[Update: this post inspired a comment (below), that I ended up responding to. The commenter responded to that, then I gave my final response, and then he gave his. Lastly, a friend posted her thoughts on the discussion as well. Follow the links to get in on the discussion.]
You know that proverbial flu bug that is perpetually in existence all over the country all at once on snowy days? Yeah, well I’ve got it. Starting yesterday, the back of my head and the top of my neck were struck by a throbbing pain, pulsating with every heartbeat; my body temperature playing the role of ping-pong ball between the paddles of heat and cold; my body aching with every move.
I went to sleep last night, tossing and turning for a long while hoping for the pain to subside by the time I woke. I woke and felt great. That is, while I was laying in my bed. The moment I stood up and the blood rushed throughout my body, the pain, dizziness, and energy-sapping delirium of flu raged against me. And then I went to work.
I don’t get sick very often. It’s even rarer that a sickness will knock me out of commission from everyday life (in the practical day-to-day workings, at least; my weird, delirious conversation with my girlfriend last night over the phone will attest to that).
But nevertheless, I always seem to find myself googling remedies and the “wisest” path to fight the sickness. I have, on more than one occasion in my life, searched for things like: “best food to eat during flu”, “best tea to drink when sick”, “best body positions when sick”– as if these things have changed year to year.
As I was doing this googling yesterday, I was reminded of a piece of advice I often give to people in the midst of a painful time in their life (usually a breakup): the point of pain–what is meant to be first in our mind during it–is not how fast we can stop hurting. I realized I was doing what we all do in pain: trying to move past it as quickly as possible; trying to find those secret “tricks” or “bits of knowledge of wisdom” that can make it subside, let us move on.
Can I offer us some encouragement? Life is supposed to hurt, and it is meant to foster a deeper trust and awareness in the Story of God that He has us in. Every pain has its process. If we focus on just getting to the end of it, we can often get to that end without having changed, grown, or matured at all. Even Jesus did not try to rush to his suffering just to get it over with; but rather marked his days with that pronouncement that his “hour had not yet come”; that is, until it did.
And so, in a lot of ways, to move past pain is to move past God. This God came down to taste pain, so that now pain, heartache, rejection, isolation, doubt, fear, and insecurity are now part of the divine experience. To know those things is to know God! As God rejects God at the cross, he binds himself to the lowest valleys of our life and existence.
And so He is there; waiting in those deepest of valleys, longing to allure you even deeper into them where He is, that He might whisper tenderly to you and remove the names of the idols from your lips. And to betroth you to Him and righteousness and faithfulness. It’s in the pain we find our Home; it’s in the pain we find our Lover; it’s in the pain we find our God.
May we all learn in the darkness not to tread so quickly.