Pain is common to all of us. But– have you noticed?– our reactions to it can be wildly different.
And I’m convinced– it’s all in how you look at it.
When our eyes are on our pain & circumstances:
- We become disconnected from others (even others in the Body of Christ).
- No one is “qualified” to encourage, exhort, instruct, or teach us (even with the authority of Scripture!), unless they’ve experienced the exact. same. thing. that we are experiencing (which of course disqualifies, basically, everyone), because our own experience is what is authoritative to us.
- Thus, we believe we can’t encourage, exhort, instruct, or teach others (even with the authority of Scripture), because we see others’ experiences as what is authoritative in their lives.
- The only acceptable method of communication with/to anyone in pain is listening. The therapeutic counselor’s couch who only listens, and never really says anything, becomes the best and highest hope we can offer anyone, because everyone is the sole arbiter of his/her own pain and needs.
- Pain becomes the great separator. We will tend to exalt our unique version of pain as higher, worse, more difficult, more tragic, more unapproachable, more hard-to-endure, (etc.) than anyone else’s pain.
- Gifts are either expected/demanded or refused. We may feel that others “owe” us because of our pain, or we may be unwilling to be vulnerable enough to accept help or gifts from others. Either way, it’s all about “me.”
- Instead of exalting Christ, SELF is exalted. Instead of, “there is no one like Jesus. He satisfies and cares for me like no other.”, the heart says things like, “No one else is hurting like me. No one else can understand me. No one else has been through what I’ve been through.”
But when we focus on our great REDEEMER, our SAVIOR, and HIS BEAUTIFUL ANSWERS for our pain & circumstances:
- We become connected with others in the Body because we view ourselves as intricately connected through a wonderful Savior who sustains us through the common experience of human pain and challenges.
- Others can encourage, exhort, instruct, or teach us with Scripture, wisdom, and the God-given comfort with which they themselves have been comforted, whether or not they’ve experienced the exact set of details we are experiencing, because we recognize Scripture as authoritative, all wisdom as from the Lord, and other humans as fellow-journeyers.
- We can encourage, exhort, instruct, or teach others with Scripture, because we recognize that it is the one thing that can divide between soul and spirit, and gives us the only words we can speak that can offer hope and healing.
- We are free to take time with hurting people using a variety of methods to connect and minister: listening, asking questions, sharing Scripture, exhorting, instructing, and sharing our experiences (and more) all become valid ways of connection and ministry, because we view Christ as the only One who can be all that someone needs, or give them all that they need in the exact “right” package.
- Pain becomes the great equalizer. We exalt Christ as the One who can break every chain, soothe every hurting heart, and heal every form of pain, no matter how tragic or different from the pain we’ve experienced.
- Gifts are gratefully received as evidence of God’s grace and care for us. When our eyes are on God, we see gifts and financial provision– whether from a believer, unbeliever, insurance company, or some other source– as ways that God is nurturing us and providing for us in our difficulties.
- Christ is exalted as the Great Mediator, the Great Suffering Servant, the Great Savior, who we all need, who identifies with us in our sorrows, and who has Himself borne more grief, shame, and suffering than any of us.
IN THE COMMENTS: Which is your experience with pain & suffering?
- Do your hurts drive you to Christ, and toward His Body?
- Or do they drive you inward, pushing you further and further into isolation and self-exaltation?
3 thoughts on “Does Your Pain Isolate You From the Body of Christ?”
That is really interesting, and really helpful. I think we all can recognise your first list – and people tend to expect it of others. (‘I can’t imagine what they must be going through, so I can’t comment’, or ‘Yes, they are being difficult right now, but look at what they have been through’ etc). Or people can try to grade the pain they are experiencing (for example, the worst possible thing might be ‘cancer’ whereas the paralysing exhaustion of having many young children and being postpartum simply doesn’t count at all). All of this does divide the body of Christ.
It can be difficult to know how to walk with others through pain. It is not comfortable. I think sometimes asking questions like, ‘Does it help if I ask questions?’, or ‘What would help you through this time?’ rather than the slightly more vague statements of ‘If I can do anything to help, please ask’ can be a helpful thing to do. Sometimes people can be erratic. The hardest thing I find is when somebody is stumbling into sin through their grief or pain; you don’t want to criticise (speck of dust in their eye compared to plank in your own etc) but at the same time, you do sometimes want to ‘speak the truth in love’. Yes, you may not perfectly understand, but you do know that there is a great God who sees the big picture.
The time when our daughter was terminally ill was among the richest spiritually that we have known. All that mattered was eternity. Small cares of this world evaporated and like you said in your post, it was a great equaliser. When we returned to the African country where we had been living when she became unwell, suddenly there were far fewer barriers between me and the national women. In my city, 1 in 8 children died under the age of five. That meant that basically every second woman had experienced the death of a young child of hers. I might have been a different colour and of a different culture, but suddenly I was just another grieving mum. Many doors were opened. I had prayed for a breaking down of barriers, and it was through that shared universal human experience of pain that it came.