“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ― C.S. Lewis
After I finish a time of meditation and prayer, I am going to confront a close friend about her life-long addiction to pain-killers and other prescription drugs. For many decades now she has used and abused a medical system that is all too willing to promise temporary relief from painful symptoms — at a great cost financially, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Having sacrificed her body, mind, and spirit to drug experimentation, she is now nearly incapable of decision making, only to groan and moan that the pain is still present.
Do I sound bitter? Perhaps. Part of the reason I’ve come here to pray and search the Scriptures is to root out the bitterness within me. An addict is still a human being, who hurts deeply, with brokenness that Christ is capable of healing. While I can think of no healing episode in the Gospels that directly relates to all the dynamics of addiction, I do think of the chronic condition of hemorrhaging woman. The story is told in Luke 8:43-48 –
43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians,she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Petersaid, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
How is this story good news for my friend? What hope might she find in this Word?
Perhaps she can feel some measure of relief that she is not alone. She is like this woman, only more so. Instead of one diagnosed symptom for a dozen years, my friend has had countless symptoms for many dozens of years.
One message I want her to hear is in the phrase, “she could not be healed by anyone.” As hell-bent as our world is on avoiding pain and promising comfort, no medical measure is going to save us from the aches and pains of growing old. No physician can offer us new life.
The good news, of course, is Christ can — and does. Yet this good news can be misunderstood and is often misinterpreted. True, as this woman pursues Christ and touches his garment, her physical symptom goes away. She is healed. Her faith has made her well.
Yet, at the risk of over-spiritualizing the physical truth of the passage — it is clear more is involved in this woman’s healing than relief from her symptoms. An issue of blood would have made her unclean — spiritually and relationally. Christ does more than just relieve her physical dis-ease. He paves the way for her to re-enter the community of faith, to be at peace with God, herself, and others. The physical relief was mostly a vehicle for spiritual healing.
The reality we face in this fallen world is our physical symptoms sometimes refuse to go away. And the tragic truth is, God does not always relieve them in this life. This does not mean we can not experience spiritual healing. In fact, when we offer our broken bodies to God and pray not for comfort, but for peace and purpose, whatever symptoms we do experience often become less crippling. When we devote less of our time, attention, and resources to trying to get someone to fix a physical problem, we can more freely and fully enjoy the abundant life we are promised in Christ.
Just how much of this can my friend hear? I don’t know. Maybe like Job’s friends, I should just go a sit with her and keep my mouth shut. Sometimes it’s better to share compassion than push theological thought.
Please pray for me. Pray that I speak the truth in love.
Pray for my friend. Pray that she be released from her addiction and experience peace with God.
Pray for her husband and other loved ones, that we might share with her the love of Christ.