Pain comes in many different forms: physical, emotional, spiritual. I don’t have to be a doctor, psychologist, or pastor to say with an expert opinion this: pain sucks. And I definitely (as definitely informal and with lack of proper credentials as I can) say I have an expert opinion:
As a teenager, every day for about a year, a tendon would pull a piece of bone away from the rest of my knee on both legs (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osgood-Schlatter_disease. Mine is a Type 2 diagnosis. Warning: includes big words that may cause headaches).
In college, I dislocated and tore a ligament in my shoulder playing football. (Seriously, who gets injured playing flag football?! Also, I contend to the medical and scientific community that the shoulder is necessary for standing up, because I definitely collapsed when it dislocated).
At thirty-four years of age, due to the aforementioned injuries, as well as a culmination of various other events that usually began with the words, “Hey, man! Watch this!” my body is hardly a fine physical specimen of a healthy, active lifestyle, and more a walking advertisement for Rice Krispies.
Many people that I know within my Christian circles encourage me to seek prayer for healing, and believe me, I have (which in itself has led to several interesting anecdotes, but that is for another post, perhaps). I do believe that God wants to see His Kingdom manifest here on Earth, and I deeply encourage others to seek out prayer for healing as encouraged by the Word (James 5:14-15).
But what happens when healing doesn’t come? What happens when we take the leap of faith and get no results? What happens when our pain aches don’t vanish, or our depression doesn’t leave, or cancer takes the life of someone we love dearly? What then?
In my experience, the result is usually one of two things: a miracle or an idol.
Not miracles in the same sense as the power of the Gospel demonstrated by healing, but in the sense of the supernatural gift of faith that wells up deep inside and overflows the spirit. I’ve been witness to amazing gifts of a prophetic nature when being prayed over, and while my physical body was not healed in those moments, I am quite confident that the God of All Creation knows me and sees me; all as a direct result of that time of prayer. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
And then there is idolatry. I don’t mean it in quite the same sense as the Old Testament, golden calf form, but it is idolatry nonetheless. We build identities around our pain. It becomes the lens through which we now view our very existence. We worship it, having conceived in our minds that it is greater than the God of the Universe, that He stands powerless against it. And we believe the lie that somehow the pain of having it removed is even greater than the burden we live with daily. Idolatry is formed out of the lies: that our faith wasn’t enough, or we must deserve it, or worst, that God simply doesn’t care about us. Lies. (Jeremiah 1:5).
I live with pain every day of my life. Most people never see it; some days I try very hard to keep it covered, other days I am so accustomed to it that I barely notice it, if at all. I don’t hide it to build a wall or a lie; there are trusted friends that hold me accountable to honesty and there is freedom in that. However, if I never see healing on this Earth, I’m ok with that. Not because I think I deserve it, or that God doesn’t love me. But rather quite the opposite: I know He has a plan for me, for this. (Also, I have a strange hope that maybe when my time comes they’ll examine my body and wonder how I made it that far!)
God isn’t just working in spite of the pain; He is working in and through it also. We can learn to worship Him earnestly and honestly in the midst of our pain. God sees you. God wants the best for you. He has plans for you, and when we break down our idols and pursue Him from that place of honesty, you’ll hear Him say,
“Hey, man! Watch this!”