Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Power of Pain

Last week, I wrote about pain’s potential to awaken us to our true condition—fallen and in need of Something Else.

For some of us, like the Laodiceans in the early church, this is a much needed revelation. For most of us, we’re already well acquainted with the chaos of the world in which we live. If we remain only with the knowledge of our fallen state, we’re in a sorry place. So, here’s where pain can make its second contribution:

Pain has the power to introduce us to Jesus.

With the onset of pain, there are many places one can run for comfort, relief and temporary distraction. I know, as a Christ-follower, that I should run towards Jesus with my pain. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop distracting my mind with superficial fixes and to get on my knees. Other times, the overwhelming pain partners with gravity and literally pulls me to the floor on my face in prayer.

Pain is where Jesus has become most real to me. His presence, almost tangible and his comfort, palpable. His spirit and his word have promised me that as deep as my pain reaches, so his touch will extend. And he’s been good on his promise.

My most recent meditation has been the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

The miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection is remarkable, but it hasn’t been the focus of my study. My thoughts have stayed on the interactions Jesus has with Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, while their brother is still dead.

Mary runs to Jesus with her pain and exclaims, in essence, “Where were you? You could have stopped this and you did nothing!” Jesus isn’t threatened by her brokenness or insinuated accusations. In fact, he doesn’t even respond to her question with words.

He just weeps.

With this reaction, we have the Beginning and the End, the God-Who-Made-Time, who knew the miracle that would imminently transpire, stopping. He’s not offended by her expectations of him. He doesn’t patronize her with exhortations to more faith and less humanness. He steps outside of his all-knowing-ness and enters her pain.

He just weeps.

I know, because of my own experience, that Mary was transformed in that moment. I believe that for the rest of her life she cherished the opportunity given to her by pain to truly meet Jesus.

Many of us find ourselves, like Mary, running to Jesus. If we’ll stop long enough, if we’ll pause after we’ve emptied our hearts of our petitions, we just might meet Him. In the quietness of our pain, we may catch a glimpse of God Almighty weeping.

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