Until it completely healed itself a few short weeks ago, I had been suffering terribly for months with what turned out to be sciatic pain. This pain started as an odd sensation near my hip, feeling numb and a little uncomfortable and gradually turned into excruciating pain shooting down from the top of my buttocks to my ankle. I couldn’t walk properly and certainly couldn’t run. Sleeping was broken up. Night after night, I would be tossing and turning, trying to find a different position to relieve the pain but to no avail. To say I got a little grumpy would be an understatement!
The good news is eventually, with a combination of drugs, exercise and targeted prayer, the pain eased, and any sensation of numbness has pretty much gone. (If you’re interested you can find more info about sciatic pain HERE.)
There was a period as I was going through the worst of it, where I found myself sitting on my sofa, not wanting even to get up and get a drink of water. The thought occurred to me that I could either become very cross that the pain in my leg was stopping me from doing anything at all or take the opportunity to see if there was anything positive I could bring to the situation.
What positivity could there possibly be? It was when I realised that not being able to do much had given me time to slooooow down. Typically I’m going from one thing to the next, thinking about what needs to happen next at both Church and home. Not being active had forced me not to try and do everything. It’s not that I can’t delegate responsibilities, but if something needs doing, I often think it’s just quicker for me to get it done. Being incapacitated, however, makes you rely on other people. It helps you develop trust that they can do it just as good, if not better than you. They only need the moment to shine.
It’s not nice to be in pain, but pain can be a useful thing, physical pain tells us that something is wrong with our bodies and that it needs attention. Mental trauma is a different kind of pain, and sometimes even our reality will change as our brains try and protect us from a traumatic experience. This reality change is recognised as a psychotic episode. Most often, mental pain, however, is the pain of grief and loss, and the feeling of powerlessness.
I don’t believe that God brings us pain to test us, but I think He can use the pain to show us something, grow character and change us. For example, most of us will willingly enter into new relationships; the human condition makes this a priority. As Christians, the ideal is to copy Jesus in our relationships and try and fulfil His commandment of making disciples. We begin every relationship knowing that one day we might lose them – whether that be bodily, geographically or simply because people change. God still wants us to enter into relationships with others, it’s a Heavenly mandate, even though it has the potential to bring us pain, but, to repeat, I don’t believe He is the source of that pain.
Sometimes, as with grief, we have to walk through the deep pain of loss. We never deny the loss, but one day we realise we have moved on, never forgetting, but we find ourselves on a new independent path. Journeying through grief and pain is a normal process, but choosing to wallow in pain and misery is not a good thing. To wallow is to stay in one place, not willing to walk a path of healing, often feeling sorry for ourselves and hoping that others will join us in our pity party.
To wallow is to stay in the water, or the mud. Wallowing might keep the flies off – like giant African beasts – and keep us safe from those people or that thing wanting to do us further harm, but if we never venture out, never attempt to step out despite our pain, then we’ll never have the chance to grow. We’ll never have the opportunity to change the world. We live in a fallen creation, but rather than abiding by it’s fallen rules we need to make creation abide by the rules of Heaven. We need to genuinely occupy our role as stewards and caretakers, declaring the goodness of God in all situations,
As Christians, we believe that Jesus suffered considerable physical pain, and significant mental anguish was brought about by what He faced and what He ultimately conquered. God stepped into our anguish and fallen state and took on the greatest suffering, so we didn’t have to. The Father knows what it’s like to lose a Son, and the Son knows what it is to suffer as we do. However, despite what it may seem, this is a story of absolute assurance in the goodness of God, and regardless of the circumstances, indeed because of the circumstances, we can overcome every obstacle.
33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] JOHN 16:33 (AMPLIFIED BIBLE)
The disciples of Jesus didn’t know victory would come in the shape of their Master dying on the Cross, and near the end, they felt utterly defeated, they didn’t understand what had just occurred. The lesson from this is that we should not stop declaring how good God is despite what we see and despite how we feel. First and foremost in all situations, we should maintain we have a good God and speak out what we see through Heavenly eyes – which is seeing best for us, the best in us, and the best around us – declare what we desire as it lines up with God’s will for us. Even Jesus said as it’s written in Luke 22:42-44:
42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup of agony away from me. But no matter what, your will must be mine.” 43 Jesus called for an angel of glory to strengthen him, and the angel appeared. 44 He prayed even more passionately, like one being sacrificed, until he was in such intense agony of spirit that his sweat became drops of blood, dripping onto the ground.
Jesus, in this passage of Scripture, asked for the mental anguish, the psychological pain to be taken from Him. However, He immediately responds to His own request that His will be lined up with His Father’s will and through that He prayed even more. Jesus pressed into His Father even more, even though what is to come is not taken from Him. Jesus is still suffering, so much so that His mental state translated into a physical response as He sweated actual blood. But again He prayed, still leaned into His purpose and mission.
We see from this story that despite our declarations for healing and deliverance from pain, we may never see it in this earthly life. However, we will see it come to pass in eternity.
Despite what I’ve just written, most of us who are believers will be able to testify that healing can come while we live on earth. We may even have experienced it personally. It might have come instantly, or it took several years to come. Here is a quote from a blog post by Jarrod Cooper, a Pastor, I might even say an apostle to the Church, who leads Revive Church in Hull, he wrote:
“Healing is a battle that must be won, not simply a “special moment” in a church service. Equipping people to fight and keep their healing, is as important as the powerful encounter that brings the healing in the first place.”www.jarrodcooper.net
Part of that equipping is finding the positive in the circumstance and declaring the Goodness of God through it all. Let me remind you of a verse in James 1:17:
17 Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change.
I said to one of our children recently, who is struggling to say anything good about school, and as such, this is affecting their mood and their mental attitude: “You put positivity in, you get positivity out.” That sentence might sound a bit pithy and even a little trite to some, but at the heart of this simple phrase is a powerful key in helping us escape the wallowing in our pain or the room of self-pity into which we lock ourselves.
There is a reason why self-help gurus are the superstars in the first few decades of this new millennium, why positivity books are the new Bible for many – because it works. I think it’s incredible that as we smile, as we say good things or think positive thoughts, our bodies and our minds, for most people, are physiologically and chemically changed for the better. I’ve read many, many articles that all say it makes a massive difference to how we live our lives.
A simple example is that if we sit and walk with our backs straight, this will give us greater confidence and inner strength. Not only that, it helps physically with our posture, which reduces back problems! And if we tell ourselves out loud that we can swim that extra length or run that extra mile, we find the inner conviction to do it. As we do, we become healthier, we push ourselves, and we see the rewards of our positive mental attitude.
Now, imagine if in all that, through all that and around all that, is the Word of God! Imagine how much more powerful our positive declarations are when we invoke the power of Heaven. When we declare by His Holy Spirit, words of encouragement and speak His truths into all situations? Proverbs 18:21 tells us that our “words are so powerful that they will kill or give life.” Proverbs 16:24 says, “Nothing is more appealing than speaking beautiful, life-giving words. For they release sweetness to our souls and inner healing to our spirits.”
At the very beginning of time, God spoke creation into existence! Not only that, He said that what He had spoken into existence was good, and made well. Our words matter too. As humans, we are created in God’s image, the One who speaks life into being. We will experience pain, we will go through pain, but remember that the one who spoke creation into existence has also felt our pain and He has overcome. We are overcomers too, using our own words to inspire us and our positive thoughts to guide us, we can be who God desires us to be, in all situations and at all times. Our pain may stay with us, and in grief especially, but we can learn how to turn that process to good as we look to see how it can change us and grow us. We can do this because, despite our pain and our tribulations, we have a God who speaks, a God who acts, a Father who loves us and is with us through His Spirit. Romans 8:38-39 says that nothing can separate us from God’s love. I love The Passion Translation of the Bible, which reads:
“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that His love triumphs over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that weakens His love. There is no power above us or beneath us – no power can ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”
God speaks life over us with His love! What an immeasurable gift! God gives our words power. God speaks life-giving Words over us through His people and His Scriptures. As Christians, we have a calling to speak life-giving words over others and ourselves, despite our circumstances. We can speak life through encouragement, adoration, love, and prayer.
“To be a believer in Jesus Christ means realising that what Jesus said to Thomas is true: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is not the road we leave behind as we travel, but the Way itself. By believing, we enter into that rest of peace, holiness, and eternal life because we are abiding in Him.” – Oswald Chambers