In the last few weeks, I’ve learned of various people who have committed suicide and it’s heart wrenching. A few of these individuals have been pastors, which hits even closer to home considering that I’m a pastor’s kid, I’m married to a pastor and I am a pastor. These events have also made me reflect on various people over the years who have committed suicide.
As much as I want to be articulate in this post, I feel so deeply about this subject that I can’t seem to get my words or thoughts into some semblance of order or cohesive progression. So maybe I’ll just free flow with this post and pray that it’s helpful to you, somehow.
More than anything, I hope that you will be gentle, tender and kind with others and yourself, regardless of any external veneer. When we are in a car and see a handicapped license plate, sticker or a “baby on board” sign, we will often give that person a little extra consideration, grace and space because we know there’s a vulnerable / fragile person inside that vehicle.
May we also have the same mindset with the people in our lives, appreciating that each person with whom we interact, has their own internal struggles regardless of what the exterior looks like or how they behave. Let’s be purposeful to:
Dislocated shoulder, Cambodian spider bite, concussion & maybe a hairline fracture: these are some of the injuries my doctor has diagnosed over the recent years. So whenever I book an appointment, I grimace as I anticipate their amused facial reactions. And I’d prefer to skip the whole experience & be on my merry way, injury free. But life has a way of serving up some hurtful maladies.
Thankfully, we have a Divine Physician who specializes in healing & repairing bodies, emotions, memories, injuries, hurts, etc. Let’s be careful that we don’t allow our tendency to be independent to sabotage Jesus’ healing work. Compensatory behaviors can interfere with divine healing, just sayin’
If we don’t feel pain, we run the risk of being unfeeling, insensitive, cold & apathetic. But for the people who live with chronic pain, feeling pain isn’t good. It’s also difficult to see people who are in pain. So what do we do with pain? Anesthetizing pain with entertainment, booze, exercise & other stuff turns out to be a very destructive way to cope w pain. So rather than anesthetize pain or run from it, let’s consider that we can ask Jesus to take away the pain & help us know Him better through the pain & suffering. Consider what Paul says in Phil 3:10-11, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
skme of the greatest potential for intimacy can happen through the shared experiences of pain & suffering. Even though we don’t like the idea, it’s true nonetheless. Think Gethsemane. Pray when there’s pain & watch what God does.
Nothing seems to repel us like suffering. Indeed, if we had our way, we’d entirely skip the whole crucifixion thing & leap straight to resurrection.
Maybe that’s why Peter, James & John slept in Gethsemane when Jesus told them to watch & pray, while He travailed in prayer with sweat like drops of blood. I would likely chose to sleep as well rather than watch my Invincible Hero suffer & appear frail & unraveled.
But here’s the best kept secret: there’s tremendous intimacy potential in sharing with suffering. While we follow & admire strength, nothing connects us with someone more than seeing & even sharing in weakness & pain. Some of my best friends have been through the most abysmal experiences with me – we’ve shared in suffering & the bond between us from those experiences has been immensely strengthened.
In Holy Week, today is Maunday Thursday. This is the day when Jesus shared the last supper with His disciples, washed their feet & travailed in Gethsemane. Jesus understands suffering & wants to connect deeply with us, not only in resurrection life, but also in struggles & suffering – the fellowship of suffering: Philippians 3:10-11
My physical therapist stretches my shoulder & that’s a nice way to say that she hurts me & sometimes I don’t like her, like today. I even used the breathing exercises with my children being born to manage the therapy pain.
But sometimes pain is good:
when it’s part of the path for improving & maturation
some conversations are painful because they’re working through hot zones
sometimes it hurts to get healthy
pain can be the process through which something new & wonderful is birthed
Not all pain is bad in the grand scheme of things 🙂
This is a blog to honor my friend Kim, with whom I had an awesome chat last night. Kim is an entirely amazing person, nurse, mom, wife, COO & all around very groovy chick. We were chatting about a few ailments & she said something really insightful, “Sometimes healing hurts.” To which I immediately replied, “blech”. But she’s right.
Healing can hurt sometimes:
*healing in our bodies causes us to use muscles & functions that have been broken
*healing in our emotions can require us to correct & untwist dysfunctional mindsets & behaviors
*healing in our hearts causes us to walk in uncomfortable dependence on the Lover of our hearts
Let the healing process move forward with wholehearted engagement 🙂
Yesterday I had some work done on my shoulder to repair damage from a snowboarding accident & today I’m trying out the power of Vicodin. I’m not really a pain pill person & I could probably count on one hand how many Advil I take in any given year, so needless to say, this stuff is a brave new world. Combined with the Vicodin adventure, I just read a blog that seemed to be a little overdosed with metaphors (note to self: I’m very guilty of overdosing my blogs with metaphors).
Pain seems to make metaphors evaporate or possibly turn into frightening fantasies if drugs are involved. With all that being said, I’m super grateful that Jesus came in the flesh to more than medicate the pain of humanity. Jesus came to:
*carry our grief
*remove our pain
*forgive our shortcomings
*replace our weaknesses with His strength
*give us another Helper
*raise us from dead living to eternal life
*heal our brokenness
*cure the human condition
And so much more – way better than Vicodin & metaphors ,)
My son & I were talking this morning about being sensitive to people and their needs. In our discussion, I was reminded of the story when Jesus came to Martha and Mary after their brother Lazarus had died, landing in possibly one of the darkest moments of their lives. If you remember, Martha & Mary had sent to Jesus before Lazarus died, asking Him to come & heal their sick brother. Despite receiving this information, Jesus waited where he was and purposely came to Martha & Mary after their brother died. Jesus’ delay was extremely disappointing to Martha & Mary (“If You had been here, he would not have died”). Nevertheless, Jesus had a really insightful conversation with Martha about resurrection & if you have some moments, I’d encourage you to read John 11 to look into that chat between the two of them.
After talking with Martha, Jesus connected with Mary who was a virtual basket case from her grief, disappointment, anxiety and loss. Jesus listened, watched, observed everyone’s grief and didn’t reply with a cliche’ quick fix answer – “Oh he’s in a better place now,” nor did Jesus try to change the subject, distract everyone with a miracle, discuss theology with the attending religious leaders, or do the All Knowing God answer. After taking everything in, Jesus wept. When you read to the end of John 11, we see that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so there’s a really unexpected and extremely happy ending to the whole story – but Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus from the dead before He experienced the grief through which everyone was going with the death of Lazarus.
When I think about forgiveness, you don’t have to convince me that I need to forgive – I’m already on board with that. The tricky part for me is the actual forgiving. Here are some tips that might help you:
forgiveness isn’t a feeling. Consider the Corrie Ten Boom quote, “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
forgiveness in the greek means “to let go or release”: when we forgive, we release the hurt, bitterness, judgment & pain
proficient forgiveness requires practice
forgiveness must be kept fresh – stale forgiveness can grow putrid in our emotions and thoughts
Here’s a cool & short video that could be helpful: forgiveness
I was reading this morning in Hebrews 12 about how God corrects, just like a loving father corrects & disciplines his children. I used to hate the whole idea of correction & being disciplined. If the truth be told, there has been an arrogance in me about receiving correction. In the past, I had the mindset that I did things so well that I didn’t need correction – which of course set me up for some very serious confrontations and painful corrections. Being corrected & discipline isn’t fun. It hurts. But here are a few points in Hebrews 12 that have helped me about receiving correction:
correction is evidence of love – Heb 12:6; no love, no correction :/
God’s correction is for our benefit – Heb 12:10
when God corrects you, decide to endure & change: don’t faint when God corrects you – Heb 12:5
God’s correction yields good fruit in our lives (peaceful fruit of righteousness) – Heb 12:11
I had an interesting conversation with a friend this morning who expressed some observations about me that could be kind of scratchy. If you’re like me, sometimes when I hear things about me that I don’t like, I want to blow it off & pretend that these things aren’t true. But just because we may not like certain things that we hear or see about ourselves doesn’t mean that they’re not true – in fact, sometimes the truth hurts, even if a person is trying to be gentle, kind & gracious.
So just because something hurts, does that give us the permission to ignore or lash back? Nope.
When I step back & pause, what I really want in my life is for The Helper, aka Spirit of Truth, to be comfortable to speak with me and to engage in my daily living – even when it costs me some rough spots and scabs 🙂
So here’s to listening, growing & learning, with band-aids, neosporin & Help 😀
When I was learning to snowboard, one of the super important terms / skills that was essential to master was the concept of linking turns – being able to turn from moving to the right to the left & vice versa – easier said than done. Today, I have no problem linking my turns & it’s close to second nature for me, but not without lots of falling, spills, pain, etc. What I’ve learned from snowboarding is that there can be lots of lessons I can learn from pain. These include:
*get up & keep trying
*transitions require lots of practice to be smooth
*when I get lazy, I tend to fall more
*sometimes I need to give my legs a rest
*remember the lesson but forget the pain 🙂
I haven’t met many people who enjoy being criticized. It’s not fun & can often be hurtful. But here’s some thoughts that might be helpful:
*listen & process – often times there is at least a grain of truth in some of the critical content
*forgive – criticism is usually hurtful & the most constructive way to deal with hurt is by forgiving
*grow – chose to grow & learn. Get better & not bitter
*intentions – when a person is critical of us they may have mean intentions or maybe helpful. What a person intends is not as important as what we do with the criticism 🙂
There are all different kinds of pain: a broken arm, a sunburn, rejection, aggressive words, neglectful behavior, perceived exclusion, disappointment, grief, . . . . . When we are in pain or have pain in our lives we don’t like it, not one bit. But in my mind, a significant challenge with pain is not that we have pain, but rather what we do with it & even how we manage it (rather than letting it manage us). Here are a few bullet thoughts that might merit some consideration:
*forgiveness can interrupt the continual cycle of pain in our relationships
*when we have pain, it’s important that we don’t perpetuate our pain by hurting others
*Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, He is our ultimate Healer
*we must be vigilent to ensure that pain doesn’t become our identity – a painful person
*focus is an important component with pain – it seems to me that the more we focus on the hurt, the worse it gets
*on the flip side, I’ve discovered that when I keep my focus on Jesus, The Healer, the pain decreases in the light of His majesty
May we experience Jesus as our ultimate Healer for every pain in our lives 🙂
I was reading earlier this week about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He was under tremendous pressure knowing that He would be betrayed, brutally beaten and crucified in less than 24 hours. In the Garden, He was in an extremely weak place emotionally and He asked 3 of His closest friends to “keep watch with Me.” It seems to me that Jesus wanted some company during this REALLY TOUGH time – unfortunately, His friends fell asleep and weren’t very good company.
But here’s my point, if you want to be close to someone and really connect and know them, you can’t just hang around when everything is smoothy groovy. Deep, genuine and constructive intimacy requires us to be present when the other person is in their most vulnerable and even weakest state. Let’s learn from the failure of Jesus’ friends and do our level best to be present for others when they are in difficult times.
At various times in our lives, we are all the targets & recipient of hurtful words. In elementary school, kids can often say things without thinking of how their words can be received. Then in Jr & Sr high school, it seems like we get more sophisticated with our ability to use piercing & hurtful words. By the time we’re adults, many of us have become very proficient at integrating sarcasm with our cleverly cloaked words so that we can slice & filet someone with very crafted and deadly words.
So what do we do with hurtful words? Here are a couple of helpful thoughts:
forgive – whether the words were intentionally hurtful or not, forgiving must be your first & continual action
dial down the emotions & see what could be truthful with the hurtful words
make a constructive decision to get better & not bitter – let the hurtful words give you motivation to make some healthy changes rather than letting them fester in your emotional memory being nursed & rehearsed
repay mean words with a smile rather than trying to craft a come back or pay back
take the hurt to Jesus & let Him bring His healing into that pain
Pain isn’t always the main issue. But what you do with pain will determine it’s results 🙂
I recently slipped in our big snow storm and hurt my ankle and no, I’m not any good at injuries of any sort. My norm is just to ignore them & keep going – no time to be gimpy! Unfortunately, this little ankle thing isn’t responding well to being ignored.
I think the same can be true with us spiritually. Sometimes there are injuries in our hearts that require some attention. Here a few ideas that could help:
ice: it cuts back on the swelling and the agitation; when our hearts are hurt, it’s helpful to cool down before making any decisions or having some conversations (cooling down doesn’t mean simmering to re-load ammunition or nit picking to fester the injury more)
elevation: lifting up our hearts to the Holy Spirit gives space and opportunity for divine involvement, where there is always healing, repair and rejuvenation
rest: sometimes we need to give our hearts a chance to recover and “breath”; heart trauma or injury often requires some time and processing to get to a place where there can be constructive progress (just be careful that rest doesn’t turn into withdrawal)
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when Jacob wrestled w the angel / God in Gen 32. This interaction always captures my attention & I find myself thinking about this wrestling match several times throughout any given year. I was talking w a friend today about what happened to Jacob after his wrestling match that left him w a limp:
he was reconciled to his brother & father
he returned to his homeland
restored & ramped up his walk w God
transformed his name – character
Rightfully so, no one likes pain or hardship. But with God, hardship & pain can really be used by Him for some quite spectacular results! Consider – all things work together for good to those who love God & who are called according to His purposes. Our goal is to love God & stay in the groove w His pruposes in our lives.