord crucified in my isolation, I praise him. For the sliver of insight into what my Saviour suffered, I give thanks. For a glimpse into the heart and love of my Father, I worship him.
The Father did not enjoy his Son’s suffering, but he used it.
Through Christ’s suffering on the cross, God enabled reconnection between himself and his creation.
God does not enjoy our suffering, but he uses it to connect with us, reveal himself to us and to teach us.
This week, in my isolation God has been challenging me to follow in the footsteps of Christ. When Jesus was on the cross, after a time of looking in, he worshipped his Father, he prayed for those who persecuted him and cared for those around him.
Whilst Jesus’ actions are hard to emulate, with the help of the Spirit, looking up and out from within my isolation are lessons I’m trying to learn.
- What about you?
- How are you using isolation as a time to learn?
- What are you learning?