Several years ago I was talking to a young man about someone I knew who had an accident and the doctors were ready to amputate one leg from above the knee. The severity of the situation and the possible future consequences just overwhelmed this young man as he pondered the issue. Then he responded and said: “I would rather die than face something like that.”
It was another afternoon of weariness, sleepiness, and the struggle to stay awake and study. My college days were a constant struggle for survival as I worked a job most nights till four in the morning. A few hours in the afternoon was all I had to study and to sleep. That was a difficult choice to make when tests were coming up and assignments and papers were due, but sleep was important as well.
One particular afternoon the door to my room opened without a knock. My friend walked in and sat down silently for a few minutes. Although I kept reading I was waiting to hear him speak up and say something. Not a word was spoken as he sat there in silence. After several minutes he got up quietly and left. I began to wonder why he came and why he had said nothing at all. That’s when I realized that my weariness and sleepiness was gone. Most importantly, there was a sense of self-pity that was increasing that day as I struggled to stay awake and study, after which I would be returning to work for another night of physical labor. Suddenly I realized that the self-pity had lifted and I felt refreshed. All of that just because a friend walked into my room and sat silently for a few short minutes?
There was a man whose first response to tragedy was worship. He lost all his children and his entire wealth in one day. When the reality of this tragedy struck him, his first response was worship. With his life experience he knew there was no hope anywhere else. So why bother? The only logical and fruitful response for him was worship. “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20 ESV). Many years ago, Philip Yancey impacted my thinking greatly through his book Where is God When it Hurts? It’s a challenging book that changed my thinking and my responses to life as well. But the struggle continues as I train myself to shift my focus from my problems to God.
How have you responded to tragedy?
There are several reasons for such a situation: 1) Some are intensely focused on their task and that focus keeps them from looking within their own lives. Their eyes are fixed on resolving the problems of people. 2) Others have a false assumption that in order to help others, they themselves must be problem free. Thus they develop an inaccurate view of their own struggles. 3) Then there are others who don’t see their own problem as a problem. They fail to recognize their own brokenness. Sometimes they see the problem but they don’t think of it as a hinderance to their ministry.
I am reminded of the words of Larry Crabb: “So its okay to hurt. More than that its necessary to hurt. Hurt is evidence of life, at least as long as we live in a fallen world.” This is the understanding we all must adopt. Problems are a part of life. We must embrace them and deal with them appropriately.
But those who continue in such a state eventually end up in a very difficult situation. Some become bitter after carrying their struggles and the resulting brokenness for such a long time. They wonder why there was no one to help them, much less God. Does he not care as well? Others become withdrawn and isolate themselves from people. They become quiet and “composed.” Some even interpret this to be a sign of spiritual maturity.
All along they had the tools and skills to solve their own issues, but they just could not recognize them. These undetected issues have impacted their ministry and their personal growth. Jesus himself suffered much during his life here on earth (Hebrews 5:7-8 ESV). Unfortunately they have directed many people to Jesus, but they themselves could not get there.
Why do you think people fail to recognize their own struggles?
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Continue to dream big
Focus your hopes on God
Never give up
Like a flash of lightening the pain shot through my lower back up my spine and down into both my legs. It was so severe that I could barely move my legs. This happened in 1995, as I was driving a delivery truck from Ft. Lauderdale to south Miami down Interstate 75 at about 4:30am. Since I could barely move my legs, I waited for the vehicle to gradually come to a stop on the side of the road. It took several minutes for the pain to ease a little and I was able to stand up and move around a bit.
In that one moment of pain, many thoughts went through my mind. Along with church planting, I was working two jobs since I wanted my wife to be home with our son who was one year old at that time. I really thought that this was the end of my working and earning years. But so early, I thought. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I began quick calculations in my mind about the future. I had just reviewed my disability benefits during the previous week, and now I viewed that as a bad omen leading to this tragic event. Within a few seconds, plans were made to sell our home and move back into an apartment and scale down on many things including the new car we had just purchased.
About doing the ministry? I had no Idea about that. At that moment, my only thought was survival. Will I be able to somehow take care of my family? Will there be any hope?
The pain was so intense that within seconds, my dreams of achieving my goals and aspirations were shattered. I resigned myself to simply surviving and waiting for the end.
That experience in Florida was seventeen years ago. Physical pain has been my constant companion during the waking hours of almost every day. Now I am discovering that along with the physical, there was lots of internal pain that I never knew about. It was in 2011 that I began reading a book by Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. That book opened my mind to the pain that was within me for so many years. In May 2012, as I read a book by Dr. Joseph Bowles, I learned how this emotional pain within me had a direct impact on my back pain. I thank God for the healing of my back, but the internal healing continues.
Would you share your experiences of pain and healing? You can share that in the comments below.
Please read the accompanying article. Click here.
I keep on saying it, I keep on repeating it, but it seems like not one believes me. No, they don’t take me for a liar, but maybe they think I’m just being hopeful with a keen positive outlook. Several people asked me “are you sure its gone?”
The reality is that my chronic lower back pain is now gone. The pain stopped in June 2012. I’ve had this pain periodically since 1995, and five years ago, it became consistent all day and all night long. In fact its hard for me to remember a time without pain in the last five years. I think that as I suffered through all those years of pain, it was my wife Annie who took the brunt of the load at home and in every way as my condition worsened consistently.
As it is with milestones in our lives, several important events led to this freedom from pain. The first of these was a reading of the book by Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. My friend Kevin Baker gave me that book as we visited a monastery in Buffalo NY. That book took me on a journey of deep searching within that I have never experienced before. Numerous times as I read that book, I could not continue as I had to allow my emotions to settle down. Of course, God’s spirit was doing an awesome work within me.
The second event was in November 2011, as my wife and I were attending a Vineyard Church gathering in Cebu, Philippines. During one evening, Brian Doerksen was leading worship, and the Spirit of God was all over me. I sat on the chair since there was no way I could stand. Lots of emotions and memories surfaced and I began writing (on my phone) in between sobs. Several people came by and laid their hands on me and prayed for me. Phil Strout spoke one of those days and touched on the idea that God’s ultimate purpose was to transform us into the image of His Son. As my back pain began to increase during that conference I missed several sessions while I rested in the room. Then Sukit Wangtechawat and the team from the Bangkok Vineyard came to our room and prayed for me extensively. They were helping me to look deeper within, and nothing seemed to make sense. But their visit to my room was also a significant aspect in opening those things that were closed for so long.
In April and May of 2012, my third event was the reading of a book on back pain by Dr. Joseph Bowles that had a great impact on my thinking regarding the whole issue. The focus of his book is that chronic lower back pain is caused by stress and unresolved issues of the past. Wow, what a thought. And what about all those MRI reports, X-rays, and all the other tests? Man, I am clueless on all that, but the pain is gone! Now I continue to read his daily reminders for stress free pain relief.
The fourth and major event that capped it all was while I was taking communion. I was speaking at a service at the New Life Fellowship in Bangalore in June. During the communion, I saw a vision of the cross (something like that picture above) and heard an inner voice telling me that on the cross, Jesus not only carried my sins, but every offense against me as well. This was an answer that I really needed all along. The issues are so deep and personal that it would be impractical to mention such things on this blog, that that thought really had a powerful impact on me.
Of course I cannot forget the many who have prayed for me and encouraged me on this path toward healing as I had spent weeks and months bed ridden. There were many non-judgmental ones who were an inspiration for me to continue. A special thanks to them as well.
Now I am on a journey. I keep exploring more “stuff” hidden within me from the past. As these issues of brokenness resurface, I experience more pain, but as I deal with each one, that pain goes away. Daily, along with my devotions I take some time out to write in a journal about my previous day, specifically about how I am handling my emotions and stress. And as i mentioned earlier, Dr. Joseph Bowles’ daily reminders are stored on my phone and my Kindle and I read them several time a day.
Thank you Lord for a new life.
In the comments below, feel free to share your experiences of healing while you are on this journey as well.
Please read the accompanying article as well: Click here.