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Stand and Behold…But Don’t Forget To Look and Listen For the New…Too!

Christ On The Cross by Andrea MategnaPain, sorrow, grief, agony – They are part of life! But what do we do with them? It would seem Easter is the perfect time to contemplate these deep emotions! I know I have! I’ve taken the time to consider how much pain, sorrow, grief, and agony Mary, the mother of Jesus endured as she stood by the cross, looking up at her Son as He was cruelly crucified with stakes driven through His hands and feet after being maliciously mocked and brutally beaten. The pain and agony He experienced is incomprehensible while Mary’s emotions must have been off the charts as well!

Understanding how Mary endured this onslaught of grief might just help us endure whatever circumstances we face today! We CAN and should identify with Mary because we’ve all been given the great capacity to love. In fact, the love of God IN us is limitless because His love FOR us has no limits!

We read in John 19:25-27 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

basketball-courtI can relate in a MUCH smaller degree to Mom Mary. Our son was a talented and successful basketball player in high school and college, entertaining to watch though his opponents didn’t enjoy watching him as much as we did. It was common for them to undercut him when he went high in the air, landing him on his back in excruciating pain. I guess the fouls they accrued were worth it to them.

Every time this happened, I instinctively covered my eyes, bowing over in my own anguish, then looked back to see if he got up. I wanted to save him, protect him; tell him to stop playing, stop jumping; please…make it all STOP! I moved quickly from pain to anger, wanting to hurt the boy who hurt my boy JUST because he was alive and on the basketball court. I wonder if that’s how Mary felt. Please…just let it be over; Stop the madness; Stop the rejection, the humiliation, and the beatings. Stop hurting my Son just because He is alive and on the earth.

Its-OverWhen my son’s final basketball season was over, I felt relief. Sure! I would have enjoyed watching him play forever. He was extraordinary. But I was tired of seeing him get hurt; tired of watching him get treatments on his back so he could get back out on the court only to be hurt again; tired of watching him be strong on the outside when inside he was breaking. I was glad when it was finally over.

I imagine when Jesus’ earthly life came to an end Mary felt relief. Sure, she would have enjoyed watching Him continue His ministry forever. He was extraordinary. But she also must have been tired of seeing Him be rejected, hated, mocked, whipped and beaten; tired of watching Him be strong on the outside while His heart broke inwardly; glad when it was finally over.

Many people came to watch the basketball games to be entertained but honestly, none of them were more invested than the parents and loved ones of those men on the court. Think of the many people who stood by, watching this crucifixion! All of them were inconsequential in comparison to those who loved Jesus and stood by His cross as He hung in pain; His mom, her sister, two other “Mary” friends, and His beloved friend, John who stood close by.

Holding handsThank God Mary had significant, special people to get her through this seeming nightmare. I imagine as she stood by the cross she reached out to her friends; holding on to them for dear life; letting their strength seep into her as they held her up!

When my son would get hurt and there wasn’t anything I could do, I grabbed hold of my husband, daughters, in-laws, or friends nearby. I reached out knowing I could rely on them because they shared similar thoughts and feelings as me. Sure…we all experienced it differently but the love binding us together, love for a son, a grandson, a brother, a friend, or a friend’s son helped me as I stood and watched.

Jesus meets MaryFriends, all of us have times in life when there is nothing we can do but stand by and watch. What DO you do when there is nothing you can do? Let me suggest reaching out to touch someone and let them touch you too! The love and strength of a friend’s touch can be a source of strength coming from our source of strength, Father God. A friend’s touch can seep through our bodies and spirits to bring renewed strength to stand. Touch is something we can all do! AND, there’s something else; eye contact!

Platon-Varquez-Son-Behold-Your-Mother-16x20-Oil-1996While Mary stood by watching, Jesus looked down at her from the cross and their eyes met. Mother and Son! I think if Mary wasn’t already hanging on to her friends for dear life, she did, the moment she made eye contact with her Boy. The helplessness she must have felt at that moment is haunting. Perhaps she was tempted to look away from His pain but she couldn’t. Did she cry, scream, shout, or attack the attackers? Did she plead with the guards to take her Boy off the cross? What message did she convey with her eyes as she gazed into His eyes; the Boy she birthed, nursed, raised, loved, and watched grow to manhood? When their eyes met, what depth of love did they communicate to one another?

One time the athletic trainer called us down from the stands because our son was hurt badly. When I walked into the training room and saw him in the throes of severe pain, my heart broke. When his eyes met mine I saw desperation. He didn’t speak but I imagined only two words…HELP ME! And there I stood…helpless! My touch wouldn’t still the pain…my comfort wouldn’t ease the torment…my prayers though welcomed wouldn’t end the torture he was experiencing…my sympathy was useless…and at that moment…my love felt like nothing for him.

How many of you reading this have beloveds in your life who are in pain; physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual? Your touch doesn’t still their agony. Your comfort doesn’t ease the torment. Your prayers, though welcome, don’t stop the torture. Your sympathy is useless and your love, though deep and passionate does nothing to stop the insanity.

What DO you do when your eyes meet the eyes of loved ones in these situations? What depth of love is communicated as your eyes meet? What DO you do when you can’t help them? When you can’t take away pain from a child, parent, or friend? When there are no words to still the hurt?

6a00d8341fd10e53ef0167636db06c970bI want to do what Mary did…she stood! She watched! She looked into her Son’s eyes. And then…she listened to Him. In the throes of pain and agony Jesus did the unthinkable; He declared a new love relationship! He glanced at John and then at His mom. “He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!'” Jesus He gave His mother a son, and his beloved friend a mother.

Mary and John had a decision to make. They had to take their eyes OFF Jesus and behold one another! Look away from what “was” and look at what now WAS. They looked into each other’s eyes as mother and son! Wow! If I were Mary I might have screamed, “NO, I don’t want John. I want YOU Jesus!” But Mary, in the midst of sorrow, looked into the eyes of her Son; she heard His heart, she heard His words, and then she looked away to behold the new!

Take time today to consider how Jesus gave up His mom to do His Father’s will. He was always thinking of others so He made sure His mom had a son to carry on with. And Mary? She is quite amazing too! She gave up her Son to do her Father’s will. She was also thinking of others so she went home with John to be his mom…AND she let him be her son. Pretty special…Pretty healing!

Whatever you’re facing today…whatever loved ones in your life are facing today… give them up to your heavenly Father to do His will. Know God has a plan and He gives us friends and loved ones to stand with, to touch, to look into each other’s eyes, to behold, and to embrace the new, whatever that might be!

 

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By His Stripes We Are Healed – It Really Is That Simple!

One Sunday after worship my husband was praying healing over my neck and back! As I rested in the Spirit and continued to pray quietly, the Lord said, “By My stripes you are healed. Yes, Julie, it really is that simple!” He knows me so well! He answered my question “Really Lord?” even before I asked it because He knows I would have asked it!  Then I asked Him to share more but His only reply was “By My stripes you are healed. It IS that simple!”

I know very well the Scripture which promises this healing! Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus was literally pierced through His skin for our rebellion! Jesus was literally crushed and broken into pieces in His spirit for our perversity, crime, and sin. Jesus took the discipline, the chastening, and correction for our completeness and soundness! Jesus took the blows and bruising upon His skin so that we are made completely healthy! How simple! How profound!

It really is that simple because Jesus made sure of it! And since the Word of God says this, it’s a done deal! I believe it wholeheartedly and I hope you do too!  However, our experiences don’t always match what we believe! We pray for healing yet sickness, disease, and pain keep coming on a regular basis. We know the results of living in a sin- riddled world will include some serious trials including sickness and disease and so we pray for God to heal us and the truth still holds…by His stripes we are healed!

Some people say this healing only refers to spiritual healing, not physical. Yet, the Word of God says our spiritual healing; our cleansing, redemption, forgiveness, and nearness to God come through the blood of Jesus!

1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” That’s spiritual healing!

Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” That’s spiritual healing!

Ephesians 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” That’s spiritual healing!

If we believe His stripes only bring spiritual healing today, where is the hope for physical healing? Was physical healing only for the people who Jesus touched when He was on earth? Or was it because Jesus was their ONLY alternative for healing? Or did God HAVE to heal them because they didn’t have the medicine and treatment plans we have today?

I’m familiar with the arguments we use for the lack of physical healing we see in the United States today. Apparently we are so sophisticated and medically advanced here with God blessing us with brilliant doctors and research ability that He doesn’t need to touch and heal us Himself. He could! But He expects us to use the resources He has provided.

Then there’s the food argument. With so many preservatives being added to our food, our bodies cannot process all the processed foods, thus we see more disease. Then, animals raised for meat and dairy production are given natural and synthetic hormones to speed up the growth process and increase milk production, disrupting human hormone balance, having a negative effect on our health and causing cancer and other issues. God can’t heal us if we continue to consume all this unhealthy and unnatural food.

There is also the “God’s will” argument. We should just pray for God’s will to be done when disease hits. If it His will to heal us, then we will be healed. If it is not His will to heal us this side of heaven, we will be healed by going to heaven.

And then we have the thorn argument. If we have tried everything to be healed and aren’t, it is probably our thorn in life, just like the Apostle Paul. Since God’s grace was sufficient for him it should be sufficient for us. If we aren’t healed but don’t die, it must be God’s plan to let us suffer because we have Him and His grace.

Even though I believe whole heartedly God’s grace is sufficient, I can’t possibly compare the pain in my body with the thorn in Paul’s life, and we honestly aren’t given enough information about the thorn to conclude exactly how much pain he was in on a continual basis. Not to mention, God gave him the thorn to keep him from being exalted because he was given revelations of Paradise. Can any of us say the same? Absolutely not!

I personally hate pain (well, I guess most people do) but I also don’t like spending God’s money on doctors and medicine. I’m not opposed to them, just allergic to them! (that’s a joke – laugh) I am thankful for the ability of doctors and medicine to alleviate the symptoms of disease and sickness but I am more thankful we have a God who heals! Exodus 15:26 “…For I am the Lord who heals you.” Psalm 103:3 “Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.”

It was after a debilitating auto accident more than a decade ago that I came to know the Lord as my Healer! Since then I’ve had numerous “sudden” healing experiences and also gradual ones, all of them miraculous! And through all of them, I learned much about “God and me”! Now, I NEVER take health and healing for granted! Every single day I’m reminded of the goodness of God when I walk, run, ride my bike, play with my grandbabies, play Frisbee, cook a meal for my family, laugh, clean, do laundry, iron, and the list is endless.

See… I couldn’t do any of those things for five years after the accident. If I tried, the pain was excruciating! Doctors had no solution other than get used to it! So I know first-hand the healing power of a God whose healing presence surrounds me every day of my life! Yet, sometimes the pain returns! The day I received prayer and heard God tell me “By My stripes you are healed. It really is that simple” followed a string of days where I was experiencing excess pain.

It was a day I came face to face once again with the living God who reminded me how cautiously I’d been living to protect and prevent injury and pain! I was living in fear of its’ return so not doing the things I wanted to do. It bothered me to know I was settling for partial healing when I knew God healed me! It is God’s “more than sufficient” grace that motivates me to say “More Lord! Complete Your work in me!”

I will soon pass over the half century mark in life, and that means the skin starts to sag, the muscles aren’t nearly as tight, the energy weans a tad, and well, the body just starts to look and act tired. Age had begun to limit even my ability to fulfill my desire to worship and praise the Lord with all my soul, strength, and mind!  All the more reason to trust God for more! To give me all I need to live fully, to dance before Him without fear of pain and never again let that pain keep me from loving on Him! (Okay! Dance is a strong word choice! I actually just jump up and down like a pogo stick in my excitement but still…)

Though it was a spiritual challenge for me to move beyond where I was at with healing to a place of total trust in Jesus by pushing my body more, it’s a prize worth pursuing! See, when the challenge comes from the throne of God, He gives you everything you need to face it! So in effect, I have “worked out” with God all these years, and just need to make sure I stick with Him because He is a great coach! Turns out, it wasn’t really healing I’ve been pursuing! It’s Jesus! And in Jesus, all things are made new! (Revelation 21:5) Simple! Life-giving!

This all leads back to the beginning of this blog! Simplicity! If I want more, I need to keep it simple! If I want my experience of healing to match my faith in God for healing, I need to keep it simple! By His stripes we are healed! It IS as simple as that! No more! No less!

Oh, I can theologize, complicate, and debate this whole healing thing with Christians but then, why would I want to? Why argue about what His stripes are and what kind of healing He speaks of? Why limit Him? If I need healing, and it is by His stripes I am healed, then yes! It really is, as Holy Spirit spoke to me that day, THAT SIMPLE!

Sure – there are days pain comes back to try and drag me into unbelief! But then, I have only to remember His Words to me today! By MY stripes you are healed Yes, Julie! It really is that simple! Those words of encouragement stir me to faith, moving me to believe Him more than I believe the pain, to trust Him and His truth more than the facts, to walk by faith and not by sight!

Today, He says the same to you! By My stripes you are healed! Yes, it really is that simple!

 
 

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Unscathed? Scathed? Jesus Is There!

Some people wonder how they ever made it through childhood! They had more cuts, stitches, bumps, bruises, and broken bones than they had years of life and can even give a detailed account of most spills and thrills, laughing at the insanity of the things they “used” to do!

I can’t relate since I am not one of those people! I came through childhood fairly unscathed except for two “accidents”. I got stitches in my forehead from slipping on our wood floor and diving headfirst into the VERY sharp, pointed corner of a wall vent! That’s what I get for wanting to be the first one to the car to go get a rare Dairy Queen treat! (As if being the first to the car was going to get me ice cream any faster! Geez!)

The other injury came when I put my finger in a cement mixer! Yes! That IS as stupid as it gets, but I did it anyway. I was amazed by the gear mechanism and the next thing I knew, my finger was IN the gear. Pulling it out wasn’t wise either as I nearly tore my finger off before a cousin figured out we needed to reverse the direction of the mixer to set me free.

Outside of those two injuries, I made it through my elementary and middle school years physically fit! (though we all know how those junior high years are brutal emotionally and psychologically!) In high school I played every sport possible; softball, volleyball, tennis, badminton (yes, it is a sport), floor hockey, ice skating, track (long distance running, discus, and shot put), basketball, and even tried some cross-country skiing!  It didn’t matter what it was, if there was activity involved I was there!

Even at home my life was filled with activity; Frisbee, tag, dodge ball, jarts, croquet, hiking, swimming, football, soccer, kickball, biking, and you name it! Through it all, injuries were limited to minor strains, sprains, and shin splints! I’m not bragging, just thankful! And don’t worry – I’ll get to my point soon!

I knew Jesus my entire life and was keenly aware of His protection coming through my childhood and teen years physically unscathed! I continued playing volleyball and basketball collegiately and still – no major injuries. After college and into married life I just kept going without much change in activity; coaching, biking, volleyball, softball, even during my pregnancies. It definitely got tougher with age, but still, every time I rolled an ankle or strained a muscle, I was able to get right back at it the next day!

Then the unthinkable happened; we were in a serious car accident! I walked away from it thinking all was okay and a hospital trip proved I was just shaken up and would be fine! After a week or so of recuperation, it did seem all was well and I had confidence my body would do what it had always done, heal!

But not long after that, I realized something was very wrong because normal activity was difficult and I felt my body declining in strength, less and less able to do anything without pain. About seven months after the accident, I woke up one morning with intense shooting pain through my neck, shoulders, back, and head; the beginning of a five-year journey through the perils of pain and perplexity!

At some point during those years I started asking God to bring me home to Him! I couldn’t take it any longer! Along with the physical pain, the emotional and psychological pain was taking its toll as doctors had no answers and I watched my family get on with life without me! Sure, I was with them physically but emotionally drained by trying to hide the intense pain while waiting for my body to do its’ thing! The goal each day was to make it through, one hour at a time! Overriding it all was my faith in Jesus as Healer, believing His Word even though my body rebelled!

One day as I collapsed on my bed crying I said, “Lord, either take me home or heal me! I miss dancing with You and jumping for joy in Your presence. I want to do it again but can’t. This is no way to live! If You heal me I will worship you with everything I have every chance I get!” Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Well, since you’re reading this, you know He healed me! And I have surely made every effort to honor my vow to Him. It hasn’t been pain-free though! There were years when I suffered in agony after worship because my body wasn’t strong and wouldn’t stay in alignment. But no matter what I felt, I remembered my vow to the Lord that day, and kept moving!

As the years go by, let me say, jumping for joy in the Lord’s presence, dancing and twirling with Him, running in freedom as I celebrate life in Him, well… it just isn’t as easy anymore! One night as I was praising the Lord, dancing and singing, jumping up and down in joy, I realized I was exhausted and could barely get enough air in to breathe! I stopped, stooped over, and said, “Lord, I don’t know how much longer I can keep my end of the bargain! This is getting hard! I’m getting old and out of shape. I want to keep worshipping you with my whole body, but if I can’t do it at 50 years old what’s it going to look like when I’m 80 or 90.”

At that very moment God said, “There’s a remedy for that!” I knew what He meant! Get in shape and stay in shape! It isn’t that I am totally out of shape or unhealthy! I just haven’t made the extra effort to make sure I am in the shape I need to be in to worship Him with all my might! I walk, jog, or bike for a while, then have a day or two of not feeling up to par, so then I take a break. The problem is I don’t come “off” break and get back into disciplining my body to be strong and flexible!

The Lord unveiled how we tend to accept getting old as an excuse for not dancing, singing, shouting, twirling, and jumping for joy in His presence! I could either excuse myself from worship using age as an excuse or include myself in worship into old age by losing this excuse and take responsibility now! Clearly, if I want to worship Him when I am older (I do), I have to prepare and remedy the situation by training now; not waiting until I am 80 or 90 to be there!

It is true our bodies get old and start wearing down! My teenage daughter explained to me my wrinkles are caused by a lack of collagen! Great! My grandson likes to point out and touch all my moles! Awkward! My husband likes to tease me about the loose skin on what used to be my well-defined triceps! Weak! Older people just grin at me and say, “Right now you think you will be able to keep dancing and moving when you’re our age but you will see. It isn’t going to happen.” Ouch! Why oh why Lord must we get old?

Overall, I think I’m finally getting used to the idea there are certain things I can’t control like loose skin, menopause, wrinkles, and a slower metabolism. But God says there are plenty of things I can control and one of them is keeping this body in as good of shape as it can be at any age. If I want to stay in shape to praise Him, I need to stay in shape to praise Him! Pretty simple if you ask me!

We can all be encouraged by God’s Word! Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Proverbs 3:7-8 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”

Doctors told me I would only deteriorate over the years because of damage to my spine from the accident. But God had the first and last Word, giving me life and hope! Proverbs 3:21-26 My son, let them not depart from your eyes – keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.”  

These were promises for me! But I had to believe them and apply them! When I was in my darkest times, I memorized them, spoke them out loud when in pain (I said them A LOT), when I couldn’t walk , couldn’t sleep, or when I feared the next bout of torture that would surely come, especially when I stepped out in faith and praised the Lord with my body! And the battle didn’t end there!

I went through a bout with Lyme’s disease accompanied with fever zapping me of all bodily strength. The pain which accompanied it was enough to make me cry out again, “Lord, take me home, please!” I went to church and could barely stand much less dance. I remember thinking, “No Satan, you can’t stop me” even though I felt stopped dead in my tracks. As helpless as I was physically, my spirit grieved even more. So strong is my passion to praise God with all my strength, my heart literally hurts when I can’t.

But it is this very passion that compels me to give Him my all!  When you make a vow to God at the lowest point in life, it burns in your spirit at all points in life!  When I am at a high point, the exhilaration is out of this world! And when I am at a low point, His promises remind me “This too shall pass!”

Friends, whether you have made it through life unscathed or scathed, today you can be safe and sound in Jesus! I see myself praising God with all my strength until the day I go home to be with Him. I hope you can too! And when we see these truths as realities by faith, we can also believe them by faith! You’ve made it this far! Let’s go even farther! Whatever you’ve been through, wherever you’ve been, know that Jesus is for you! He has a remedy for every ailment! Just take Him at His Word and love Him with everything you have!

 

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