From Heather Madden
Today's Psalm reading hit close to my heart. In Psalm 102 the author is suffering from an affliction, and is crying out to God in his pain; which has been my season for the last 7 months, and off and on for the last 10 years. This past Fall I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and sleep apnea. At the time, this was a relief, because after many years of unknown pain and lack of sleep, at last there are labels for these difficulties. But it's become a part-time job to manage the symptoms; and much frustration as the relief of pain has been minimal.
Yet even at the worst moments, I have felt the Lord's presence in different ways---through worship, my husband's attentiveness and kindness, prayers and words of encouragement from friends, helpful advice from therapists and doctors, kind words from colleagues and clients, and the kindness of strangers. On days when pain has been at its worst, I have tried to ask the Lord to show me glimpses of Himself, and He has always done so.
Sometimes, as my husband will tell you, I have not been able to see past the pain, and have been tempted to be angry that God has not fully healed me. When we are suffering, we may be tempted to try to trap Jesus as the Sadducees did in Luke 20. Three times they tried to catch Jesus. Three times Jesus used hard sayings to show the error in their thinking. When we are suffering, we are prone to isolation (Ps.102:6), desperation, and hopelessness. When we are in pain, we are tempted to think irrationally, and to blame Him for our pain, our lack of healing. Sometimes we might be tempted to act in anger towards ourselves or others. It has been hard not to worry, "Will I always be hurting like this?" Or, "Lord, if you really loved me, You could and would make the pain go away!" But I have learned that staying in this place does not help in the healing process. In fact, it instead keeps my eyes focused on myself and the pain, rather than the One who can bring healing. It is easy when we are facing hard things to go into "a desert place of isolation, where the owls make their home." (v. 6)
Times of suffering will come, but how will we respond in these times? Will we look for God to show us His hand and choose to learn what He wants to teach us in the midst of the pain? Or will we turn our face away from Him and choose to act in bitterness or anger? Will we isolate ourselves or will we allow friends in our community to enter into our hard situations, pray with us, help bear our burdens and support us through the difficulties? This means exposing our hurts and pains to others and making ourselves vulnerable (easier said than done). It means letting others know we are broken, not perfect and showing our humanity.
The psalmist, throughout the Psalm, comes back to a place of praise. Praise in the midst of pain, affliction and trial is crucial, as it readjusts our focus on the One who can bring full restoration of all our pains and woes. Praise and a posture of gratitude in our hearts puts us in a position to receive God's blessing. God cannot bless us when our hearts are not postured in an attitude of praise, but are instead self-focused.
I am the Director of Activities at the Arbors of a Winthrop, an assisted living community, and married to Kelly, the founder and director of the Boston Fellows. I love living near the ocean and thoroughly enjoy walks on the beach!