When It Hurts Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually

Jesus gives comfort

Life can be hard when you hurt. It can be exceptionally hard when you hurt physically and then also have to deal with emotional pain and (if we can understand it) spiritual pain at the same time.

I write this blog during a time of great hurt in my life. I daily struggle with chronic physical pain that cannot be treated with surgery. I do not do well with opioids so rarely is the pain alleviated.

My emotional pain comes from the losses I have experienced for the last twenty years and the loss I am about to experience. Some of these losses are my own fault but many are injustices I have suffered at the hands of other “Christians.” Some of my losses are the natural occurrence of living in a world God calls fallen and cursed. No matter the reason, the pain is still real and the memories still sting.

My spiritual pain is from the spiritual desolation the enemy is currently trying to use against me. It is a pain of guilt, of failure, lack of hope, and struggle to keep my focus upon the love of God.

This is my little self-pity party. I do not know how many other people face the temptation to feel sorry for themselves in their situation, but it is a temptation I struggle with continually. One of the tools God has given me (God never abandons us, we might think so but this is only an illusion) to use during such times is a cheap, tin bracelet with the words, “Why me God?” on the front and the words, “Why not me?” on the back. This helps me to refocus on God’s grace and goodness even in difficult times.

When facing the challenges of the enemy  I have found that my training as a spiritual director, especially Ignatius’s rules for discernment, is key to finding any hope or comfort in the challenge. Too many people, myself included, seek to depend upon their own abilities to pull themselves out of despair. So when I say, I find things helpful it is because God makes them helpful. I do not depend upon the rules, I depend upon the God who has shown others the path so that they can help others on their journey as well. This is the community of Christ.

Rules 6-8 gives us a pattern of thinking and acting in the face of desolation. These rules are:

Sixth Rule. The sixth: Although in desolation we ought not to change our first resolutions, it is very helpful intensely to change ourselves against the same desolation, as by insisting more on prayer, meditation, on much examination, and by giving ourselves more scope in some suitable way of doing penance.

    Seventh Rule. The seventh: Let him who is in desolation consider how the Lord has left him in trial in his natural powers, in order to resist the different agitations and temptations of the enemy; since he can with the Divine help, which always remains to him, though he does not clearly perceive it: because the Lord has taken from him his great fervor, great love and intense grace, leaving him, however, grace enough for eternal salvation.

    Eighth Rule. The eighth: Let him who is in desolation labor to be in patience, which is contrary to the vexations which come to him: and let him think that he will soon be consoled, employing against the desolation the devices, as is said in the sixth Rule.

It is the eighth rule that gives me the most hope. God never leaves us in desolation.  There will come a day when my physical pain will end. There will come a day when my tears of emotional pain will be dried. There will come a day when the Lord himself will lift me up.

Psalm 38 is my Psalm for the day of desolation. May it give you comfort and hope!

Psalm 38:1

O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath.
For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head; they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester because of my foolishness;
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all day long I go around mourning.
For my loins are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am utterly spent and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes– it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction, and my neighbors stand far off.
Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin, and meditate treachery all day long.
But I am like the deaf, I do not hear; like the mute, who cannot speak.
Truly, I am like one who does not hear, and in whose mouth is no retort.
But it is for you, O LORD, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
For I pray, “Only do not let them rejoice over me, those who boast against me when my foot slips.”
For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.
Those who are my foes without cause are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good are my adversaries because I follow after good.
Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, do not be far from me;
make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation. (Ps. 38:1-22 NRS)

Amen

Death Wish Economy

uncle sam

A man, a sometimes mystic, very intellectual scholar,  and always a man of God named Francis Schaeffer warned us of a time in which the western world criteria for human life decisions of life and death would be economics. That time is here. Politicians are telling us to chose the economy over people’s lives.

I am in one of the most vulnerable categories who face serious consequences from his virus. It would likely kill me. I accept this. So I do what I am told and self-quarantine to protect myself and others. I stay six feet away. I even wear a mask. Yet, instead of being told we are doing a good job of not becoming infected with the virus I find in government leadership individuals who think my risk of dying is an acceptable if it means the economy can recover.

As far as dying, in many ways I have and I want more than anything in the else to be in the presence of God. However, I would miss my wife and family so much I am willing to struggle to try against the obstacles to continue to seek to live and love.

I choose to live a life of belief in God. I believe life is important to God.  I do not believe that any person who does not value the life of human more than the material valuables humans chase is not fit to lead.  Many have forgotten this type of thinking is what allowed Nazi to take over Germany during Post-WWI. We are becoming the monsters the Bible warns us will arise. A people whose hearts have grown cold. A people seeking to kill love.

I seek to pursue God. I seek to strive to get others to draw closer to God even more. This has been my life for the last forty years. I hope it is a fire that continues to burn. Sometimes God does lead someone toward death. God tells us always to be ready for death. Death is going to come for us. I believe that if those with minds who embrace a death wish economy have their way, I likely will die from this virus. But honestly, do we really want to live in the kind of world with such selfish, backward, thinking like we see in the Texas leadership?  What kind of a country are we living in now that where the selling of stuff is more important than human lives?

Certainly not America!

Oh, that’s right, we did allow slavery.

The First Rule

st-ignatius

First Rule:

In the persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is commonly used to propose to them apparent pleasures, making them imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. In these persons the good spirit uses the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason.

This is  a statement from a warrior. A physical warrior turned spiritual, mystical warrior. This man, Ignatius of Loyola, understood the spiritual warfare that we face daily. A war that is engaged in the will. The gift God gave to humanity that makes us uniquely human, our will.

We can read about great battles like those witnesses by Dr. Victor Frankl in the death camp. We can read about the experience of St. John of the Cross or St. Teresa and still not grasp how often the battles we fight are everyday, mundane, vicious, diabolical, and constant.

Whenever we risk of inserting out presence into the world we will either generate a positive presence that comes from God’s love or else we we insert a horrible possibility we did not see. And then, we may add nothing to the mayhem other than our own banality.

What Ignatius gives us is the perspective of a seasoned warrior, the wisdom of one who totally committed his mind, heart and soul to God and to the Church. As a warrior, he needed to know what wins in combat. What wins against Satan is discipline that is trained to resist and overcome. It is call to be aware.

If I am going to lead, I must be led. If I am going to overcome, I must trained to do so. If I am going to do so, I need to make the choice to be committed to this training and use it as oft as I can. In this war, boot camp is the battlefield.

All this for what? If there is conviction in you life, what is the source? Do you really know how influential evil may be in your life? God’s way leads to peace, assurance, and presence.

God gives us discomfort in times of sin.

Sin gives us discomfort in times of God.

 

More to come…..