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!
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)