How To Cope with Pain & Adversity

Today, I saw my neighbor at the grocery store. “How’s your wife?” I asked, standing in the canned vegetable aisle.

“Hanging in there. She still has another month of recuperation.”

I wish I could say his wife is the only one who entered the new year with a major injury. But I know multiple people who are recovering from broken bones and surgery.

Other friends live with chronic pain, depression, and debilitating diseases like Parkinsons, and in one woman’s case—terminal cancer.

C.S. Lewis said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Have you—or someone you love—been roused by pain? Patience worn thin?

When Job was tormented by grief and agonizing pain, he implored God, “Why am I suffering?” However, he refused to follow his wife’s advice and curse God.

Instead, he said, “‘Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In this, he did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

My mentor, Loretta, calls this …

Job’s Intolerable Compliment—God trusted Job to honor Him in his circumstances.

Even Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow….Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet, not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:34-36)

Honoring God in our adversity begins with the heart. Accepting and trusting God’s sovereignty.

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Several of my friends deal with chronic pain and health issues. They pray for the absence of pain. They believe God has the power to restore their health, but they agree—for whatever reason—God’s allowed poor health in their lives.

They’ve come to a place of submission.

  • Accepting what they cannot change.
  • Acknowledging God’s eternal purpose—to use everything—to teach and mold us into Christ’s image.

One friend said, “When I’m in pain, I cling to God. Sometime I wonder if my faith would be as rich if I’d been a healthy woman.”

She admitted, “Some days, all I can do is pick up my son from school and put dinner on the table. On these days, it’s my choice to…

  • Get angry and kick myself; feel like a failure.
  • Compare myself to healthy friends; feel resentful.
  • Have a pity party; feel sorry for myself
  • Give myself grace; accept this is all I can do.

Her attitude echoes another friend’s words. “When I’m in pain, I try to pray like Jesus, ‘Father, Thy will be done.’”

Perhaps like me, you don’t deal with chronic pain. Maybe your adverse situation is unemployment or dealing with a loved one’s drug addiction. If so, there’s a lesson to be gleaned from Job’s Intolerable Compliment.

Honoring God even in this…..

 

Photo: JennyWredePhotography

When Death Interrupts Life

My uncle died Friday night.

Lying in hospital, his one strong hand clung to the woman he loved. His pale cheeks wet from my aunt’s  teary butterfly kisses.

My uncle had suffered a Stroke weeks earlier, but on Friday—the first day of spring—I didn’t know his frail body was shutting down….

While I played Florence Nightingale to my outdoor plants—amputating dead limbs, nurturing them with life-giving water.

Springtime—the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sky the color of robin eggs, yellow buds unfurling in the afternoon sun.  My Friday was pregnant with new life around me and joyful possibilities.

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 What a stark contrast to my uncle and aunt’s reality. Death’s chill shadow loomed over them as the life they knew and shared concluded.

And yet, even in this…gut-wrenching pain of letting go….Hope was present.

Hope is the balm that soothes the burning sting of death.

 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Death can’t be sugar coated. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.” (Lyric from Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)

However, my uncle and aunt believed “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day….”

And their FAITH is what the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This world isn’t the end all. There may be mysteries we can’t explain. But God has given us His Word, and His Promise, that death will be swallowed up in victory.

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The Columbine seeds I scattered in my garden last year now rise from the earth, but in a new form. The clover-like foliage and lavender bell-shaped flowers are more beautiful and fragrant than its seed.

So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Because Christ lives, we live too!

That is the sweet reality for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.” (John 20:31)

*Other scripture  cited is from 1 Corinthians 15

Photos by Jennifer Foster

Why the Hesitation?

How’s your heart? Are you overwhelmed? Dismayed?

That’s how King David described himself in Psalm 143.  And that’s how I felt when I woke up.

Though the winter sky was baby blue, and the sun’s rays shimmied between the bare tree limbs.

I blamed my mood on a head cold. And yet, sometimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason I’m anxious or depressed.

Thankfully, God knows the human propensity to allow circumstances and emotions to overwhelm us. That’s why He used King David to pen Psalm 143.

Words written centuries ago, but relevant today—in this exact moment—because God’s Word is able to clear the negative voices in a congested head. And point us to a better way of living.

My feral cat was also in a mood.

Stuck outside overnight, she sat on our front porch rail, waiting. Watching me through the kitchen window while I brewed a cup of tea.

When our eyes met, my cat arched her back and meowed. I opened the door, stumbled towards my desk as she weaved in and out between my feet.

Unlike most mornings, my feral cat wanted more than warmth and food. She paced back and forth, rolled on the wood floor. Then she sat by my desk chair, staring at my lap. It’s rare for this independent feline to cuddle, but I saw the debate within her eyes.

Meanwhile, I just “happened” to open my Bible to Psalm 143. It’s the same passage I underlined fourteen years ago when I dealt with anxiety and winter blues. Only this time, I paused at verse 5.

“I remember the days of old. I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”

Remember. Meditate. Muse.

On what?

  • My circumstances?
  • My emotions?
  • My thoughts?

No, we’re told to…

Remember God’s Work.  Meditate on the great things the Lord has done. Not only for mankind, but in people’s lives…in my life.

“Dwell much on what I did, as well as what I said. Remember, ‘I touched her hand, and the fever left her.’ Not many words, just a moment’s contact, and all fever left her.” (God Calling)

Lord, please touch my heart so my mood melts into nothingness.

I glanced down at my cat who watched me with the same hesitation that I came before the God. Afraid to ask, as if I was unworthy, or He had greater things to tend to than “my mood.”

I tapped my robe. “Come here.”

Cat ears flinched.

“What? You don’t trust me after all these years?”

My audible words convicted me. Wasn’t this God’s attitude towards me when I hesitate to come to Him? Hesitate to ask?

What keeps folks from wanting more of God, or receiving all He wants to give?

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Before I could answer my question, the cat jumped on the desk and settled beside my Bible. Soon, she curled on my lap, purring.

Content; unafraid.

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Not unlike her mistress, now resting in God’s capable Hands.

Let me hear Thy loving kindness in the morning; for I trust in Thee...” (vs.8)

Broken Lives in Search of Glue

She told me, “The man committed suicide.”

Just couldn’t live on this planet one more day.

I didn’t know him, but a knot forms in my gut while I wonder about the people in my life.

Is someone in despair? Would I recognize the signs?

 

I’ve talked with people who tried, without success, to help a loved one…

Change his behavior. Make her happy. Seek counseling. Point them to the Lord.

Forever haunted “If only I had done this, said that.

Haven’t we all been there?

Been the person with good intentions who knows what’s best for another person. Only the other person won’t listen!

We stand there with a tube of super glue in our hands. Looking at the mess of a person; fallen and broken. Realize that even Humpty Dumpty’s men couldn’t put him back together again.

 

So how do I help a human being who doesn’t care enough to—”help me help you.”

And why do I presume to have the answers for someone else when I can still see the jagged scars where I tried to super glue my own broken pieces back together?

Fact is, there’s only one answer that will help.

One Truth that endures  when we find even ourselves in quicksand because the enemy who “seeks to lie, steal, kill, and destroy” loves to…

Chip at our self-esteem. Break our spirit. Convince us.

  • “This is good as it gets!”
  • “Who cares?”
  • “What’s the point?”

Until we’re broken, and feel beyond repair………….

That one Truth—Jesus Christ—says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Then true to His Word, Jesus lifts us from the pit of sin and self-defeat and does the IMPOSSIBLE.

Jesus picks up the broken pieces. Puts us back together again, and reassures us:

This isn’t as good as it gets.

 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Someone cares.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1John 4:10)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

There is a point; an eternal purpose.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:28-29)

Even when we don’t feel God’s love, or comprehend His purposes,

Even in this….fallen world filled with broken promises, broken marriages, broken lives that break our hearts…and makes us weep.

Jesus tells us to “Come, and find rest.”

Are you broken?

Is your heart breaking for someone else?

Then Come!

Thankful I Don’t Have

IMG_5310Although I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I also praise God for the many things I don’t have:

Terminal illness

Delinquent child

Empty food pantry

Rat eating my kitchen pipes…like a year ago

Some readers may be dealing with these issues, or worse. So forgive me if I step on toes. And yet, when I’m trudging through the messy circumstances of life, I believe….God’s grace pads my life in ways I can’t imagine.

Crises diverted. Grief avoided. Unspoken prayers favorably answered without my knowledge.

Doesn’t God deserve gratitude for covert blessings too?    

During imperfect days, sprinkled with more discomfort than joy, it’s natural to grumble, “Why me, Lord?” Then I hear the news, or receive a prayer request, and realize the multitude of evil and sorrow that God spares me from each day.

My perspective changed back in the day, when my five-year-old son fell from the Monkey Bars. While I kissed the bruised bump on his head, he whimpered, “Why did God let me fall?”

I responded, “Let’s thank God you don’t have a broken neck.”

It’s not just viewing a half-empty cup as half-full. It’s naming names.

Praising God that I have good health doesn’t have the same powerful imagery as thanking Him that I don’t have breast cancer when my mammogram comes back normal.

That’s because I remember driving my bald-headed friend to her chemotherapy appointment. I listened to her miserable groans afterwards. I’m thankful I still have my friend.

I’m also thankful I don’t have to walk in her shoes…at least, for the time being. But even then, God willing, I’d be glad I didn’t have to go through cancer alone.

Three weeks ago, I sprained my ankle. No big deal comparatively speaking, but rotten timing. I was scheduled to travel in two days to visit my daughter. As I lay on the floor, wreathing in pain, I wailed, “No! How will I drive to the airport? How will I get from my parked car to the terminal gate?   

I hobbled to my couch, placed an ice pack on my elevated ankle. The more I mused on my clumsiness and misfortune, the more gratitude bubbled and spilled over, soothing my taunt nerves.

Thank you Lord, I don’t have a broken ankle. As I massaged my bruised hip, I sighed, “I’m not a spring chicken. Thank you, Lord, I don’t have a broken hip bone.   

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A positive spin weaves threads of have and have not into a tapestry of thanksgiving. And gratitude enables us to look at life like a two-sided coin:

The blessings we have,

The battles we don’t have to wage in this moment.

It’s a win-win~~no matter how the coin lands.

What are you thankful for that you don’t have?

Slippery When Wet

I knew a woman whose mother committed suicide. As she packed up her deceased mother’s belongings, a friend came to assist her. The friend never said a word because in that moment, her presence and help said everything.

I try to follow her example whenever someone is grieving or distressed. But alas, in my desperation to make that person feel better and know that I care, I probably say too much or the wrong thing particularly if I haven’t walked in their shoes.

Have you noticed? Life is Slippery when Wet.

And folks saying “every cloud has a silver lining” or “look on the bright side” doesn’t make me feel dry or safe when I’m in the midst of  a thunderstorm.20141101_143953

In fact, when I’m hurting…emotionally or physically…my first inclination isn’t to look for the greater good even though I believe Romans 8:28-30 to be true.

Some of those slippery paths have included:

·         Three miscarriages

·         A husband deployed during Desert Storm

·         A newborn son hospitalized

·         Family members with chronic health problems.

In hindsight, the intensity and duration of each storm strengthened my relationship with the Lord. They also enabled me to empathize and encourage others.

Even so, I can’t presume to know how others feel.

I’m no longer in that place and depending on where I stand, my perspective changes.  

For when I’m standing at a cross road~~fearful of the unknown, worried I’ll make the wrong decision~~the last thing I want to hear is, “Don’t worry. Everything will be alright!”

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Walking across a wooden bridge, slick from rain, is more daunting than standing beside the bridge with both feet on the ground. So I don’t want someone shouting from a safe distance, “Things could be worse. Don’t be afraid!”

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A young woman whose military husband was deployed overseas told me, “People say they’re praying for me. They quote Bible verses. I know they mean well and I’m thankful. But telling me to think positive, doesn’t help. My situation stinks! Acknowledge my pain. Don’t be afraid to let me cry.”

Her words hit home because I’ve  been there…..slip sliding through life. And frankly, there’s nothing like a good cry to release the pain.

James 1:19 says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak…”

Slow to speak shallow, trite, or patronizing words when someone else is hurting.

How do you want people to respond when you’re in pain?

What has helped you in the difficult times?

The Last Time

School is over. My son, my youngest child, graduates from high school next week.

As I spread mayonnaise onto a piece of bread, I realize this is the last sandwich I’ll make for my son to eat at school.  No more brown-bag lunches filled with sandwiches, chips, and sliced apple.

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Only the Lord knows how many hundreds of school lunches I’ve prepared when I multiply them by three children. My son offered to make his lunch, but years of habit evolved into my morning ritual.

Last evening, I attended our last High School choir concert. While my eyes were fixed on my son’s clean-shaven face, I remembered another concert years ago. The elementary-aged children held battery-operated candles as they sang. Well, most children held them. My third-grade son used his candle to sword fight with the boy next to him.

Today my son’s strong body towers over me. His deep voice is reminiscent of a Bass Cello. I love to hear him sing. So when the choir sang the last note in the last song of his last concert, tears clouded my vision.

My son isn’t obsessed with last moments. He’s ready to raise anchor and leave shore, bound for new horizons. I’m excited for him, but this melancholy mom cradles last moments.   

What emotions swept over Jesus when he ate the last Passover Meal with his disciples?

Jesus knew it was their Last Supper. “The time has come for me, the Son of Man, to enter into my glory….Dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you!” (John 13:31-33)

Although Jesus had warned his disciples this day would come, they panicked:

“Lord, where are you going?”

“Why can’t I come now, Lord?”

“We haven’t any idea where you are going…”

It may have been their Last Supper, but it wasn’t the end of their relationship with Jesus.

 “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

For three days, the disciples were derailed by their circumstances…the trial and death of Jesus. They ran and hid. Peter denied knowing Christ. They might have lost all hope for tomorrow if not for Jesus’ words.  “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” (John 16:22)  

True to His word, Christ was resurrected and appeared to them before he left them and was taken up to heaven. And his disciples were “filled with great joy.”

Likewise, our sorrowful moments…even the last ones…can become joyful when we trust Jesus and keep our eyes on Him.