Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Lessons of Pain

What do wisdom teeth, jaw pain, exhaustion and a spiritual insight have in common?

Among other things…that pretty much summarizes the month of August. I found that being in intense pain for an extended period of time…really took its toll. That toll includes a writing dry spell. When I finally did get the inspiration to write again…I didn’t have the energy to complete it…so thus it sat. Until now that is.

I wonder…is this one of those times where God has given me a specific message and until I execute…there will be silence? Perhaps. But anyway…here is my tale of pain and lessons learned.

I was in such pain for well over a month. Excruciating pain…all because my wisdom teeth…thought they would try to make their grand entrance once again. The rest of my teeth were not too keen on that idea. They waged war against one another…and I was the causality.

Nothing, but nothing brought relief. Neither Tylenol, nor Alieve…nor a combination of the two every four hours reduced the pain. I even got the brilliant idea to chew on Aspirin. On occasion…this routine brought some measure of relief…but precious little. I tried a heating pad and cold packs. The cold packs seemed the most effective…or at least would numb it for a time. But overall…the pain was unrelenting.

Sleep during that time was rather evasive…or at least ineffective. One day…I even brought out a bottle of Vicodin…only to be reminded why I never finished the prescription originally. I took it for pain relief…but found it only made me feel worse. Did it reduce the pain? I guess so…but I felt so bad that the pain seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

One Saturday…I missed my normal morning walk. Instead I cried out to God for relief from the pain. When I did have some relief…I rested. When the pain started in full force again…I cried out to God. When my cries of “Please God help me” failed to bring relief…those cries changed to the question, “God…what? What do you want me to learn from this? Why are you allowing this to happen?”

Finally I was left with the impression that God was using this pain as an example of what holding on to unforgiveness can do to a person.

Unforgiveness only serves to bring pain…unrelenting, exhausting, all consuming pain. Albeit emotional and spiritual pain.

When I’m wronged...it’s easy to justify being angry and feeling hurt. It’s hard to forgive a wrong done…especially when a person will not acknowledge it or recognize it. I almost feel like I’m holding on to the anger and hurt…until my pain is acknowledged or the situation is made right.

But doing that will not bring relief…and the wrong done may never be acknowledged by the wrong doer. There I am left holding the bag. A heavy bag…a bag of burdens that grows day by day. Goodness knows that each day there will be more than one offence that comes my way. Some big, some small…but they will always there.

Then comes the question…which ones will I hold on to and let change my life? Which ones are small offenses that I willing to let go of?

The offenses from strangers, those whom I don’t know well…or those whom I don’t care much for seem to be easier to let go of. Where as the offenses from loved ones and those I trust almost seem like a betrayal. Those are the ones that I find most challenging to let go of.

In actuality…the offenses from loved ones are the offenses I need to forgive quickly.

Unforgiveness also seems to take God out of the picture. No where do we see a better example of forgiveness than that of Joseph in the book of Genesis. After his brothers had threatened to kill him, sold him into slavery, he had been falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison and then he was seemingly forgotten by one of the king’s servants.

What was Joseph’s response when he finally met his brothers after all these years? “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.”

God always has a plan and purpose in everything he allows in our lives. Only God can bring good from the messes I’ve made.

Well this story does have a happy ending. While I felt ridiculous for submitting a prayer request for relief from the pain of wisdom teeth…I knew this was beyond me. I would rather have perished that continue in such pain. My day to day existence had been brought down to that issue of pain relief. Silly maybe…but I e-mailed off my prayer request.

Praise God and thank you my dear Jesus, Savior and Friend. Within two days…for the first time in over a month…the pain stopped. It reminded me of when I’m exposed to an exceptionally loud noise for an extended period of time. When it stops…ahhhh! Peace, sudden peace that I just wanted to savor.

More good news...the pain has not returned. The better news…after a clear illustration from God on how painful bitterness, anger, hurt and resentment are…I was able to get rid of, let go of those negative feelings. In fact…God has laid it on my heart to not only forgive and move on…but to prayer four these men.

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