Pain Management

Pietà – Michelangelo

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, Isaiah 44:6-8, 21-23, Ephesians 4:1-16, Mark 3:7-19a


When a person sustain an injury to one part of their body,  they can do further harm if they overcompensate with the use of other parts. For example, limping for an extended period of time can strain the back and good leg and require additional treatment. Another example of the interconnectedness of our parts is the phenomenon of referred pain, which occurs when injury to one area of the body causes pain in a seemingly unconnected one. We could experience pain in an arm without realizing the injury was actually to our spine; identifying the proper diagnosis and treatment under such circumstances can be difficult.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul compares the structure of the body of Christ to the human body. He emphasizes the importance of each part, and the need for unity in a healthy body. For the body to grow in love, all parts must function properly. Sometimes, though, we may not be able to easily determine which part we’re meant to be. What then?

Our “diagnostic test” is this: do our actions (or inaction) contribute to the spiritual unity of the body? If we unnecessarily cause other parts to falter or carry an unfair share of the load, we may need to reexamine our role. However, any physical therapist knows pain in the cause of healing is sometimes unavoidable. When it occurs in the body of Christ, we must ask ourselves whether the pain is a price to pay for unity. After all, we are called to voluntarily carry each other’s burdens, and infirmity is no sin. If it is, the body will be stronger for enduring it; if not we must seek or offer relief. When the body is brought back into balance, pain for all members of the body is minimized and the use of our gifts is maximized.

Like physical health, spiritual health is not founded on quick fixes. A mature approach encourages healthy, balanced decisions benefitting the body, not just ones satisfying localized  whims and short-term comfort. We all depend on each other, and must provide and accept support accordingly.

Comfort: The Body of Christ is meant to be a healthy one.

Challenge: With people you trust, have a frank discussion about what pains the Body of Christ is experiencing, and what we can do to make them better.

Prayer: God of healing, teach me to bring your wholeness to the body and the world. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever learned you caused someone pain without knowing it?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Pain is a Four-Letter Word

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 137; 147:1-11, Joel 2:12-19, Revelation 19:11-21, Luke 15:1-10


Psalm 137 is rough. Written by Israelites in Babylonian captivity, it expresses sorrow and rage. Because their captors demand to be entertained, the psalmist asks: “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” How demoralizing it would be to perform your songs of worship for the ironic entertainment for your oppressor.

Some mornings we feel like we have woken in an unfriendly foreign land. Oppression, real and perceived, weighs us down while the world demands perhaps not that we entertain it, but that we at least rise above our emotional and spiritual exile. Christians especially are taught and expected to be nice, as though tamping down our feelings for the comfort of others is some expression of love. Nice is not the same as good.

We need Psalm 137. We need the ugliest, most vile parts of it. When we read “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!” we are rightly appalled, but then we probably haven’t watched our infants being slaughtered, as did the people of Israel. Who among us doesn’t have some instinct to hit back? We can do the actual hitting, or we can follow Christ and love our enemies … but the sorrow and anger don’t simply disappear. Psalm 137 was sung by a community needing to purge its pain. The words are offensive, but they are just words. Some people find offense in hip hop, in screamo, in lyrics using four-letter words decrying far worse injustices. We embrace songs about war and revenge as patriotic classics. These are the modern versions of Psalm 137. They give us release and expression of things we know we can never really do. Sometimes, to get to good, we need to abandon nice for a while.

God can withstand our anger and fear. There is catharsis in sharing and releasing it in faith with others who understand it. There is danger in not doing so, for pain guides us only to more pain. Wail when you need to. Purge with your words. Then heal with your deeds.

Comfort: Your pain is valid.

Challenge: When people use words that offend you, look behind them for a source of pain and opportunity for healing.

Prayer: God of justice, hear my cries. Amen.

Discussion: Are you comfortable expressing pain, sorrow, and/or anger? How do you do so?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!