pondering pain

This morning I took Silas in for his 18 month vacinations...he's actually 20 months now. Good news he is back on the weight chart and holding strong at 25th percentile! He's gained 5 lbs since April. My baby is now a little boy running around and starting to talk.

If you have ever taken a child to get his shots you know how traumatic it can be. Silas has a total phobia of all things related to drs. and any place that looks like a clinic. Chronic ear infections, ear tubes, allergy testing, trips to the pediatrition and an ear specialist ...add to that a public health nurse yeilding needles every few months and the kid has every right to be afraid.

He was nervous, clinging and whining just walking into the clinic and screamed in terror while being weighed and measured .... we both knew it would get much worse before it got better. They give kids 3 shots now...one in each arm and in a leg. It is just cruel....necessary...but cruel all the same.

As I sat there fighting tears, cradling my hysterically screaming child while he was turned into a human pin cushion , something crossed my mind. ....that is, after the very brief instinct to slap the lady, grab my child and run. How does God feel when we go through times of pain and trouble and where is he while we endure it? A biggy I know, one of those questions whole books are written on....by people much more educated in theology that I . I will try not to write a whole book as I try to sort through these thoughts banging around in my head.

I will start with what I know. God reveals himself in the Bible as "Abba" the Hebrew word for Daddy...not just father but the word that a young child would shout as she runs to her "Abba" with her arms in the air. I know that God loves us, more than that he IS love, perfect love and I know I can trust perfect love.

As Silas' mommy I am merely human , I make mistakes, I sport bad attitudes and frequently lack patience. Even in my humaness my heart is torn open and the tears start to flow at the mere thought of my child suffering, having to watch it is close to unbearable. How much more does God care for us? ....being that his love is pure, perfect and untainted. Is God there with us while we endure heartache and trouble? Again I think about how a loving parent comforts a child.

As I held Silas and tried to comfort him through needle after needle, I reassured him that I was there with him and would remain with him.

I reassured him that it would soon be over and that something better (a whole "fruit by the foot" and a bottle) was waiting for him.

I acknowledged his hurt . I felt each needle prick and the subsiquent sting and burn of the medicine being forced into his muscle as if it were my own. If there was some way to take it for him I would have.

One thing he will never understand at 20 months old is that this specific pain had a purpose. I think the most hearbreaking thing was the look in his big blue eyes . They pled me to help him and at the same time accused me of inaction. If he had a bigger perspective and could know what I know he would understand that I wasn't intentionally subjecting him to this pain for my own cruel amusement or my own powerlessness to stop it.

Wars rage, atrocities are committed, mothers watch their babies succumb to starvation, people are swept out to sea in horrific natural disasters, people battle disease and pain all around me. How often do we look at God with those same pleading and accusing eyes and wonder if He is cruel or just powerless? I know I have.

As a parent ,this morning, I was neither cruel nor powerless. I know seeing him suffer even for only a brief time broke my heart. I could have followed my first instinct to grab him and run but that was not my plan for him, that was not what was best for him. I know Silas cannot possibly understand right now why I allowed it to happen. He has to trust me.

I'm not suggesting that all pain has a specific purpose....like immunizations. But we can't rule out that sometimes it does. Likewise, some pain is a natural consequence of our own poor choices...."You jump out of that tree Roman and you will break your leg!". I tend to think that most of it is just the natural fallen sinful world we live in. I do know that God can take that pain and bring something good out of it...even though its difficult to see at the time.

This was just run of the mill shots, nothing major, although if you ask Silas he may have a different opinion. I am not one of those moms who faint at the sight of blood or run to the hospital for every bump and bruise. My intention is not to over dramatize the fact that he got 3 shots but rather use it to paint a bigger picture. I'm more of a "your ok..get up and keep going" kind of mom but I am no novice at comforting my children through pain and discomfort. My three children have had 6 surgeries, nothing life threatening fortunately, but I have still listened to my "babies" scream in the recovery room while I rush to reassure them that mommy is still here. I have held a dying baby knowing all I could do for him was reassure him that his mommy and Daddy loved him.

So many people I know have faced or are facing things that are so painful that I cannot even imagine the specifics of what they go through. I can't comprehend the suffering of watching a child battle cancer or the loneliness of loosing a spouse. I have never experienced loosing a parent when they should be dreaming about retirement or enjoying their young grandchildren. I do know grief though and the gut wrenching aching sadness that goes with it. I have felt the sting of death and have no doubts that it was concieved in the pit of hell. The reason it feels so unnatural for us is that we were not created for this. Mothers were not created to watch their children die, we would literally face a rabid pitbull or storm the gates of hell to prevent them from suffering. There is nothing more unnatural than leaving your child's tiny body in a hospital room while you turn and walk away.
(brief pause to get a kleenex...I'm back now)

If the world was still the way it was created to be I wouldn't have needed to take Silas to get immunized. Because he is subject to the diseases this world has to offer, I will allow it, as unatural as it is.

I know without a doubt that God is closest to us when it is the hardest to see or stand, when we are groping through that dark valley. He does not abandon us in that place.

God doesn't keep us immune from trouble. We are subject to and victims of the laws of nature, the evil intent of other people, and the fallen state of this world...just like everyone is. One difference is , we do not need to fear. Our Abba sits on the throne and is stronger than the intentions of evil people and more powerful than the laws of nature.

We may not be immune to heartache but He does promise us that we will be held in the midst of it.

He tells us " In this world you will have tribulation...but take heart I have overcome the world." I remember a time when I had reached such a state of dispair that I felt no hope of immediate relief from pain. The only thing that brought comfort was that someday this world would be set right, justice will be served, tears dried and even nature will be redeemed to its origional glory. Even so, I have been blessed to " see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" ....I did not have to wait until eternity to enjoy some smooth sailing after such a dark storm.

Some of you know who the apostle Paul is (by the way if you read about him in the book of Acts you'll come across the guy I named my son Silas after, a man who knelt and worshiped God even though the skin was hanging off his back in shreds and he was chained in a stinking filthy prison cell) Paul was a hateful self righteous prig of a man determined to earn his way to Heaven...that was until he met Christ and realized his need for grace. He was literally brought to his knees in an encouter with the living God and he was rocked and changed to his core. For the sake of Christ and sharing this message of hope and redemption, he was then beaten, stoned and flogged, suffered hunger and cold, he was imprisoned and shipwrecked...even bitten by a viper....if anyone new about pain it was Paul. Here is what Paul has to say on the subject. Italic

"..We know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him (ok that ones hard to swallow when your in the middle of it) who have been called according to his purpose. ......What , then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us , who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that , who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? .....No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (note: it says "in" all these things...not without, or inspite of)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. " Romans 8:28-39

Shall tribulation? - let the tribulation bring what it will... exhausting, bitter, stressful....it will not separate you from Gods love...the key is not to let it prevent you from resting in that love.

Shall anguish? - can we trust in Gods love and rest in it when our circumstances tell us his love is a lie, and life is unfair? Can we experience true joy despite our circumstances?

Shall Sword? - As I write this, there are Men, Woman and children literally facing a sword and yet still refuse to deny what they know to be true. Christians are being masacred and brutalized right now in India....and in the midst of it they are praising God because they know this persecution will bring incredible growth in their community of believers. Now thats faith refined in fire. What Satan intends for harm God will use for good.

"Either Jesus Christ is a deciever and Paul is deluded, or something extrordinary happens when a person holds on to the love of God when the odds are against God's character. Logic is silenced in the face of everyone of these things. The only thing that can account for it - the love of God in Christ." Oswald Chambers

When Silas was being poked he did what was natural for him. He turned to me and clung to me. He clung to me with all the strength he had. I think he was actually trying to crawl inside me and hide...if only I had a few more rolls I think he would have. He was confused, hurt, angry and his eyes questioned "WHY?" but he clung, and within only minutes his tears were dried and he was sitting in contentment on my lap eating "sugar by the foot"...I mean "fruit by the foot". Sometimes I think we should just follow the lead of a toddler who can trust that , despite his immediate circumstances, He is loved.


Grandpa Steve said...

yeah Carla!

Great words and thoughts!

Your words are a validation for me and encourage me as we prepare to leave one child and his family here and go to be with Melissa for 5 months.

Life is God's adventure for us.

Valen said...

Beautiful sermon, don't know that
I've heard put better about pain.

Jobina said...

Being a parent shows me time and again the incredible love that God has for me and really encourages me to have that child-like heart towards him. I loved your analogy of Silas getting his needles and the way you express your thought and feelings about pain and suffering. Your faith is beautiful Carla, refined in the fire of your life. Beautiful.

Shauna Archer said...

You really should consider writing a book, Carla. More people than just the blogworld need what your words paint - faith, hope, beauty, authenticity...

Fran said...

That is some of the most amazing perspective I have read in a long time. Your words were truly a blessing to me today!