Pain, Meds and the Holy Spirit

Pain.  

No one is immune… everyone suffers.  Here are some ways… 

  • death of friends and family
  • physical injury
  • disease
  • divorce
  • neglect
  • abandonment
  • financial crisis
  • hunger
  • being fired
  • abuse
  • war
  • hunger
  • depression
  • ________________________ you name it

Lisa Terkheurst, in her book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, says pain has a way of getting our attention like nothing else.  When pain steamrolls over you or even camps out on your head, you have some choices:  ignore it, phone a friend, suffer in silence or go directly to God.  In this shallow dive into my brain, I’m going to question the wisdom of ignoring or medicating your pain.

“The longer we avoid the feeling, the more we delay our healing.”

p.85, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way

WARNING:  What I’m about to say may stick like a red hot needle in your eye.  That’s not my intention, I promise.  This is my attempt in asking questions I have yet to fully resolve in my mind yet.  And I fully realize there are a few situations like schizophrenia that absolutely must be dealt with using medication.

The stats are alarming

According to some of the latest statistics, use of mood-altering drugs has quadrupled in the last 20 years.  As of 2018, as many as 25% are taking a psychiatric medication.  We appear to be becoming a culture that cannot handle life anymore with medicating ourselves.  We’re more connected than ever, yet more disconnected than ever.  Suicide rates have increased by 30% in the last 20 years.  In 2016, 45,000 people decided there could never be hope for a better day and they killed themselves.  Pain (from whatever source) can drive this kind of hopelessness unless it’s dealt with appropriately.

And we haven’t even talked about the people who use alcohol as a medicating / coping substance.  Or marijuana.  Or meth.  And I’m just not in the mood to do any homework on those numbers but you know they’re high.

My experience

In my friend group I’m noticing psychiatric drugs cause a reduction in elation during joyous moments / times and a reduction of depression in sad moments / times.  There’s a knocking off of the edges on both ends of the spectrum, leaving more monotone emotional state.

When my sons were prescribed ADHD meds, I noticed this same behavioral response at home under my own roof.  We adjusted the meds, trying to find a happy medium, but still I noticed a marked change in personality.  The highs and lows of life were gone.

How important is feeling pain?

My question is this:  If you can’t feel the raw and true pain of life, how can you respond appropriately?  How can you learn from it?  How can you grow?  If you ignore the warning light on your dashboard or just have the mechanic turn it off, as Terkheurst points out, you’re headed for a major breakdown.  And isn’t that what psychiatric medications are intended to do, to numb the pain, turn off the warning light?  These natural, God-given responses to life’s painful stimuli are meant to cause you to check under the hood of your life.  Something’s wrong here, people.

Another kind of pain… Holy Spirit conviction

When you’re under conviction by the Holy Spirit of God, how does that make you feel?  Lollipops and unicorns?  If you’re like me – it hurts.  That’s why it’s called conviction for heaven’s sake!  A “good” sermon is one that causes pain, but it’s the good kind of pain.  It’s the pain of freedom that comes when God has turned on the lights to reveal some of your sin to you.  No one likes that, but sometimes I refer to it as “hurting so good” because I feel and know it’s the beginning of healing;  sin has the greatest power in the dark, where it’s hidden… no one knows.  Liberation begins when Someone breaks the chains holding us in slavery.

But how will you feel the pain of conviction if you’re medicating it?

“The longer we avoid the feeling, the more we delay our healing.”

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What difference does Jesus make anyway?

Yes.  It hurts.

Currently, I’m looking at several dear friends in the midst of deep and troubling pain.  Two in particular.  One of those friends is a Christian with rock-solid faith and theology.  The other is not. 

So yesterday, after hearing about the deep pain of the non-Christian friend, I found myself deeply considering the subject of pain brought on by just being alive in this world.  Brokenness is EVERYWHERE.  And so I began to think… I run around with this lofty idealistic view of Jesus and how He really makes a difference in everything.  Do I really believe that?  And if I do, how exactly DOES Jesus make a difference?

So I made a list.

The good news.  Conversion means….

  1. Conversion to Christ means that God makes you into a whole new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Jesus told his religious leader, Nicodemus, it’s called being born again. (John 3:3).
  2. Conversion to Christ means you can see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3).  This one I believe I may have misinterpreted for most of my life… I’ve always thought Jesus meant when I die, I get to “see” the “Kingdom of God”.  But what if Jesus was saying that prior to being born again, I was blind to everything in the Kingdom of God currently, historically and in the future?  What if he was telling Nicodemus, “you don’t understand because you don’t know ME?  You can’t see anything rightly unless you’re born again.”
  3. Conversion to Christ means you get a new mind and a new mindset (Romans 12:2).  I don’t think the way I used to think and testing (that horrible, nagging, daily grind of pain from living this life in a broken world) has a Godly way of transforming me out of the way I used to think and into thinking according to the will of God. 
  4. Conversion to Christ means I’ve been forgiven of my disobedience to God and I am no longer destined to condemnation.   And my mind, which used to be set on selfish ambitions is now set on things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-8).  Life-changing adjustment here, folks.
  5. Conversion to Christ means I’m not a slave to the power of disobedience to God anymore, but I’m free from the power of disobedience.  I don’t have to sin anymore, and Jesus has paid the price of my sin so that when God looks upon me he sees a precious child and heir of the King, not a wretched, evil child of wrath. (Galations 4:4-7, Romans 6:7-11, Ephesians 2:3)
  6. Conversion to Christ means I can get a grip mentally and emotionally on all the crap that happens to me.  Through Christ, I can handle it. (Phillipians 4:13) I can now make right decisions, no matter how much it hurts.
  7. Conversion to Christ means I have a whole new perspective because my nose isn’t pressed firmly and painfully into the tree bark anymore.  I can see the whole forest… I can get outside of my pain and suffering to see that, at worst, it’s “light and momentary affliction.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
  8. Conversion to Christ means I can withstand the pain and heartache of this world.  (Matthew 7:24-27).  Storms come and rage… the rain falls, the floods come and beat on our houses.. But those who are converted to Christ live in a house that will not fail.
  9. Conversion to Christ means I am spiritually alive and pleasing to God. (Ephesians 2:1-10). What can spiritually dead people do to please God?  NOTHING.

Infinity

I could go on and on and on and on… this list is not and could never be exhaustive.  These are but drops in the bucket to all the Scriptures God has communicated to us about the benefits of genuine Christianity.  The benefits are supernaturally endless in their scope and time.

The bad news

Just as all the benefits of being converted to Christ are endlessly wonderful and beneficial, so the antithesis is true.  Being outside of Jesus’ love and forgiveness means you’re an orphan.  Lost. Worn out. Destitute. Hopeless. Helpless.  Independent. Alone. Fearful.  Guilty. Shameful. Prideful. Arrogant. Grievous.  Disobedient. Dishonorable. Confused. Spiritually dead. An enemy of God.

So what about you?

After all this, I think I’ve answered my own question. What difference does Jesus make? All the difference in the world.  

What about you?  Is this new information for you?  Are you weary of trying to handle the heavy load of life and its pain all by yourself?  Take heart, my friend.  You were NEVER created by God to carry the burden alone.  Please call me and let’s talk about how to turn your life over to the One who wants to show you the Kingdom of God.

Psalm 103:1-5

 

Psalm 103 –
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

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When God says no, is it forever? Maybe. Maybe not.

Sometimes God says no.  In my 51 years of life, I’m positive God has said no to me a gozillion times.  And I don’t like it, not one bit.  I want what I want when I want it and no later.  After all, it’s not like I’m asking for anything bad… I’m asking for good things like… well, I’m not gonna waste your time with all the good things I ask God to provide.  So just trust me – they’re all good.  But what if the “good” things I’m asking for – or maybe even assuming He’s going to give me – aren’t in His plan?

It turns out I’m not the first person to hear God say “no”.

God told Moses no, too

A long time ago, after Moses had spent 40 infuriating years leading the nation of whiny, petulant Israelites around in the desert, God put the kibosh on allowing him to lead them across the finish line into the land God was giving them.  (Reading the Book of Exodus tells that whole story). Yeah, many years earlier Moses had a moment of disobedience and usurped God’s authority, apparently something God took very seriously, and He disallowed Moses from going into the Promised Land.  What He did do was lead Moses up onto a mountain (Nebo) and let him set his eyes on the place where he couldn’t go.  And then Moses died.

MWait, what?

Fast forward over a thousand years later to the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), located in the very place Moses was not allowed to go, and who do we see?  Moses.  Yep, there he is, 1400 years AFTER God told him he could not go into the promised land, standing on another mountain conversing with Jesus.

What’s the bottom line?

So, dear friends, a word of encouragement; just because God tells you ‘no’ today for something you greatly desire and have worked hard to acquire, doesn’t mean it will stay a “no” forever.  God has a very specific plan and it will all be accomplished according to His will, not ours.  And in case you haven’t remembered in quite a while, God is perfect.  His decisions are perfect.  He never makes a bad choice.  Is that true of you?

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4’3″ of Tannerite – Lottie Moon: The Long Shadow of a Tiny Missionary Giant

Fiery personalities left unchecked are just annoying.  There’s always a crusade to save the world of something – to right a wrong, to stand up for the weak, to do something herculean.  And because the passion is so strong and fierce, there is a propensity to become frustrated with those who have not been wired the same.  I know because that’s me with the fiery personality.  

But Lottie Moon was the kind of woman who would’ve challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and press into the calling of Christ Jesus in the world. She would’ve lit a campfire under my butt.  And I would’ve loved it.  

Take 24 minutes of peeking into a life well-lived, a life with purpose, drive and passion for something out of this world.

Here’s David Platt, former president of the International Mission Board, with a short bio of a short woman who moved to China in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit of God.  She was a tiny woman who lived a giant life.

https://bit.ly/2C7JF6x

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Why I Wept at Church Yesterday

How it started

Yesterday morning at church, as usual for the first Sunday of every month, we took communion (the Lord’s Supper) at the end of the worship hour.  Sitting beside my husband and me were Cape and Barbara Caperton… 89 and 84 years old respectively.  I have written about Cape before and you can read that post HERE.

The sermon was particularly profound and was all about hope and the glory of God… a subject I love because it fills my heart and resonates deeply within my spirit, so I was primed for the moment about to occur right beside me.

Time to Take Communion

As the communion plate was passed, Cape first served his wife by holding the plate of small bits of bread and tiny juice cups that represent the body and blood of Christ.  Then I held the plate for Cape so he could take his own bread and cup.  He easily took the bread, but when his fingers tried to get a cup, they pinched and pinched at empty cup spaces where others had already taken a cup.. he simply could not see the edges of the remaining cups to grasp one.  You see, Cape has macular degeneration, a progressive, age-related vision deficiency which severely affects his ability to see up close, especially when the lights are dimmed as they were in that service.  He carries a magnifying glass and a flashlight as assistive devices for this type of thing, but he needed both his hands to partake.

Afterward, Jamie and I took our share and passed the plate back to the middle aisle to the deacon serving our row.  And then I started crying.  My eyes are filling with tears even as I am typing this part.  I cannot explain the emotional experience with adequate words… what was it that made me cry?  As I sat there, I just saw an 89 year old man doing his level best to serve his wife the “elements” and then struggled to serve himself.  The moment lasted only a couple of seconds as he was ultimately able to feel and grab a cup.

What else?

Adding to the emotion of the moment was that Barbara was taken off her chemotherapy treatment for cancer just last Tuesday and was told she had 3-5 months left.  The doctors and nurses at UVA who have been treating her for 12 years hugged and cried and told her good bye.  But you wouldn’t know that if you met her because she wouldn’t tell you.. she would ask about YOU and what’s going on in YOUR life.  No whining.  No complaining.  No pity parties.

Cape and Barb Caperton, Hanging of the Green Ceremony, December 2, 2018

 

How serious are we about the Lord’s Supper?

And how many of us take for granted the Lord’s Supper?  We partake or don’t partake with sometimes a very casual, passe’ attitude.  Rarely do we “examine ourselves” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) as we should.  How many among our church membership recognize this should be a priority for them on the first Sunday of every month and that their attendance is vital?  Here’s a helpful article on the gravity of The Lord’s Supper.  Would you have worked so hard to be present to participate as these two Christians did?

What are they leaving behind?

Once again, I was struck by the faithfulness of this precious, God-fearing couple.  That old Steve Green song, “May All Who Come Behind Us Find Us Faithful is looping in my brain.  The lyrics are outstanding.  By the grace of God, I am being given a front-row seat to precious servants of God that deeply love God and His Church.  They are showing me the way to live.  I am following behind and finding them faithful, they inspire me to obey.

What are WE leaving behind?

Jamie (my husband) told me when we got home that he completely understood the gravity and emotion of that moment in church.  Adding to the story, he said, “In just flash, that will be us.”

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

CHORUS:
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

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