Give Your Pain to God
By Mark Davis Pickup
I received an e-mail from a 30-year-old man somewhere in the United States. He wanted to explain his situation.
I will call him Jason (not his real name). He has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth and has grown weary of his difficult situation. He was contemplating suicide when he came across one of my entries on this blog. A man who does not think his life matters went to a blog called HumanLifeMatters? Was he reaching out?
What should I say to Jason? His severe disability is permanent and certainly miserable by most standards. So many people would espouse helping Jason in his suicide. They would agree with his dark thoughts of death because they think his life is not worth living.
They would not put it so bluntly (or perhaps they would) because that is what assisted suicide is saying to a person like Jason. He is unwanted in a culture that increasingly embraces euthanasia consciousness for the sick and disabled. Jason knows that . . . and so do I.
I have had degenerative multiple sclerosis (MS) longer than Jason has been alive! I am wheelchair bound too. I also know the stabbing pain of spasms and the frustration associated with spastic limbs (although I suspect not as severe as Jason experiences). What future degeneration is in store for me is unclear.
Granted, Jason's cerebral palsy and my MS are different. But we both know the ache of internal isolation that protracted suffering can bring and grimly reminds us that we are "different." We are both defective. We have been set aside from the ongoing productive lives the normal population enjoys.
There are agonies words cannot express. Pain of the body is just that, but pain of the heart can cut to the soul. Jason's e-mail seemed to ask, no—beg me to answer that somehow I understand his soul-pain, his isolation and loneliness, his agony of agonies. I'm not sure I do understand.
Is there a solidarity of brokenness? I don't know. I do know we must resist the temptation of yielding to despair. Whatever our agony may be, we must turn to God and relinquish our pain to Him. If we do this, our predicaments can turn into opportunities for spiritual growth. Loneliness becomes solitude.
In his classic book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton said, "The Christian saint is happy because he has verily been cut off from the world; he is separate from the things and is staring at them in astonishment."
The great saints were cut off from the world by acts of the will; others are cut off by circumstances. All Christians must detach themselves from the world and its corruptions, yet still live in the world. This state of being separated with God from the world (whether willfully or by circumstances) will create astonishment in us too.
We are astonished to discover that God's questions are wiser than man's answers. God's questions cut to the marrow and demand self-examination. They invite us in our anguish to draw nearer to Christ. Inasmuch as we do this, we will begin to notice we are gradually being purified and transformed to live in and for Christ.
If we allow it, pain can become a vehicle for transformation of the lower natural man within us and begin to elevate us to be more like Christ. This is preparation for eternal glory. Saint Peter spoke of this when he wrote, "After you have suffered a little while, our God will give you eternal glory. He personally will pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever. To him be the power over all things, forever and ever." (1Peter 5.10-11)
LOOK TO CHRIST
Chronic suffering need not stretch out before us like a scorching desert. With Christ as our interior Guide and Master, a sickroom can become like a gentle cloister where intense prayer and communion with him becomes the order of each day. We can trust there is some divine meaning to our pain. Jesus told Saint Paul "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12.9) Rather than stewing about our anguishes, we are called to look to Christ and unite our sufferings with His.
Dear friend Jason: Have we not been told that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in those who love Christ? (Romans 8.18) God will wipe away every tear you and I have shed. (Revelation 21.4) Do not grow weary. God is with us. He will make a way.
Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 33 years. Although electric wheelchair dependent, Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues and has received numerous awards, including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at humanlifematters.org/2017/11/give-your-pain-to-god.html.