The book of James in chapter 5 says; “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.”
Pray . . . . . ..
Pray for what? For healing?
I have prayed fervently for healing for nine, 9, NINE, years. YEARS. Long, agonizing prayer times. Begging, weeping, arguing, listing all the obvious, good reasons why I should be healed.. “My kids need me etc.” Good reasons. Sitting completely desolate and empty before the Lord, completely bewildered by His silence in this area, by His refusal to heal me. I go to church and listen to someone stand up and gush, “I had a cold this morning and I prayed and God healed me, He is so good.” I feel beaten down even more by these words of God's apparent fickle nature. Does He heal those around me of these tiny little problems they have just to torment my mind even more? Just to, like a power mad dictator, lift up the curtain and show a starving man a steak and lobster dinner, only to laugh and slam the door in his face?
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” And yet at times prayer seems like the very last thing I want to do. Why should I pray? Why should I serve Him? He does nothing for me. He does not step in to help. With the smallest gesture of His mind He could bring health to me.
An omnipotent God does not have, 'a limited supply' of power. It would cost Him nothing to heal me. I am the smallest of all problems before Him. My illness is not a mystery to the 'Great Physician.' And yet my Judge stands, looking, watching, with inner help only, waiting to see if I will stand or fall.
So prayer . . . I have discovered that the reason He calls us to pray, is for the prayer itself. For the privilege and rare joining of my soul and His.
Into this mix comes temptation.
Temptation calls to me in this fashion. “He is treating you so badly, you have given Him the best years of your life and He, in return, brings torture to your plate. Why not find a little pleasure? He certainly doesn't care enough about you to heal you, Why should you live righteously? Why should you keep your hands and mind pure? You know that drunkenness would give you a few hours relief from pain. You just know that pornography, (I admit with shame that I like to watch, though I do NOT watch.) would give you a fleeting pleasure here chained to your wall. Why shouldn't you indulge? How can it possibly matter? How can you, as insignificant as you are, by a few moments of self-inflicted relief, hurt or matter at all to God? When a person gets injured and goes to the emergency room, the first thing, the 'humane ' thing the doctors do is administer a painkiller. Why then, is it a 'sin' for you to administer a painkiller to yourself in your agony? Why should you continue to struggle, to go to work when each day is the most difficult, painful ordeal imaginable? Why not just quit? Let your wife find another job. You can lie up in bed all day and . . . etc. etc. etc.”
To these slimy whisperings I can only groan some more as they seem to make a kind of sense, and simply refuse.
To stand against temptation in the face of intense suffering. How can it be done?
1 Peter says, “He suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.” and again. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
And finally the book of Hebrews, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and grace to help in time of need.”
HE was tempted.
HE knows what it is to feel abandoned by God, (and He was God himself in the flesh).
HE knows what it is to be in desperate straits, looking despair face on, and suffer apparent defeat.
The most chilling cry of pain ever uttered in the history of mankind was by Him, on the cross, dying, “My God, My God, WHY hast thou forsaken Me?” The Creator of ALL things, the second person of the mysterious Trinity was completely abandoned, was alone in a far more profound and terrifying sense than I will ever be. Somehow He “Became sin!!!” and the wrath of God was poured out upon Him!!! His Father turned his back and the terror and fear of complete!!! Alone-ness overtook His inner being. He was alone.
I sit here with His promise in IMMANUEL. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” There He hung, filled with our sin, no, the Bible says He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. In some cosmic fashion, the wrath of God was poured out upon HIM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . For . . . Me . . . You . . . Hitler . . .US . . .
In considering His life, not His death, there is only one account of His being tempted. The longer I look at this the more I see an incredible amount of suffering coming along with the temptation. The temptation in the desert.
I've always thought of Jesus as Superman, a monk, an ascetic holy man that could easily fast and wander the harsh environment of the desert without much trouble, but my own personal suffering has forced me to reconsider His humanity. He was a man with a body just like mine, with the same needs as mine. Think about it . . . Put yourself into His shoes.
God calls you /Him, into the desert. “Follow me”. You / He goes, not knowing what God has planned. For forty days the Holy Spirit compels you / Him to stay, not eating . . . . . . . . . anything . . . . . ..You / He, wander aimlessly, praying and seeking God's face.
Medical experts say that a man can fast about forty to fifty days, then death comes. The body adjusts very well to a fast shorter than forty days. There is a chemical metabolic shift and the body begins burning fat supplies, then muscles, then . . .
After four or five days of fasting, hunger pangs disappear, leaving the body weak but functioning, the mind clear and rational. At this point, there is very little physical suffering. Who knows what Jesus did, or thought during this period.
The Bible says that after forty days, He was hungry. In actuality, He was dying. He was in the last stages of starvation.
At this point all the fatty tissues are gone. All the extraneous muscle tissue is gone. The body begins to choose which internal organs will have to shut down. The heart begins to beat erratically and the only thing a person at this stage is aware of is hunger . . . Hunger . . . HUNGER!!
The entire body cries out for food. Hunger becomes a gnawing, terrible, ever-present pain that crowds out all other considerations. Men at this stage of starvation will do anything for food and throughout the ages murder and cannibalism have been the desperate acts of dying men.
SO . . . Here is Jesus, in this extremity of need. Of pain . . . Of complete preoccupation with food . . . NOW!!! I MUST . . . EAT . . . NOW . . . OR DIE . . . Die . . .
I am sure that food was a major part of His prayer life now. “Father, I need food . . . please . . . Now would be good . . . I must live so I can save them on the cross . . .” etc. My feeling is that the heavens were silent. That Jesus received no answer. That God just sat back, (as He is doing in my life in this area of intense physical need and perhaps your life as well). And waited, and watched . . . A much higher plan was unfolding before all of heaven and earth.
Here comes Satan, bloated and obese with all of the wickedness mankind has been feeding him with for centuries . . . Scoffing . . . “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”
I think, 'Where is the sin in that?' In fact, not a few weeks later he changes hundreds of gallons of water into wine. Months later He multiplies a few loaves and feeds five thousand people. What and how could this be a sin? This would obviously be such a good thing and would relieve His suffering. I don't get it. (And in our lives, laboring under our burdens . . . How could a 'sin' like drunkenness, or some good old fun casual, consenting adultery in order to medicate our pain, be sin?)
I believe the test, and the sin, is found in the understanding that our lives are found in God, move in God, and are for God . . . “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
For Jesus to have taken the enemy's advice and turn the stone into good old bread would have been for once and for all to take a position based on the flesh, not faith.
Either God is God, and is good, He is really, genuinely there and is taking care of us, or He is not. He either counts the hairs on our heads and knows when the sparrow falls, or He is completely out of touch. He is either a 'watchmaker God' who made, then left creation to wind down on its own until it finally stops ticking or a loving Father who is aware of all things and moves, albeit inscrutably at times, in every situation.
For Jesus, in the midst of His pain and starvation, to have acted independently of God would have broken the basic thread of His life; unity with God.
So he chose suffering instead . . .
He turned His back on His own life, turned His back on His own comfort, turned His back on His own mission and ministry and chose God. “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” With this simple statement Jesus demonstrated his willingness to die. To be obedient unto death even though it meant that salvation would then therefore come to no one. The only deliverance He would accept is God's deliverance, not His own.
In this hardship the entire longing of my flesh is for comfort. Yet this is not God's will for my life in this moment.
Just as it was God's will for Jesus to be hungry in the desert, it is obviously God's will for me to be uncomfortable in this time. (And for the past nine years.)
“Man shall not live by bread alone” – bread being a synonym for 'everything of the flesh that brings comfort,' – “But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
I always and only sin because it's fun. Because I like it. Because it brings me pleasure and momentary satisfaction. I sin because I have, or think I have, an aching need that God is ignoring. So, I meet my own needs. I, instead of waiting in the dark for His light to come, instead of quoting the word of God, “HE will supply all my needs according to the riches of Christ Jesus.” I simply . . . Sin . . .
Jesus demonstrated a completely different attitude. He never, not one time, took any action in order to meet His own needs. He consistently, every time, laid Himself out as a sacrifice before God alone. His own pain, sin, hunger, He always turned away from and turned to God. His own 'issues . . .' He completely ignored.
His mission was to die.
In the long night before His death He ignored His own needs.
He, like a sheep, was silent before His accusers. When He was beaten in the face with closed fists while blindfolded, “Prophecy fool, who just hit you?” He took no action to heal His own wounds. Only a few short hours before the cross, he reached out and healed a servant's ear after Peter hacked it off with a sword, Why did He not heal himself? I understand that His face was set like flint to die on the cross but why did he submit to the wounds . . .?
His precious face bruised beyond recognition. The hard as iron thorns digging deep into his scalp. If only I had that sort of power I would heal myself before I even finished typing this sentence. Yet He did nothing for Himself. His was a life perfectly yielded to His father's will . . .
Mine, is a life chronically unyielded.
Today is an awful day. I am so dizzy I can barely stand still. So much nausea I feel as if I'm going to throw up right here on the keyboard. Retching every 20 minutes or so. The knives sticking in my neck. The sense of grinding when I turn my head. The sensation of pain and pressure in my ears leaves me yawning, trying to 'pop' my eardrums. I do this from five to eight times a minute . . . The sense of dislocation I feel from my hands . . . The dull, constant aching in ALL my muscles . . . How can my face muscles feel exhausted? And yet they do . . . And this is 'normal . . .'
Day in, day out, it goes on, and on, and on. O when, when, when will it stop? Why must I live on like this?
Is it idolatry for me to want comfort at any cost including death itself? Don't get me wrong I am not suicidal but many times I read the obituary columns in the newspaper and feel as if I am looking at vacation brochures from the Cayman Islands. (Oh, to be released to heaven . . .)
But . . .It goes on . . . And on . . . And on . . . And on . . .
The days keep running into nights into days. Pain as consistent and constant as my breathing. Suffering and the whys, hows and wheretofores of suffering constantly running, running, running like a squirrel, frantic in a cage on a wheel, going nowhere in my mind. Covering no new ground. And I am so tired of it. How can I go on . . .?
You, dear reader, might be thinking. “Man this dude is a religious maniac. He is so obsessed with God.”
I never wanted to be like this. I never wanted to get to know God this well . . . I never wanted to become some deep 'mystic' in the faith. I never really even wanted to have anything to do with God other than an assurance that when I die, (unthinkable thought to the healthy) I get to go to heaven. But here, in this place filled with the noxious, choking fumes of suffering, I cannot see anything but God . . . For me, it's either God . . . Or despair . . .
Before I began suffering, complacency was such a natural state. If I ever became bored, I had a perfect solution . . . TA DAAA . . . . . . . . . . . . Entertainment . . .. I'd go climb a mountain. Go for a five-mile run. Go skiing . . . Learn to draw . . . Go fishing, hunting, skydiving, backpacking.
I had no patience with the depressed, no compassion for the truly hurting . . . “Oh, that's too bad you are hurting. I'll say a prayer for you when I'm on the Ski lift at Mt. Bachelor this weekend.” And almost instantly forget about it.
But now, here, with my life so thoroughly ruined that I enjoy nothing, want nothing, (but health) and frequently feel as if I have nothing, I find only God.
Only God can be companion to me in this. Only God can bring strength to me during these dark, dark years.
Only God, with His tremendous and amazing promises and grace, can understand what I am going through and based on the cross, completely identify with me. Only He can completely live in me, completely wrap His wonderful, everlasting arms around me as I weep, and even now as I type I weep, (He is SO precious to me.)
Only God, and his constant, loving, faithful presence can bring any kind of semblance of life as I hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt. (And as I contemplate twenty two thousand nine hundred and sixty odd more days of the same thing.)
I stand up right now, with Ken in his wheelchair . . .
“HE IS JUST WITH ME.”
And so I am, now, 'Obsessed with God.' I guess you could say that a man climbing Mt. Everest, way up there in “The death zone,” (so named because without supplementary oxygen you die,) is 'Obsessed' with oxygen. I need God more than anything else on Earth now. If He doesn't walk with me every moment, I will sink like a rock in deep, black water.
It is in His presence that I live on.
His presence that gives me hope.
His presence that keeps me sane.
His presence that makes all the difference.
His presence that I am addicted to.