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Issue 148

Many Christians go to work carrying pain. Ironically a life without pain would be dangerous. Pain is a way of knowing you’re alive; the dead feel no pain. Pain is a warning that something is wrong and action must be taken. Pain is a way of knowing you are in danger, but it is painful!

It may be the constant anxiety of money worries and debt problems; it may be the experience of bullying and lack of support; it may be the pain of an overwhelming workload or some home relationship, which is affecting your work. For some Christians there may be the added pain of a faith that just doesn’t seem to work and a disappointment with God who seems to be silent or absent when you want him to be present and speaking. The list  goes on but no doubt you can add your specific issues.

Pain’s results can be described in a multitude of ways. Perhaps three common ways would be breaking, wounding or crushing. To give more detail, we often locate some internal place where these types of pain occur, so you will hear people describing disappointment as heart-breaking or extreme loss as leading to a broken heart. When we speak of crushing we sometimes identify draining or devaluing experiences as crushing someone’s spirit. Less commonly we speak of inflicted damage as wounding the soul.

A feature of these types of pain is that they are somewhat invisible. A torn muscle, broken bone or crushed foot are easy to see. The sufferer walks with a limp, on crutches or in plaster. No one minds asking how it happened and offering sympathy or describing their own similar experience, but broken hearts, wounded souls and crushed spirits are harder to spot. They reside in the secret places for many and are not so easy to discuss. They are easily mistaken for awkwardness, unpleasantness or an uncooperative attitude. They may show in the face but are hard to describe. For those who wear their hearts on their sleeves it is easier for others to know there is a problem but at work there is not always the chance to find help. God, however, is not silent on these matters. At the very least he has inspired one of his own to write down on his behalf his approach to you. There are four approaches at least. Contrary to what you may feel, he is close to you if you are broken-hearted. Despite your despair, he saves you if you are crushed in spirit. Whilst he is close, he also heals you if you have a broken heart and far from being inactive, he binds up wounded souls (see bible sections).

If you are in pain, you may well be thinking that it is not as simple as that. Please don’t write in general phrases, you may say, when my specific pain remains.

You are right – it is not as simple as that. It is in fact very complicated. God’s ability to be close to you is borne out of centuries of anticipation, knowing that his own heart would be broken as he watched his only Son die – himself of a broken heart. His own Son was bullied, beaten, crushed and wounded, physically, mentally and spiritually. The piercing wounds of thorns, nails and spears along with the piercing words of vicious enemies mean that Jesus himself has been closer to your pain than you have yourself. And all this took place whilst he was at work on the cross. God’s way of dealing with pain when he comes close remains the same. His work means that pain has to die to be replaced with new life. Brokenness is put together with resurrection power,  supplied at a cost beyond  our understanding. Crushed spirits are saved by pulling them out of the crusher with damaged hands. Wounded souls are healed and restored with words that bind over the gashes.

It is a mysterious and powerful process. It is put to us in writing but delivered in Person. If you are in pain you’ll be right to say that there are no simplistic solutions – there is God and nothing can be more complex than him.


Psalm 34: 18

18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 147: 3

3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

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Tags: complexity, pain, presence, pressure, suffering

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Geoff Shattock

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