The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Lessons from pain and loss

with 6 comments

As some of my regular readers will know (is ‘some’ of three necessarily two?), the last few weeks have been something of a rollercoaster. After getting a severe battering from Ramsey Hunt syndrome, leading to a slow recovery with a few ongoing effects, and waiting on tenterhooks and with bated breath (and, by now, very sore places where the hooks are and blue faces from holding our breath for too long) for the arrival of a new baby which has been indicating its imminence by all manner of means for about three weeks, we took an additional hit when some local blackguards broke into our garden, managed to get into my Fort Knox-like shed (police quote: “Well, there’s not much more you could have done, is there?”), and made off with our family bikes, all the power tools present, and a monster toolbox with the better part of fifteen years of collected hardware carefully arranged within it.

So, what with incapacitation and trepidation and invasion, and all the necessary catch-up, it has been a slightly rocky road for a few weeks. Nevertheless, believing that it is good for me to be afflicted, because by it I learn the statutes of God (Ps 119.71), I thought that I would offer some publicly reportable reminders, observations and lessons so far:

  • Afflictions quickly reveal how far we have wandered from God.
  • Afflictions do not automatically carry us to God: they are invitations to draw near and reminders of the benefits of doing so. Most mercifully, they are often times when God in Christ by the Spirit draws near to us.
  • Prayer does not need to be articulate to be heard, any more than we wait until a child can form a coherent sentence before we understand and meet its needs.
  • One of the most precious things in time of suffering is truth. It can bring more comfort than relief.
  • Pain and suffering and weariness and loss are effective teachers in priorities. Remembering the lessons when the teachers temporarily retire will be harder to do.
  • It is easy to confuse being upright and active with being useful and productive. Much labour, especially spiritual work, is best accomplished in stillness; to be busy is no guarantee of being useful.
  • I am thoroughly dispensable. The world and the church go on without me, and do not suffer for my absence.
  • There can be a big difference between the things that I think are essential for me to do, and the things that the Lord knows are essential for me to do. My “I must . . .” and his are different lists; they are not always easy to reconcile; I am the one who must conform my list to his.
  • Affliction is an effective school of prayer, even while we may be ashamed at how little we pray when our felt needs are provided for.
  • Doctors listen to you most carefully and take you most seriously when you are not in the habit of bothering and badgering them constantly and unnecessarily. Our heavenly Father hears us when we cry to him.
  • We are fearfully and wonderfully made. That is as much evident in the experience of sickness and healing as it is in times of health and strength.
  • We are frail creatures of dust. The speed and extent of our decline into ill-health can be frightening. Death is not far off any of us. “Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90.12).
  • Impatience and irritability are no small battles for the afflicted, especially in the period when there is sufficient emotional energy to be aware of what is taking place around you, but little more for forbearance.
  • The escape of a few tears of pain is humbling in a doctor’s office; it is peculiarly so when waiting at the pharmacy of a major supermarket.
  • Sin is a worse evil than pain. Would I be willing to endure this to overcome sin? Christ Jesus was willing to undergo the worst of all possible pains in his own person to overcome sin.
  • Confirmed: the worth of a virtuous wife is far above rubies (Prv 31.10).
  • When you are sick, you may not learn much new Scripture, but you will discover how much Scripture you have learned, and you will learn more of and perhaps understand better the Scriptures that you know.
  • Affliction does not inhibit sin, it merely shifts its locus. Opportunity and inclination change, but the battles must still be fought. Often while the body is immobile, the battle internalises.
  • A good dose of pain does promote greater sympathy and genuine empathy for others who are suffering.
  • When Mansoul is afflicted from within, Satan marshals his troops and flings them at every weak point along the walls and pounds the gates. Satan never shows a sick man mercy, but looks upon affliction as his opportunity to kick someone while down.
  • When Mansoul is afflicted from within, Christ stands guard in unusual ways. For every one of Satan’s minions who takes up arms, there is a minister of Christ to oppose. Christ himself is the portion of his troubled saints.
  • Times of health and ease should be employed for the storing up of Biblical truth: not a mere reading, but a memorising and meditating. These stores will be required in times of hardship.
  • It can be harder to rest the mind than the body. It is easier to enforce the latter.
  • When you cannot do much but think and pray, it becomes apparent how poor you are at those disciplines. That is easy to run away from: it is much easier to fill the mind with froth than to face failures and seek, by God’s grace, to correct them.
  • It is easy to talk about learning lessons of patience after two days; it is hard to demonstrate that those lessons have been learned after five. Things could be really bad by next week.
  • It is easier to bear the loss of material goods when you have had to reckon with their loss before. You learn to hold the things of the world more loosely when you are better accustomed to them being ripped from your grasp.
  • Riches, such as they may be, really do take wings and fly away (Prv 23.5). Get used to it.
  • To deal with the loss of material things at a time of pain and weariness and other more pressing issues helps to realise their relative value, or lack of it.
  • God’s people really do go the extra mile. To be part of a healthy church in times of personal trial and trouble is a sweet blessing.
  • You don’t just learn lessons from pain and loss. You begin to understand the lessons that you really ought to start learning. It will take a while. You usually miss or foret some of the lessons that you ought to begin to understand that you really ought to start learning. Don’t worry: your heavenly Father has not forgotten them, and he can remind you.
  • Er, that’s it for now . . .

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 19 March 2011 at 14:57

Posted in Christian living

Tagged with , , ,

6 Responses

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  1. Excellent Jeremy, have learned some of those lessons myself the last couple of weeks, even though not directly suffering myself.

    Paul Wallace

    Saturday 19 March 2011 at 18:31

  2. Thank you for sharing


    Saturday 19 March 2011 at 22:05

  3. Thanks for sharing these reflections.

    Jeff Smith

    Saturday 19 March 2011 at 22:07

  4. Jez,
    I always think of these words by Matthew Henry every time I hear of one of the saints being robbed, “”I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.” “


    Sunday 20 March 2011 at 09:52

  5. […] of trying to work through some of the challenges in public, before breaking cover with a few thoughts; unlike David, I was not particularly […]

    STOP! « The Wanderer

    Wednesday 1 June 2011 at 12:33

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