I have been enjoying many days of substitute teaching lately, and each day provides me with at least one good illustration of some Biblical truth, but very little brain space and energy to record it for you. So here is just a small reminder for you during the craziest season of the year- a meager offering.
Months and months ago I noticed that my left elbow didn’t extend fully. Given my history with rheumatoid arthritis, this didn’t surprise me. After all, I’ve had plenty of joints periodically swell and return to normal after a few weeks or maybe a month.
My elbow though, it wasn’t budging. This was more than your garden-variety arthritis.
A few weeks ago, I tried to make an appointment with my doctor to get it checked out. The receptionist informed me my doc would be unavailable or out of town for the next several weeks, so I did the next best thing. I asked some friends and found the name of a man who works specifically with injuries.
Here is what I can tell you about the massage I received and will continue to receive for the foreseeable future- it stinking hurts. Like “remember to breathe, remember to breathe, remember to breathe” hurts. Like bruising hurts. But I know that to regain my elbow, to heal, I must first hurt.
And here are the words he said to me the first time he worked on my arm: “This reminds me of when I worked on cadavers when I was in school.”
I remind him of dead people. Fantastic.
God as Great Physician, we’ve heard that one before. God as Great Massage Therapist, that one might be new, but I believe there is some merit to it.
Advent awaits a Savior to redeem the pain of a broken world.
Christmas is the time we celebrate God’s physical touch in human history. He knows the only way to revive cadaver spirits is to put on our flesh and touch us personally. To move beyond the skin surface and dive deep into the tissue of our being.
And that kind of care carries comfort and pain. You can’t root out the damage, expel the idols, without the pain. The “remember to trust, remember to trust, remember to trust” kind of pain.
We think of God as babe, the trappings of the season cozy and warm and peaceful. But Christmas includes pain too, and that’s ok. The pain of childbirth after traveling many miles. The pain of disappointment when being rejected a place to stay in such a fragile condition. Let’s not forget those parts of the Christmas story.
God’s glory, His rule, and His love are not diminished by pain- not by His and not by yours.
Pain is not, and never has been evidence that God is out to get us. Just the opposite. Pain reveals that God is for us.
Pain is proof that God is reviving dead hearts. He is removing hearts of stone and replacing them with flesh, and that hurts, but it also awakens life. It reminds us to turn, to trust, to lean into the source of Life Himself. The God of the universe inserted Himself into a world wracked with pain and experienced all of it. He bore the pain of our brokenness from birth to crucifixion, and He still bears it with us today.
Our pain inflames the heart of the living God.
One day there will be no tears, no pain, but until that day we can have hope knowing that we are known and loved, and that God redeems even our pain.
The One who knows our pain is the One who binds, who heals, who comforts all our weary souls.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him. Isaiah 61:1-3