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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Smile through the Pain

I'm not so sure God causes the pain that happens in our life, but I am sure that He can use that experience for good. For instance, one of the most loving people I ever knew experienced excruciating pain every day of her life. Mary was unable to care for herself, needing help for the simplest tasks. But she smiled and laughed and spread God's love to all who came into her presence.

When I was in highschool eons ago, one of my classmates rode in a wheelchair. A birth defect left him with legs that were only about eighteen inches long and arms and body that were too weak to perform too many things. In those days, buildings didn't have to be handicap accessible. Stairways to classes would have presented an unsurmountable obstacle, but his brother and his classmates came to his rescue, carrying him up and down all the stairs in our three-story school. Jimmy never complained or whined. Never. As a result, he became one of the best-liked boys there by both guys and girls.

Another woman, my cousin Jenny. You never saw anyone more willing to help others whenever she saw a need. She cleaned houses, gave rides, and visited people who could use a cheery smile. When cancer struck her, the whole town mourned. It took years for the cancer to finish its evil work, but Jenny passed on her sense of hope and joy to everyone she knew.

And then there was Florie. I didn't know her until she already had to use a walker, so hunched by osteoporosis she had to turn her head sideways to look up at you. She's another one who spread God's love everywhere. There were many people in our congregation who performed more physical work than she was able to do. But Florie? She showed up every Sunday, eyes a-twinkle, spreading hugs and smiles to young and old.

We don't have to be physically strong, spiritual giants, pastors of huge congregations to make a difference. We just have to use what God gives us in spite of the difficulties in our paths.

There are times when the difficulties in our lives seem overwhelming, aren't there? We may have a life-threatening illness. Work pressures mount onto our shoulders like bricks made of lead. Family issues make us feel cornered or inadequate. The death of a child or spouse shatters our lives. We might feel like giving up at that time. Stop taking the medication and let the disease have its way. Quit the job. Move out of the house and away from the family. Back away from life. Hole up. Get drunk or drugged up. Anything to get away from the pain. It feels like the pain will never end.

I've been in some of those situations, too. Sometimes, we need some time apart, to be the subject of prayers from friends and loved ones. But as the Bible says, "This too shall pass."

It's okay to complain to God--David and the other Psalms writers did it all the time. God knows what's in your heart, you might just as well talk to Him about it. And if you can hang in there just a little longer, things will get better. Maybe the pain won't go away, but it will become manageable.

Don't spread bitterness on those around you while you are waiting. Find something positive, and comment on it. If no one's around,tell God. In fact, tell Him anyway, even if there are several people listening. It's okay if others hear you giving God praise in the midst of trouble--honest! Then give someone who needs it a hug or a smile. You'll feel better for it. I promise.

Who inspires you? The gripiest people, or those who smile in spite of their troubles. Why?
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