I have never said, nor heard someone say, “Oh, I’m glad you’re in pain.” Those are not the words one would expect to hear, nor one would say. Oftentimes when talking about pain, we go immediately to the cause of our pain. “I was injured while playing basketball.” “I hurt my hand while repairing the lawn mower.” Are we more inclined to voice from where our pain originates? What if our pain is more emotional than physical? Emotional pain is much less obvious than physical pain and much more difficult of which to speak. As hard as it might be, I believe speaking of our emotional pain with others can begin the healing process. Speak of it to trusted friends, or within a sacred space provided by a Christian counselor.
When we hear of someone’s emotional pain, how do we react? What do we say or do to help that person? How we react to someone’s pain speaks volumes about our spiritual life, our faith community in which we live, and our desired hope for the future. How we react to our own pain also speaks volumes.
These questions concerning emotional and physical pain are coming from my own experiences of pain. This year I have experienced a very disappointing personal setback, a long trying six-month health issue, which required hospitalization, and the death of my father at the end of August. This year has been the darkest, trying time for me of my life.
How I have reacted to, or addressed my pain has created some great awareness and experiences for living out my faith. There are many stories in scripture where people cried out to God in their distress. I too cried out to God. My tearful cries were accompanied with many heart wrenching bellows touching deep within my soul. As I look back over this painful year, three different themes arise and they can be described in a one word thought for each: Best. Grace. Love.
There were days while recuperating from my hospital stay and illness that getting out of bed, eating a bowl of soup, and then finding my place back under the bed covers were almost overwhelming. At that time, in that space, my best was just getting out of bed. That was all I could offer. Offering my best to my 6-year-old son, who missed his daddy. Offering my best to a congregation, which I was appointed to be their pastor. Offering my best in preaching the Good News, when it was difficult for me to find any.
While offering my best, the days were paved for receiving and giving Grace. The Grace received came from my family within the parsonage walls, and within the church from some very gracious and understanding outward focused people living their faith. I too, during my dark days, became the bestower of Grace to other people. I found it necessary to extend Grace to the very parishioners with whom I had prayed and sat across the table during committee meetings; yet, in my dark times, they were not there for me. Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, asked his closest friends to sit and pray for the situation. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.( Mark 14:34).” When he came back, he found everyone sleeping! Friends, parishioners and even clergy colleagues fell asleep at the gates of my Garden of Gethsemane time; and there is Grace for them.
There are no perfect people, and there is no perfect love except for that which points to our Creator. If I want to give someone my love, I must look beyond the person. If I want to receive the greatest love, I must look beyond myself. In fact, the Apostle Paul listed three things by which we should live, and ended with the greatest one: faith hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
The act of loving becomes a gift to others and self. It becomes an ultimate gift to be given and received. It can become the ending, and beginning of all that is, especially relating to health and wholeness.
In my seeking health and wholeness this year, I have found when all is said and done, in the deepest darkest hours of pain: offer your best, grant grace to yourself and others, and see beyond the person towards love.
Rev. Kevin Raidy serves as the lead pastor of Bloomfield UMC, an author and founder of a faith-based consulting company, www.faithPACT.com.
The act of loving becomes a gift to others and self.