The Lesson of the Pain

Broken-Heart

The first time that my husband and I attended a ministry weekend event was also the first time that I was ever prayed over (as contrasted with prayed “for,” an act done apart from my presence) with the laying on of hands. A pastor with the ministry led the prayer, while a couple of other individuals and my husband joined him.

Sometime into the prayer, one of the ministry’s leaders walked over and asked the pastor if he was “getting anything,” meaning “was he hearing anything from God about my need while he was praying.” The pastor immediately looked up and said, “The father.” Then, turning to me, he asked, “What do you feel for your father?” I replied as honestly as I could, “Nothing.”

My father, by then deceased, had left our family when I was eleven. I had seen little of him following his decision to go. Due to the nature of the lifestyle that he had chosen to live, I didn’t want to see him. As a result, I spent a lifetime putting him out of my mind. Until the question was asked of me at the ministry session, I didn’t think that my father had anything to do with my current life. But I was greatly mistaken, and God would let me know so in numerous ways over the next several years.

One of the more memorable times that God broached the subject occurred one night following a presentation by a Christian speaker, who I had traveled about an hour from my home to hear. Joining a large group that had informally gathered around the front of the stage to meet the speaker after his address, my turn to speak with him eventually arrived. When the speaker saw my physical condition, he began praying for me, first for my healing and then (to my surprise) that I would receive a father’s love.

But the greater surprise came after his prayer, as I walked around the back of the auditorium, waiting for my ride home. The attendant at the door, noticing my shaking, asked if I had received prayer. I responded in the affirmative. He then asked if my shaking was due to Parkinson’s disease. Again I said, “Yes.” He then proceeded to tell me that the very first year that this particular event had been sponsored, an older gentleman had been healed of Parkinson’s disease.

But then a sudden look of unease appeared on the attendant’s face. He must have realized that since I did not appear to have been healed, I could become disappointed, instead of hopeful, by that information. So he quickly added, “But his case was completely different from yours. He had “unforgiveness” for his father that needed to be resolved. Once he was able to forgive, then he was healed.” I only smiled. I didn’t let him in on my secret.

Later that night, after returning home, I was awakened from sleep with a desire to turn on the television. Doing so, I found myself face-to-face (via the television screen) with a pastor, who was standing in a serene outdoor setting and discussing the importance of a father’s love. Somewhere in that discussion, he mentioned Corrie ten Boom’s book “In My Father’s House.” Better known for “The Hiding Place” (the story about her imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II), Corrie has also written about her growing up years in “In My Father’s House.”

Never having read the book, I was astounded the next day to find a copy of it sitting among my grandmother’s books on one of the bookshelves in my home. (God not only provides, He delivers, too!) Appreciatively, I read and digested what the book had to offer.

Corrie wrote that her father, a man devoted to his heavenly Father, raised Corrie in a faith-filled home. There he taught “the talk” (the Word of God) and lived “the walk” (the implementation of the Word of God). Corrie credits her family (immediate and extended) as being the instrument God used in developing her faith in God, while emphasizing that it was Christ in her father, in particular, who was always the head of their home.

We aren’t all as fortunate as Corrie to have or to have had earthly fathers similar to hers. Sometimes our fathers don’t even hang around for our births into this world, sometimes they make only token appearances. Sometimes they die prematurely, while sometimes they travel nonstop for a living. Sometimes they remain physically present, but have no presence in our lives.

I heard an interesting statistic a while back regarding new church plants. The conclusion from the data observed was that the most consistent element in predicting the failure of a new church plant is that the church’s head leader has unresolved father issues. Fathers are that important.

But so are mothers. We sometimes forget that God, our Creator, is both Father and Mother to us, being our Comforter and Nurturer, as well as our Provider and Protector. He is All-in-All, being the Source of all life.

Through the union of one man and one woman, with God in their center, God created the family in this world, as a representation of His eternal Family. A husband and a wife are to fulfill each other through their personal relationships with Jesus Christ, forming a more complete likeness of God together than they do separately. Only by allowing God to define every relationship (spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, etc.) do our actions in this world attain everlasting meaning through the grace of God, who reproduces Christ’s type of sacrificial love in us.

But, of course, we, who  are not God, are imperfect. Even with Christ in us, we sometimes permit our fallible humanity to prevail. When we are led by our own accumulated pains, we all err. We fall far short of the glory of God, who never fails.

I recently heard a testimony of a young woman whose father was a wonderful role model and leader. But one time he inadvertently said something to her that, though said with no ill intent, left a lasting mark on her feelings of self-worth. She verified that pain can affect our ability to receive love, as well as to give it.

Not a one of us has any hope of ever being perfect in any human relationship. We all live in and with imperfection, and we all need to give and to receive continual forgiveness in every aspect of life. God has exemplified this truth to us perfectly through Jesus Christ.

I once heard a pastor confess that for a long time he had had little personal understanding of why God was willing to crush (Isaiah 53:10) His Son—His Right Arm (Psalm 98:1)—for our sin. Then one evening, after a long afternoon of shopping with his wife and young daughter, he was carrying his exhausted daughter, along with multiple bags of purchases, on a very long walk back to their vehicle in the parking lot. His daughter, sound asleep, was dead weight on his arm, which soon went to sleep. But beyond numbness, his arm soon became quite painful, and then even more painful. But as much as he hurt, he could not bring himself to wake his sleeping child in order to alleviate his own suffering. He loved his daughter far too much. He chose to bear the pain, allowing his arm to be crushed. In doing so, he finally understood.

Most parents try within their given circumstances to be “good” parents, loving their children as they are capable, but still needing the same unconditional love themselves that their children need. In that sense, we never outgrow being children.

Pain, a universal human experience (one of many), unites us in ways that words alone cannot, giving us understanding of one another’s plights. The result is more compassionate outreach to everyone in need. Parents, in particular, often find themselves wishing that they could take their children’s pain upon themselves, thereby enabling their children to escape from suffering.

Recently, a family situation caused my husband to remark that, if it would alleviate the pain of everyone involved in the situation, he would gladly die. When I looked at his face, I knew that he meant what he had said. If he could have, he would have. But he couldn’t.

But God—the Only Perfect Parent—could, would and did exactly that. He did exactly that!

He planned and executed the death of His Son to terminate our eternal self-created suffering by suffering for us. He literally—literally—took our pain upon Himself in Jesus. In true agape love, He couldn’t stand to watch us suffer. He had to stop the pain.

And so, God, laying aside His right to never suffer, laid Himself down upon the Cross, in essence declaring, “No more!” He lived “the walk” of sacrificial love first, demonstrating once and for all time what love really looks like.

The Sacrificial Lamb of God is the Eternal Role Model for all Emulation… the Benchmark for all Forgiveness… the Epitome of Grace… the Hallmark of Perfect Love…

Jesus died as payment for our sin for one reason:  to resurrect God’s children, giving them His life, in order to restore God’s family. Family is what God ultimately purchased with the blood of His Son:  one everlasting Family made in His own image, learning to love as He loves.

At a current time in our nation when the family (God’s creation) is being bombarded with pseudo families (poor imitations), God’s Sacrifice stands apart from all selfish ambition of those who oppose the rightness of God’s way. His Sacrifice remains a “Welcome Home” light, inviting everyone to receive our Father’s perfecting love. His arms are always open; His concern is always for our welfare

Incredulous beyond worldly understanding, it pleased God to love us to the point of death, right in the midst of our offenses against Him and against one another. Finding pleasure in mercy, God exalted Himself by humbling Himself before His creation, coming down to our level to prove a better way—the only true Way—to live. Love is not a reward for good behavior, but a gift of self that benefits others, building us up in the process of sacrificial giving.

God, by acting beyond the world’s legalistic expectations to do the seemingly absurd, something beyond the call of “duty,” expanded mankind’s possibility thinking. Realization of a greater reality, including a “new” and higher moral code, dawned and will never set.

Our Father, knowing our exhaustive state, came to us to lift us up and carry us Home, where we can rest and be restored to wholeness. He will never let us go, nor will He ever let us down.

That’s just the kind of Dad that our God is:  the One and Only “Abba, Father.”

He fixes everything, even the things that we don’t know are broken… especially our hearts. They are His specialty.

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“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”   (Ephesians 5:1, 2)

 

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