"Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me."
~ Psalm 69:15,16
"When I think about the pain that I live with each day, the unrest that it causes me because I can't seem to get comfortable, I still give thanks to God because I am being sheltered."
Pain is something we all know about. Each day I encounter people living with, or trying to reconcile their pain. Not all pain at the end of life has to deal with the physical body. There is also spiritual pain, pain of loss, and a number of others things that can contribute to the experience of pain.
I spent a good portion of my morning yesterday with a man who made the decision to cease all treatment for his illness, and requested that we "turn off" his defibrillator that was set to "go off," in the event he went into cardiac arrest. "I don't want my last moments to be filled with pain," he shared, realizing that the device would continue to go off, even as he lay dying of "something else."
"I just don't want the pain."
Turning off the device then was surrounded by the pain of those around him. It was a signal to them that the pain of loss was about to enter, and grief seemed to overwhelm the moment. The man's wife stepped outside the room, and I found her crying down the hallway from the room where the man is now resting.
"All I can think about is how relieved we were when he got that placed. We didn't worry about his heart stopping," she shared with me. "Now I just feel like we are giving up, and I don't want to deal with the pain."
Lent is a reminder of our woundedness, pain, and being broken. While we focus inwardly, we can also look outwardly and begin to recognize the shadow of the cross that resembles our own. Pain and suffering are not things that we can avoid. Standing in our suffering welcomes us to better understand the love that God has for us. While this woman expresses her pain, there was also the understanding that her husband will soon no longer be suffering and experiencing pain.
I am reminded that the seed must die in order to produce the harvest. So it is with our pain that then allows for our faith to flourish. Standing in the shadow of the cross reminds us that there is still a light that is being cast upon us to create the shadow. Even in our pain, the love of God will sustain us.
Remember that we may encounter pain, but we are never out of reach of God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.