We are all aware of the terrible disease of leprosy. Famously we hear stories of people fingers and toes falling off because of the disease. Interestingly you may think the disease caused this. Well that is only partly true. The disease actually deadens pain receptors so that the person themselves gets injured in some way and doesn’t react to the pain. Dr Paul Brand, one of the world’s foremost experts on leprosy, says, “Nothing warns a person who is leprous when the water is too hot, or the handle is splintered.” So when a person is injured, that in turn causes infection which in some cases loss of fingers and toes and worse. So technically it is not the disease, but that lack of ability to sense pain and suffering.
Often times I hear people (including me) grown about the pain and suffering in their life, but have you ever thought about what it can bring about? There is a redemptive edge to our sufferings that we would do well to be mindful of. Pain is a gift. Henri Nouwen put it this way, he said, “That pain … is like a plow that breaks up the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience … pain … you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.”
The Bible speaks about this whole pathway between our sufferings and hardships, and perseverance, and character, and faith, and hope and love, that God actually ploughs up our lives and our souls, and in the midst of our trials and our sufferings, he actually builds people.
Next time you feel pain or suffering in your life be careful how quickly you medicate against it or run away from it. Ask some questions…. 1. What is it telling me? 2. Is something out of order in my life? 3. Why am I reacting the way I am? 4. What is God saying in this situation? For a few more hints, on Sunday gone, we enjoyed learning from Abi as she went through the pain of learning to ride a bike (click here).
Not for a second am I saying all pain and suffering is good and sometimes it may be very hard to see any good come from it. The challenge for us is to rethink our pain and see whether God wants to do anything with it. As C.S. Lewis has said, “Pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience and shouts in our pain. It’s His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”