Honest to God! (#560)
There can be no intimacy without honesty and genuineness and that's as true of God as it is our relationship with others. Wayne's time recuperating from surgery and watching some of the other people he knows who are struggling with pain and loss in their lives sparks a discussion with Brad about love and compassion in the midst of painful circumstances. They focus both on how we sort out persistent pain with God and how we can be an encouragement to others who deal with long-term challenging circumstances. While religious rituals often encourage us to posture before God by saying the "right" things we think God wants to hear even if it is not in our heart, God's capacity to handle our fears and frustrations, our pain and complaints, is well documented in Scripture. Being honest with him opens the door to recognizing his work and his way of dealing with our challenges to the better ends he has in mind.
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Great message. My husband has been in unbelievable pain these past 4 years from a non cancerous tumor that is in his leg. The one thing that made him stop talking to others about it, is people’s response. Even well intentional people who love him. They would often say “well at least it’s not cancer”or “what did you do that was so bad to receive bad karma” got love that one, as if that would make it better that he lives in pain, life changing pain. So the one thing I have learnt through this is to not be dismissive. No matter what people are facing, whether you think it’s big or not, it’s big for them. Stopping, listening, and not coming up with solutions helps. I had an interesting God moment with a friend who just got back from a holiday to Hawaii (which her and her husband go every year) and I asked her how was it. She said that this trip wasn’t great and went on to explain some of the things that went wrong. She soon said I shouldn’t complain…. I had to run to the store and while I was there I just had a God nudge to buy her a plant in a bright yellow pot. When I went back I gave it to her and said I’m learning so much about being dismissive and I want you to know that I’m sorry you had such a terrible trip, you and Harry work so hard all year to enjoy that time in Hawaii and it’s ok to say that you were disappointed. She started to cry because so many people said what do you have to complain about you go every year. I pray that I don’t forget to not be dismissive, it’s hard because we want to fix things, or don’t want people to feel bad, but when we are dismissive it puts more hurt on top of hurt.
I feel for your wife, Wayne. I too suffer every day with chronic, sever pain and I have for over 15 years. It is not the kind of thing you get a lot of support for, or I haven’t. I don’t holler, “I hurt, look at me,” like your wife it sounds.
You look “normal” on the outside so it is hard for others to believe you hurt. “Is he/she faking it?” “If he/she doesn’t work, he/she shouldn’t eat!” “I have had XXX pain before and it wasn’t that bad, he/she could do more if he/she wanted to.” And then if you get into pain meds… look out. You see, only criminals use pain meds. We see it on the TV all the time, vilified for taking pain meds. The constant suspicion of the doctors and staff, the Pharmacists and staff. Do not tell other doctors, dentists, etc. they will assume the worst right off – at least that has been my experience.
The church is worse by far than non-believers has been my experience. Those who cut you some slack are very few and very far between. On the other hand, non-believing neighbors and acquaintances seem to start from the position of believing you, rather than assuming you are lying about your health problems. Again, my experience. I do pray your wife gets all the support she needs.
To Wayne’s Wife, Sara,
May God our Father, Abba, hold you close when nothing makes sense,
When the pain over-runs the ability of your brain to function as you are used to
May He show you His care, His mercy, His heart toward you in His love.
May you learn to treat the suspicion and contempt of those who don’t believe you,
As ways to rely upon our Father alone, to not look to man for your worth and approval.
And may your time in the secret place of the Most High be your refuge and your stay,
As heaven looks warmer and sweeter than ever before!
I’m glad we’re having this conversation, especially so people in chronic pain won’t think they are alone. It can be so isolating. But also for a way for the rest of us to learn how to be alongside someone with a condition that causes great pain and doesn’t have a hopeful prognosis without God’s intervention. What kinds of things can people say/do that are helpful? What are the things well-meaning people do or say that are not? How can we better understand each other and live alongside long-term need?
And thanks for your prayer for Sara. I’ll share it with her.
Hey,jjumping in to the e conversation here. Thanks for the podcast and forum participants. Yes it’s hard when something is chronic and long term. I have found that there are times when ppl have expectations of you just need to get over it and they’re feeling tired when something is takig a long time. It is good when we know we’re not alone and also shifting the focus to see what is He doing and who is He bringing across paths….hopefully moving toward Him and away from unhealthy self focus.
Living in a less-than-two-year-old widowhood. My husband had a thirty-year diagnosis of SLE (lupus of the whole body) and I was his sole caregiver because we lived eight hours away from his nearest relation. His chronic disease was one of constant pain and the occasional near-death episodes. He did not complain–his wry sense of humour and need to write (36 unpublished books) kept him going until the very end.
Wayne, I remember hearing/reading the story you were trying to convey in the podcast. There are different variations of it, but here is one of them…
A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
Thanks for speaking into this place of what is needed in pain and suffering!
I have recently been given an ultimatum by a friend that I have know for almost 23 years (we were best men in each others weddings), to give him an account of what I am going to do to get out of “sinful thoughts, attitudes and behaviors” or else he will not be in relationship with me any more.
I have been going through much pain and loss, and seeing my dreams crash around me over the last 13 months, and at many times I have been utterly hopeless. So, in the past year or so, I have been questioning god, and throwing tantrums, and wailing, and telling him what i think about him, and why this and that, etc… I have wanted my friend to allow me to be at this place with me as God does whatever I hope he is doing; but he wants to find “solutions” and “speak truth” into my life. I tried as best as I know how to let him know that as well-meaning as I know he is, he is wounding me. He does not see it and broke off relationship with me! Very sad, but I think I knew it was heading in this direction for some time now. He is a good friend as long as I am “strong” in the Lord.
It’s been said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but willfulness. Doubt is the purification of your faith.” I think this is probably true. I lived where “I will…” was predominant in my life. Over the last 13 months I have become familiar with powerlessness, surrendering, and more loss. Somewhere in the future I will probably value the time I went through and what it did to my heart….BUT NOT NOW! Now I have found comfort and solace with the people who have shown me such patience and kindness and presence…and I am fairly sure that I have been trying at times with where I am at, and what I am going through.
Thanks again for your podcast and the validation you have given me!
Thanks Jim for sharing your story. It seems that in walking this out, He brings our paths to cross w others who can put words to what we’re living out and at times that’s helpful. Also valuable when friends live in the freedom to see Father sorting this out rather than a focus on their discomfort amd a need to fix us.
Wayne, you asked what could be done to help. I have thought on that question and here is my reply.
We are told to weep with those who weep, which implies first believing that the said affliction is real, that the person is being honest. To dismiss this out of hand is to call that person a liar. My wife and I said often in the early years of my illness that we wished I had cancer, at least then I would be believed. Why I don’t quite understand because both are internal maladies that do not show on the outside, at least at the beginning. No, I don’t really want cancer, just the belief that I am being honest.
We live in an age when most of us living today will have at some point in their life have one or another serious illness, and most of these will be without external signs at the beginning if not for the duration. One out of two of us males will have cancer in our lives and one out of three women! This is worsening year by year – twelve years ago this same statistic was one out eight and twenty years ago it was one out of fifty. We are laden with more and more toxins all the time coupled with less and less real nutrition (calories are not the same as nutrition). Many other serious internal illnesses (MS, ALA, Lupus, FMS, CFS, Alzheimer, HDAD, many Mental Disorders, etc.) are also mainly due to the one-two punch of toxic load and lack of nutrition.
Are all of these people to be discounted because we cannot see what ails them? It would require less of us if we did dismiss them, and I believe that is part of the problem. Our hearts growing cold (due to iniquity, the love of many shall grow cold), not wanting to care for others (when no one is around to see and appreciate our actions). That, or, keep your weakness away from me. I don’t want it to contaminate me – I am strong and I want to stay that way. Am I cynical? Yes, to some degree I am sure, but what part is cynicism and what is due to reality I don’t really know. But what of those who are faking it? I would think it would become apparent over time. Perhaps not. What if we wrongly gave away love to the detriment of another? Would that be worse than wrongly despising a person up front? There are better ways of dealing with this problem. Sit down with them and ask them for the description and/or etiology of their illness. Just because our current understanding of medicine doesn’t have an answer does not mean it isn’t real.
Love your (our) neighbor as yourself. Love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If it were me in those shoes, how would I have another treat me?
Hi Rory, you’re right, until we can weep with those who weep, instead of trying to fix them and pretend we’re all happy not much compassion will get expressed. As I read your comments, though I wondered how important it is for us to already have close relationships when things like this strike. No stranger came out of the woodwork and helped me through my recent medical situation. But friendships I have cultivated over years were the ones who showed up at just the right time and helped carry me. No one felt the obligation too, or saw it as a ministry. Their love for me spilled over into loving me through the current crisis. Unfortunately our world does not put a premium on relationships and people who have spent countless hours with TV and movies don’t end up with the relationships that can sustain them, or that will believe them, when trials and suffering come.
I know this isn’t an answer for people already dealing with need, but it would do well to remind those who are well now that cultivating friendships that are deep and compassionate is something to do now, not just to wait until we need them.
That needn’t discount our love for people we meet who are already in need. Loving the least, the broken, and the sick is what Jesus taught us to do as well. It just works better when the friendships are already there…
I’ve been following you guys for about 9 years now, and have fought off the urge to comment on a podcast because I have far too much to say. This podcast, however, just summed up the last 15 years of my life. Every comment by both of you hit home to me, and I’m fascinated by the ways Abba has tailor-made each experience of Him both to meet our innermost needs, and take us to the same conclusions.
In April of 2007 I had a work injury that took me into a season of intense physical chronic pain. I was quite helpless for about 6 months, so when I could, I went on a research tear to try to figure out why God was so displeased with me. Somehow I stumbled across Wayne and “The Shack,” and bought the book because I had met Paul back when he was in college. It was a hard read for me in spots because it just wasn’t the God I knew. Then I found “Transitions” and put it on an mp3 player – I could listen while researching, much less painful than trying to read books.
By listening to Wayne’s words, my heart began to hear. I remember hearing the line “God made Him who had no sin, to BE SIN, so that I could become the righteousness of God in Him.” Tears came to my eyes in the thrift shop where I was, when my heart heard the message of reconciliation for the first time in 45 years of ‘Christian’ life. Eventually, I asked God to make himself real to me, fully expecting that it might take forever.
Soon after, I got work as a nightwatchman at a retirement community. I could listen to things through most of my shift, then journal about it while sitting in a pickup watching the employee entrance. God began to show up for visits. Somehow I knew it was Him speaking to my heart. I started writing it all down.
Then, one morning I began to have vivid memories of major events in my life. One memory of a screaming match with God (expletives included), shortly after my dad died 30 years ago. I found I was still angry and resistant toward him. An honest moment. His response – He was OK with my honesty – somehow I knew he loved me and identified with my pain.
A few days later, my heart heard: “I’m not who you THINK I am.” This ‘god’ I had been swearing at, and resistant to, and arguing with, and trying desperately to please WAS NOT HIM. I realized that this ‘god’ was just a construct in my mind, the product of 50 years of evangelical Christianity, that I knew an awful lot about, that didn’t look anything like Jesus. Thankfully, I wasn’t angry at the REAL GOD, but angry at this mind fabrication I had created. I also began to see the difference between hearing with my mind vs. hearing with my heart.
My heart heard love and compassion and understanding, my resistance dissolved, and I couldn’t help but let Him in to my pain. He showed me that my anger originates from a ROOT that has influenced my whole life – attitudes, actions, reactions, relationships, image of god, self-talk, coping mechanisms, self-image…. A root that I cannot fathom, cannot access, cannot understand. Instead of being ‘rooted and grounded in love,’ I’ve been rooted and grounded in this thing.
I realize now that this is why Jesus came, and lived, and died, and was resurrected, and lives today. The cross is so that my root can be transformed, in the same way Father transformed Jesus from BEING SIN into being the righteousness of God. My transformation happened 2000 years ago before I was even born!! All God cares about is making the truth of that REAL TO ME, today. Deep, deep healing from the inside, out!!
Day to day, for me, is just that. A few months ago, I heard: “be present with Me!” I’m learning to let Him in to my pain – all of it. I realize it’s His loving wrath, ‘revealed against all unrighteousness,’ that is rooting out all the stuff that has been destroying me. I am experiencing a different kind of painful, but joyously so. I am thankful for those years of chronic physical pain, because it helped to soften my resistant mind. Today, none of this fits my understanding, but I’m OK with that. God is winning me to TRUST Him, and to trust His words to my heart.
And guess what? The gospel is REAL to me. The REAL benefit caught me by surprise! I’m knowing Him to be REALLY “ABBA!” [Phil 4:10]
Just articulating this today has just blessed me so much! There’s so much more….
Awesome stuff, Craig! Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. You really touched me today. (Wayne)
Rory, Wayne: I have to jump in to your discussion.
I really identify with the chronic physical pain as a very solitary and lonely place. I went to countless medical practitioners over the years, trying desperately to find relief, all the while believing that my experience was God punishing me for something. I’m also an introvert, so this lonely place is also very internalized for me. Everyone around me, especially my wife and kids, distanced themselves from me. Admittedly, I was frustrated and probably short-tempered, but I remember feeling more alone every day. I was desperate to find somebody, anybody that could relate to my pain.
All modern medicine can do for us is fix things. Anything that can be fixed will eventually end up either in a junk heap or a grave. Temporal. All God is interested in is getting us to a place where we will allow Him to TRANSFORM us. Surrender. Eternal. Physical pain is only a symptom of the real pain, the consequences of growing up in a fallen world. Still lonely, but a different perspective on pain.
I believe now that it was my state of desperation that invited God to show up. My self-righteousness, resistance, and avoidance gave way to that helplessness to humble me. ‘God resists the proud, but gives GRACE to the humble.’ I was the prodigal’s older brother, serving in the field farthest away from home, trying to avoid the inevitable confrontation with his father. But the real Father’s approach to me was gentle, empathetic, loving. I recognized Jesus – I just knew it was him.
No confrontation. An invitation. I was awash with love, ‘just as I am.’ Now that I know His approach to me is compassion, I can’t help but be more honest, more open. ‘Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.’ I let Him in to my deepest self because I’m convinced I can trust Him. The healing begins…
Father God has become a safe place to me. I begin to identify with residents who are terminal and in pain. I have the privilege of spending time with expiring people, being a listener and a friend in the wee morning hours. I have become a safe place for others. And fruitful, in the eternal sense.
In hindsight, my whole God Journey has been solitary. Just God and me. Thankfully, I have found others (Wayne, Brad), that have shared comparable experiences publicly, so that I know I’m not dwelling in a gaping maw of self-deception. I’ve made attempts to share with those I love (family, siblings, parent), but still have not found anyone around me that responds to my journey. I take advantage of every opportunity God gives me to release a snippet or two in the context of the moment.
The most sharing I’ve done in 10 years is right here in this thread. I still don’t know why my journey has been solitary, but I know I would love sharing it all over coffee with someone. I’m trusting Abba for that, too…
Thanks so much for your comment, Craig. As you can see, I’ve suffered the loss of a 45-year-old marriage when my husband died in 2015. He was in chronic pain from before the time I met him in 1968 but, like you, he was an introvert and pretty much suffered in silence. His empathy was immense, and it showed in his writing–36 unpublished books before he died.
I appreciate those of you who have posted some of your pain here and how you’ve dealt with it. It seems that most people at any given moment get to go care-free about their life and some people deal with physical or emotional main through most of theirs. It saddens my heart, but also draws me inside my relationship with God, realizing how broken this world is and how much I want him to redeem it and us into the eternal life he has for us–now and forever! My heart goes out to all of you who suffer on a daily basis. May God show himself strong in your hearts and minds!