Monday, July 9, 2012

Discouraging Pain, Encouraging Promise

I have a bad back. 

I'm pretty young to be saying something like that, but it's true. I've had chronic pain since high school, even though I've seen a number of doctors and undergone a number of treatments.  It's just one of those things. 

At our church, anyone is welcome to come forward to receive prayer during Communion. I often ask for prayers for healing when I am there.  One lady has prayed for me a number of times, so this past week I asked if I could pray for her about anything. Guess what she said? Back pain. Hearing from her-- the "prayer lady"-- about her own back pain reminded me that my physical brokenness is not unique. When I take the time to think about it, I'm reminded that the nagging discomfort in my back isn't just about me.  

Here's what I mean.  I didn't have some major injury or surgery gone awry that resulted in my condition.  I don't have a well-known illness or food allergy that flares up. I just have a bad back. When I wake up in the morning or lie down after a long day, I'm reminded that things are not quite right with my body. But then I look out my window and see someone hobbling down the street, working hard to awkwardly propel his body forward. I visit my grandmother and notice how slowly she moves for the searing pain in her knees. I watch the news and see countless homes destroyed by heat-induced wildfires that have ravaged the Midwest. I hear from my friend in Eastern Africa and am reminded of the thousands of Somalian families displaced by drought and famine. It seems that things aren't quite right anywhere

According to the Christian story, there is a reason that things aren't quite right. When sin entered the world, it fractured it. A people and a place originally created to enjoy perfect peace in relationship with God, our world literally suffers as a result of sin's polarizing presence.  From the eco-system shutting down, to rain refusing to come, to twenty-three year old spines decaying, "creation groans" and mourns the disconnection from its Maker. Each time I feel the dull ache in my back, I remember my need--and all of creation's need-- for rescue from the brokenness of sin. 

God secured our rescue through Jesus. In dying on the Cross for our sake, Jesus paid the price sin demands-- death. In rising again from the grave, He made manifest the very first taste of creation fully restored, untouchable by the sting of sin and death. The Bible calls him "the firstborn" or "first fruit" of our redemption-- He died and rose to show us what life can and will be like for all who trust in Him, for all who come to Him for rescue.  

How does that story comfort me in the daily grind of persistent pain? It is better than any doctor visit. Any healing or relief from the reality of this broken world, though I welcome it, will only last for a time. Eventually, death will take its toll and my body will decay. But to know that Christ has secured victory over death itself-- and that I belong to Him through faith-- means that a healing awaits me that will erase even the memory of pain. It means I can offer the same reminder of hope to a friend who may never find the "right" doctor or whose cancer may not disappear this side of Christ's return.  

In a way, I'm thankful for the pain. It keeps me alive to the story I'm a part of-- the story of our world. Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration. It keeps me alive to the longing for Christ's return and the hope of seeing all things-- from my back to the eco-system-- fully restored. 

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