We put a lot of emphasis on the day that Jesus was risen, rightfully so. I love to play up the resurrection on Easter. Honestly, I would forget all about the Easter Bunny if I didn’t have kids! I will never tell someone they put too much emphasis on the risen Christ on that day. I am here to celebrate with you, but I’m also here to remind you that he is still risen on Monday too. He’s still risen on Friday (the day I’m writing this). He’s been risen for nearly 2,000 years, and will be for all of eternity.
Our destiny is inextricably linked to his, if we are his (cf. 1 Cor. 15:22). So, if my destiny is linked to his–and he is resurrected forever–then should I not care about his resurrection more than just on Easter? I’ve written about the resurrection of the body before. The Bible teaches a full victory over death. We will be raised, yes our actual dead bodies, and then we will be transformed into a glorious new body.
A lot of people claim to believe in the resurrection of Christ but fail to see how it connects to our resurrection. Paul claims in 1 Cor. 15 that you can’t have one without the other. In fact, if you deny a future resurrection that is the same as denying His resurrection.
Amid this Coronavirus pandemic, it is good to remember we will get a new body that will not be threatened by a virus or chronic illness. Death itself will be completely overturned, and we will never be robbed by death again!
I hope you had a wonderful Easter. I also hope you remember the Easter claim is not “He was risen,” but is always, “He is risen!”
It may appear that I haven’t posted in a while during a time that is very critical to all of us, especially those who are at greater risk for complications if they were to contract the deadly Coronavirus. I did write this a few weeks ago, and though the situation has worsened in the time since, the message is surely still relevant.
However, I have, in fact, been writing, just on a different page on the website. On that page, you will find messages that I have written primarily for my church in lieu of my usual bulletin article that I write for bulletins that we print when we meet together. We are meeting together right now, hence the special page.
All the while, I’ve been meaning to get back to my main blog which is normally addressed to those who struggle with chronic pain and illness. I’m always trying to find an angle or a special topic that relates to this group, of which I am a part. But like everyone, I’ve been overwhelmed in so many ways. I thought I would just use this space as a journal for a moment and share some of my personal thoughts and experiences. If that doesn’t interest you, I won’t judge you! Maybe I just find it cathartic to mark this strange time in history with what was going on through my own mind.
Like most people, I watched the story of a novel virus in China that began spreading around the world unfold gradually. I knew there was some concern when the virus reached our shores, but I never envisioned it affecting my personal life or the life of those I knew.
The moment my awareness of the virus changed, I was at church on a Wednesday night. After Bible class, someone told me they had just canceled the NBA game between the OKC Thunder and the Jazz. Most people where I live are Thunder fans, so they were on top of the news pretty quick. Rudy Gobert, of the Jazz, had been confirmed to have COVID-19. They cleared the arena, and by the time I got home, the NBA had suspended its season.
It was like the first domino in a major chain reaction. Other leagues, industries, and businesses quickly followed suit. The whole world was coming to a stop, and the experts from the CDC and W.H.O. were saying it should. Social distancing became a term known to all. We didn’t immediately cancel church services, as the virus still seemed faraway from Woodward.
The reactions to this fallout was disappointing to me, at least. So many people tried to portray those taking proactive steps to curb the virus as hysterical and panicky. The experts were either conflated with the mass hysteria–and there was some of that to be fair–or dismissed them as being politically motivated. It didn’t help that the President constantly downplayed the crisis, and many who thought they knew better than the experts were following his lead.
This was coupled with an attitude that diminished the lives that were being lost, either by comparing it to something else that people die of–like the flu–or, worse, saying that it was only older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions who were dying. People clamored for evidence that the pandemic was worthy of drastic measures and ignored the evidence where the outbreak had got out of control (like Italy) or that the very measures they were criticizing were preventing the very worst-case scenario they mockingly said had not come.
As the numbers skyrocketed in America and New York and New Jersey became our own dire Italy story, these pandemic deniers mostly disappeared. Of course, I’ve not seen one person admit they were wrong in the beginning!
That doesn’t mean social media has been all bad. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the humor about quarantine and toilet paper and all of it. It isn’t a funny situation; that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some funny moments that allow us to hold on to our sanity! I personally thought the comparisons to Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” were the best!
As the news got worse, the impact became more personal. School was canceled. Church no longer met in person. Essential businesses were closed. I never felt more like I was in a movie scene than when I picked up my kids’ assignments in school drive-thru’s from teachers wearing masks. Home, where we all spend most of our time, was challenging with three kids of my own and two foster kids. Balancing between my ever evolving role as a minister and extra demands at home has been my hardest challenge. But then again, that is far easier than a loved one being in the hospital, possibly dying, and not being able to be with them.
A sign in my town, Woodward, OK. A “sign” of the times.
How humbling it is to to see the entire human race brought to a standstill by an invisible assassin. But how encouraging it is to be reminded of our common humanity and need for God! It is also been heart-warming to see expressions of solidarity with health care workers and others, not to mention incredible acts of sacrifice.
Like many of you, I am at higher risk for serious complications due to medicines I take that suppress my immune system. It still felt like a remote possibility until another pastor in town got seriously sick with COVID-19 symptoms. I presume that he is in better health than me, so that was a wake-up call (He has recovered). That same day we had our first (and still only) confirmed case in our county. We are not in, by any definition, a hot zone, but I felt vulnerable that day and ever since.
No, I am not afraid, but the entire saga seems so surreal. If I did get sick, I am sure I would experience the fear of the “what-if.” I hate that people are losing jobs. I hate that the world economy is falling off a cliff. Mostly I hate that people are dying and many of them alone.
No, my faith is not hurt. If anything, the Bible teaches us to expect such episodes of human suffering while we await the return of the Lord. But I do worry that some people’s faith may be hurt. Every step we can take toward normalcy will be a good one. Let’s hold on to the Lord and each other.
It is hard to know where to start with this crazy pandemic that we are all facing. Every life is being affected, whether people are at severe risk of infection or not. My son’s track meet was canceled. All of my kids will not participate in a big youth competition for Bible related events. My daughter was heartbroken. More trivially, I’m kind of big sports fan: No March Madness, NBA, MLB. Hey, I was even enjoying the XFL, and like everything else, their season has been canceled.
It has been interesting to listen to different reactions. Some think it is pretty much a hoax (it is not). Others have become afraid to go out anywhere. Some have been interrogated because they returned from a zone where there had been an outbreak. A lot of selfish hoarding of supplies and overreactions is happening everywhere. There is also just a lot of speculation and bad information out there.
I’ve heard some people downplay the virus because it doesn’t kill a lot of people (percentage wise) and many more die from the flu. Just because people are dying from the flu, doesn’t mean that more people have to unnecessarily die from Coronavirus! Some of the projections from the CDC are downright scary if significant preventive measures are not taken to curtail the spread of the virus. This is from a New York Times article:
Between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected over the course of the epidemic, according to one projection. That could last months or even over a year, with infections concentrated in shorter periods, staggered across time in different communities, experts said. As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die.
1.7 million people dead in American alone. By comparison, the CDC, estimates about 22,000 deaths so far this flu season. The estimate is a worse-case scenario if no preventative measures are taken. So, while you might think it is ridiculous that your kid’s event got canceled, it might actually have saved lives. Furthermore, when people act like it is no big deal that the elderly and immunocompromised may die, as long as the healthy live, they commit both ageism and ableism.
Every life matters and every life preserved is worth it. Let’s make sure our words are not calloused toward those who are most vulnerable to the mortal danger of this virus. I know many of my readers are immunocompromised, because of the disease itself and/or the drugs they take to treat the disease.
Not all immunocompromised people are at the same risk. And a lot of conditions and medications remain unknown regarding the interaction with the COVID-19 virus. Here’s an article that I thought was helpful in overviewing the issues. Here’s another article that discusses the issue of biologics and COVID-19.
Going back to the NYT article (link above), one of the concerns is that those infected could overwhelm the healthcare system. The best thing we can do for ourselves and for everyone else is to listen to the authorities and take preventative measures to limit the spread of the disease. You may keep someone from getting Coronavirus, and you may keep someone from getting flu. That wouldn’t be a bad thing either!
For those of us who have concerns about the vitality of our immune system, I always discourage fear, because fear is not pleasing to God, and it brings about irrational and selfish behavior. But I do encourage prudence and emphatic concern for others. This is what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Take care of yourself. Take care of others. As my Granny has always reminded me, “This too shall pass.”
I had preached on the story of Jesus healing the paralytic before (cf. Matt. 9:2-8, Mk. 2:13-22, Lk. 5:17-26). But this time it struck a different chord. I have been preaching a series through Luke and particularly emphasizing the stories where extreme human need encountered Jesus Christ. The series is called “God in Need,” as in the God who had never known need taking on human need for us.
Anyway, I don’t think I had preached the story of the paralytic since my own struggle with chronic illness. And that struggle has changed the way I experience that story.
I am far from being paralyzed, but I can relate to the intense desire to want Jesus to heal me. I can imagine what it would be like to know that an accredited miracle worker was coming to my town and how a moment with Jesus could change my life forever. No disease was beneath Jesus’ notice. No illness was beyond his power.
Of course, getting to Jesus isn’t very easy for a man who is paralyzed, but his four good friends fought through the crowds and lowered him through a roof right in front of Jesus! Jesus was not annoyed, but instead interpreted their deed as an act of faith. Surely, Jesus would now make this man walk again. Instead he told him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
I know all of us are aware that we are far from perfect. We have sins that need forgiving. I’m sure the paralytic knew that too. But that wasn’t why he came to Jesus. He wanted to walk again. Did he take Jesus’ pronouncement as a refusal to heal him?
We don’t know for sure, because the conversation shifts its focus to the internal thoughts of the Pharisees and Jesus’ surprising remarks (surprising, because Jesus was basically reading their minds!). Jesus does heal the paralytic to prove to the Pharisees (and to others) that he had the authority to forgive sins. The paralytic takes up his bed and goes home praising God! What was he most joyous about? The forgiveness of sins or being able to walk again?
What would I be more excited about? What about you? Our struggle with chronic pain and illness has often left us desperate for God to heal us. We have cried out to God for miraculous intervention, and have not received the answer we were looking for.
So, here’s my question. When Jesus gives you something other than what you have asked, can you trust him enough to know his answer is what you needed more than what you had requested?
The door is still open for Jesus to tell us “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home,” anytime. If he doesn’t do so on this earth, then he will in the world to come. In the meantime, are the words, “Friend, your sins are forgiven,” enough for you?
Your answer to that question illuminates just how much you think your sins really need to be forgiven. Can those words produce even greater joy and praise than “Get up and walk”? May we find in Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness the greatest healing we will ever experience!
Matthew 7:1-2 in the NLT reads thus, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” This may be one of the most ignored commands of Jesus despite the warning Jesus attaches to it. I imagine Jesus gives such a strong warning, because he knew the stubbornness of human hearts. We judge others like we are addicted to it!
The homeless person is just lazy. The immigrant wants a free ride. The prostitute wanted that lifestyle. He’s fat because he has no self-control. She just has more children to take advantage of the system. On that last one, I saw a bumper sticker recently in my hometown of Woodward that said, “If you can’t feed ’em, don’t breed ’em!”
If you agree with sentiment of that last exclamation (or any of the above), then you likely have a judgment problem. By the way, I might have a judgment problem for judging you for having a judgment problem. It isn’t easy escaping the cycle of judging others.
Those dealing with chronic pain and illness are regularly judged by others. Most of the people I’ve talked to about their path to diagnoses have shared with me that they have been told some version of “it’s all in your head” by at least one medical provider. Countless friends and associates have told them or implied that they just want attention. Maybe some have even been called a hypochondriac. Others have been called a “drug addict.”
Sometimes people don’t mean to be this way. A statement like, “You don’t look sick,” may seem benign on its surface, but underneath it sounds like an accusation to the one who IS sick that there shouldn’t be anything wrong with them just because you can’t see it! (A lot of chronic illnesses are what we call invisible illnesses).
I’ve heard judgmental statements from the chronic pain community as well. Out of bitterness, people with chronic pain can be dismissive of others’ pain, because they couldn’t possibly understand what “real” pain is like. None of these judgmental attitudes are helpful. That’s why Jesus told us not to do it!
We are all likely judgmental in ways that we haven’t previously detected. If you are saying things that demean large groups of people (like immigrants), then you are being judgmental. If you say things that dismiss other people’s experiences (like the chronically ill), then you likely have a judgment problem. Judging others hurts other people. It drowns out their voices, which is sometimes the point of the judgment.
When you begin a sentence about a group of people or an individual that is about to assign motives and cast blame, stop yourself and hear the words of Jesus again, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.”
Refusing to judge others doesn’t mean we approve evil behavior (Actually, sometimes judging others is a way of justifying our own evil behavior toward the ones we are judging). It means we don’t pretend to know what we cannot know. It means we refuse to belittle a fellow human being just because their story or situation makes us uncomfortable. It means we see someone’s suffering and know that we too suffer, even if in different ways. It means we give full attention to voices of others and that we believe them as we would want to be believed.
This isn’t advice from Jesus; it is a command that comes with what should be a sobering warning. But what good news that we don’t have to be judged by the one who knows our hearts the most, the one who knows our own false motives even when we don’t! The is the one who promises not to judge us any harsher than we judge others.
Those of us in the chronic pain world, know what it is like to be judged. We also know what it is like to judge others, because we are all human. Asking God to help us eliminate our judgmental tendencies going forward will take serious prayer and self-reflection. Is it worth it? You can’t afford not to do it!
It is not uncommon for me to hear from chronic pain sufferers who think that they are being selfish when they cry out to God. Because they are so selfless, it feels so wrong for them to pray for themselves instead of praying for others, even when they are in desperate pain.
However, the Bible paints a different picture. Crying out to God in your pain is the most natural thing you could do. This doesn’t mean that you forget to pray for others or fail to acknowledge their suffering. In the words of a now famous meme, “Why not both?”
When you cry out to God, you are acknowledging he is your Redeemer. When God commissioned Moses from the burning bush he told Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering” (Ex. 3:7, emphasis mine). The connection between the people’s cries and God’s concern is directly stated, leading to God’s dramatic rescue of his people.
Throughout the Old Testament are those who cry out to God, who are not answered, and others who cry out to God and are answered. Sometimes the oppressed and the suffering have to wait on God’s deliverance. On some occasions, God did not answer, because they had cried out to other gods instead of him at first.
In the New Testament, the theme of crying out to God is present. When Jesus told the story of the persistent widow, his encouragement was to keep praying to God. He concludes with this encouraging word, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Lk. 18:7, emphasis mine).
When you want to cry out to God, please do! This is an act of faithfulness and acknowledgment of his status as Savior and Redeemer. To keep our pain within ourselves is to imply that we don’t need God to rescue us! Those in chronic pain may have to wait for deliverance, but we cry out to him because we know that eventually God will rescue us!
Don’t believe Christmas hymns that tell you Jesus was a baby who made no cry. Imagine in those first moments after Jesus was born, and his lungs were clear. How precious was the sound of his cries to his parents, but most importantly, to his heavenly Father. Thirty-three years later, he prayed in a garden, “Abba, Father!”
If the one who is God in the flesh cries out to God the Father, then we should as well. All the evidence proves that is what God wants from us, an authentic relationship that includes cries from the depth of our souls. He will hear, and he will answer.
It was late October in 2015. I was traveling with my best friend, Chris Blair, and one of my church elders, Jim Chandler. I had always wanted to go to China, and the opportunity had come through the Let’s Start Talking ministry (LST). It was a dream come true. There was only one problem; I was in agonizing pain.
The flare had started back in June of that year and was unrelenting. The 15 hour plane ride to Shanghai was excruciating. By the time we landed, I struggled to walk. Our main activity, one-on-one conversation sessions, in a coffee shop hurt me every moment that I sat down. Another long flight loomed on the horizon.
When I got back, I began the process of radiofrequency ablation to relieve the pain in my lower back. The results were disappointing. In late 2016, I had a 2nd hip surgery, was in pain all the time, and was fighting my first battle with depression. Though my trip to Shanghai was my tenth overseas mission trip, I could not imagine boarding another plane for that length of time. If I did not improve, my overseas mission days were behind me.
I am writing this post because I just got back from an LST mission trip to Recife, Brazil. Obviously, I am feeling better. I was not pain free, but the pain was manageable enough that the trip was worth it (I’m not saying the Shanghai trip wasn’t worth it, but only that I couldn’t do it again under those circumstances). Part of the reason, I took advantage of the opportunity is because I don’t know how long I will feel good enough to do it. So, I would like to offer a few reflections on this recent experience as it relates to chronic pain:
Do what you can when you.
I know that “carpe diem” is an overused phrase, but there is good reason for it! When you are feeling well enough to participate in something you love, don’t assume that your renewed health will last forever. Those of us dealing with chronic pain know better than most that good days and good seasons are fleeting.
On the other hand, to do nothing because you are afraid you might hurt one day in the future is no way to live life! Pursue that career. Join that mission. Run the 5k. Go to church. Maybe you feel better for only a month, but why wait until you feel too bad to do what you want to do? Maybe that month stretches out to a year or longer. You will never regret living your life intentionally while you can. However, you will almost certainly regret passing up opportunities that were before you once your health brings those opportunities to a close.
Find a mission that even chronic pain cannot rob you of.
I love mission work. Every one of my eleven overseas trips have been meaningful for me. However, my identity and mission for life were not tied to my ability to pursue mission work. A couple of years ago, I worked through a mission statement with a ministry called Right On Mission. My mission is “to acknowledge the stardom of every person’s life.”
means I help others to see their incredible worth before God. I help others to
envision living their lives as God intends them to live. This mission can be
lived out when I am hurting and when I am healthy. Even if I am confined to a
bed, I can live this mission.
or may not ever go through a formal mission writing process, but you can choose
to live for something greater than what your health allows you to do. I know
people who have had to give up careers they were passionate about due to their
health. This is a tragic loss worthy of profound grief. Even in facing such
loss, some of those same people have found their purpose in living again.
Don’t give up on living a meaningful life.
This third reflection is perhaps just a way of restating the 2nd. I state it this way because there are times when the pain is so bad and the loss so draining that you cannot find any meaning in life. You are just focused on somehow surviving the day. But it is important that even in our worst of times, that we do not lose hope of having better and more meaningful days.
On our worst days, we often ask, “What does God want from me?” It might be better to rephrase the question, “What does God want for me?” God doesn’t need anything from you. In his love for us, he does want something for you. God intends for every person’s life to be meaningful. Chronic illness cannot rob us that meaning. Let’s end these reflections with a great reminder of God’s love from his word:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39).
It is hard to get by a single day without using the word “need” in some context. Need is first associated with being in want. A baby needs to be fed. She needs her diaper changed. But even when we find ourselves in a position of authority, we use the word. A parent tell his child, “I need you to take out the trash.” A teacher tells a student, “I need you to sit down and be quiet.”
I wondered if the Bible ever said that God needed anything. As strange as it would be for the creator of the entire universe to have a need, I still wondered if I could find any verse with God as the subject and need as the verb. Did he ever tell Moses, “Moses, I need you to go to Egypt”?
I could not find a single verse where God was said to need anything. God commanded many people to do things. He even retrieved disobedient Jonah with a big fish to turn him around, but he never said, “Now, Jonah, I need you to go to Nineveh.” God doesn’t need anything, and he doesn’t need us.
Paul said in Acts 17:25, “And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (NIV). My short paraphrase? God doesn’t need us; we need him.
We wouldn’t usually consider it flattering to tell a person we care about that we don’t need them. In fact, we do need others. We are co-dependent; God made us that way. God cannot be co-dependent on anyone, because he is always self-sufficient. But this is good news for us two ways:
If God doesn’t need us, then his interest in us is based on his election, his loving and sovereign choice. God is not exploiting us because he is needy. He is not lonely, being in fellowship with each member of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In short, God may not need us, but he does want us.
Though God in his essence does not need anything, he chose to experience human need in the incarnation. The God who knew no need, was a completely helpless baby living with a peasant family! We can never imagine how far God stooped to leave the glories of heaven and without ever having known need to subject himself to the most extreme form of human need. He did this for us!
What does this have to do with us who are suffering with chronic pain? It means that God didn’t need you to hurt. You aren’t hurting because you are making up for some grand plan in the cosmic scheme of things that would be incomplete if you didn’t suffer. Now, I believe that God redeems and uses our suffering for his glory, but that is different than the idea that somehow God needed you to suffer. You are not suffering because he is somehow exploiting you. When others have told you this or you have believed it, you were subjected to bad theology.
It is rather in our suffering that our need for God is revealed. Had humanity never fallen into sin, then I suppose our need for God would not have needed to be revealed in suffering. But you can’t put the fruit back on tree, so to speak. Our world is full of suffering, of which the phenomenon of chronic pain is simply one way we experience it.
God has seen to it that one day we will no longer suffer. In the meantime, let your suffering remind you of one of life’s most important truths…you need God and he wants you!
I am a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien. I know not everyone is and I promise not “geek out” too much about my Middle Earth fandom here where I spend most of time writing about faith in the midst of chronic pain, but some of you love this kind of stuff, so I am going to indulge a little bit today (and I’m still going to connect it to chronic pain)!
I recently finished a book by Daniel Day about Tolkien’s inspirations for his dark villains of Middle Earth. It was a short and fascinating read with incredible artwork throughout. Though I had read all of Tolkien’s Middle Earth books twice, I had never looked more deeply into the world of myth that inspired him. I was so inspired that the next book I bought was a book about Norse mythology.
Tolkien weaved together so many stories, peoples, and characters from mythology, one would be tempted to view his Lord of the Rings work as derivative. But the genius of Tolkien is that he made a better mythology than his source material, and he made it his own. Of course, as a devout Catholic, he also weaved in biblical themes and symbolism, because he believed that all stories were ultimately derivative of the greatest story.
Lately, I’ve found myself wanting to be lost in the world of fantasy, yes, even the world of myth. Is fantasy, as Tolkien conceived it, simply a world to which we can retreat to escape our pain? No, I don’t think so. Tolkien’s Middle Earth was full of pain, suffering, and death, just like ours. Heroes risked and experienced suffering and death in their battle against evil. In fact, even characters (like Frodo) who did not meet their ultimate demise, accepted death as inevitable to complete their quest.
I don’t think it is escapism that draws me into Tolkien’s world. I think it is meaning that pulls me in. I see something of our own struggle against the pain and evil of this world in the heroic stories of Frodo, Sam, Bilbo, Aragorn, et al. I am inspired that Tolkien’s characters saw their world was worth fighting for even in the midst of their darkest threats.
And maybe you think that doesn’t matter because it is a fictional world, but the best works of fiction echo the real world. We are caught up in an epic battle between good and evil. Everyday people decide where they will stand. Everyday people decide what they are willing to die for. Everyday people look doggedly for the meaning in their existence and in their world.
Who needs the belief in the reality of meaning and the story of good ultimately prevailing more than those who suffer with chronic pain? I need all the stories I can get that remind of the ultimate story. A story in which God himself heroically offered his life over to the forces of evil in what seemed like certain defeat for all goodness and truth. A story where even death itself could not hold down the Son of God.
That story is not a myth. But Tolkien’s mythological world helps me see that ultimate story in new ways. I will never tire of hanging out in Middle Earth. On my darkest days, it is still a place where I can find light. It is a place where I am reminded that pain and suffering are not things in themselves. They are simply the absence of good. Since good will prevail, pain and suffering will disappear when evil is vanquished. I will embrace every opportunity to be reminded of that glorious truth, even in the literary world of fantasy.
I haven’t blogged in over a month and part of the reason is that I’ve been processing some thoughts during a difficult time. My best friend was killed in a motorcycle accident on July 12th and we didn’t have his memorial service until July 26th. I found that I lost my voice, so to speak, for a while. I had no words to offer anyone. Even preaching–my regular job–was difficult.
I didn’t prefer the long delay between Chris’ death and the service, but it might have given me a chance to find my voice again. I was asked to be the emcee for the service. I had the honor of opening the service and then facilitating the process of many others sharing their thoughts. By God’s grace, all went well.
Still, I didn’t have anything new to say to the chronically ill/chronic pain community. I was dealing with a very different kind of pain and I couldn’t find the common ground between the grief of the loss of a loved one and the kind of pain I usually address here. I’ve come to the conclusion that that is the point. They are two totally different experiences and one does not inform the other very much at all.
If I had never known chronic pain, the death of my friend would not have hurt any more or any less. And the experience of chronic pain did not necessarily prepare me for the type of pain related to losing a loved one. And that’s okay. I don’t expect that somehow going through one kind of pain makes you stronger for another type of pain.
The lesson is that grief and loss visit all people. We are not different because we hurt physically. Life is still life, and death is still death. This brings me an odd sense of comfort. Having chronic pain is a different kind of experience than what most people have to endure. It makes us different enough.
When I came together with Chris’ family and our mutual friends, I wasn’t thinking about my physical pain (To be honest, it has been much less lately anyway). I was thinking about how much we all lost when Chris left us. Just this day, I had some heavy things on my heart, the exact kinds of things that I used to always call Chris about. I couldn’t call him and it made me grieve all over again.
I do not grieve like those who have no hope. I know I will see Chris again. I believe in the resurrected Jesus and the complete victory he gives us his people over death. But deep inside me is a void created by the absence of a brother I will always cherish. And in this way, we (those of us with chronic pain/illness) are just like everyone else. I’m not glad for our losses, but I am thankful that we aren’t so different after all.
P.S.: Chris was a graphic designer and he is the one who created the Broken and Mended logo.