Pain

Scripture: Psalm 38

Title: Pain

Structure:

  • Introduction – handle the jandle
  • Pain
  • Conclusion

Introduction – handle the jandle:

Good morning everyone

  • So this is different – at least I’m wearing the same shirt

There is a saying in kiwi culture: ‘handle the jandle’

  • It basically means something like, ‘man up and take your medicine’
  • Take the suffering and the pain and the punishment that is coming your way whether it is fair or not

For those who don’t know, a jandle is a piece of footwear worn in summer – sometimes called flip flops or thongs, depending on where you come from

  • They are like a cut down version of a sandle and, because they are made out of rubber, were sometimes used by parents for hitting their children across the back of the legs, if the child had done something wrong
  • These days of course it is illegal to hit children but the saying has stuck and now handle the jandle is kiwi idiom for facing something unpleasant

Last Sunday we celebrated Easter, remembering Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, as well as his resurrection from the dead

  • One of the things that Jesus said to his disciples before he suffered and died was, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it…”   [1]

Jesus is basically saying here – if you want to follow me, then you have to handle the jandle

  • You’ve got to be prepared for some pain, discomfort & misunderstanding

Please turn with me to the back of your newsletter where you will find Psalm 38

  • Psalm 38 is the prayer of a man in a great deal of pain – a man who is having to handle the jandle. From verse 1 we read…

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;     there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. 10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. 11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;

my neighbours stay far away. 12 Those who want to kill me set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they scheme and lie.

13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear, like the mute, who cannot speak; 14 I have become like one who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. 15 Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. 16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”

17 For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. 18 I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. 19 Many have become my enemies without cause;     those who hate me without reason are numerous. 20 Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against me,     though I seek only to do what is good.

21 Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. 22 Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour

May the Lord bless the reading of his word

Pain:

Over the summer holidays I injured my leg – ripped my calf muscles apart by 14 cm’s

  • It was quite painful – not the worst pain I’ve experienced but bad enough to stop me moving freely for about 3 weeks or so

Although my injury wasn’t all that terrible (compared to what some people go through) I had lots of time to think and consider the effects of pain

  • Pain is a universal human experience
  • In Psalm 38, David has quite a bit to say about the subject

Firstly, pain tells us the truth – that something is wrong

  • If we are hurting, whether it is physical or emotional we need to know why
  • Although the doctor couldn’t do anything much to take my pain away it still helped having a diagnosis

In Psalm 38 David’s conscience diagnosed the cause of his pain as punishment from God for something he had done wrong. In verses 2 – 5 we read…

  • Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.

If we experience the physical pain of illness or injury, and also happen to believe in God, then it is natural to ask ourselves, is this some sort of punishment or correction from God?

  • After all, pain demands an explanation

In my own situation I certainly asked myself what God’s purpose may have been in lessening my enjoyment on holiday

  • I wasn’t aware of any sins that God might be punishing me for
  • So either I had become blind to my sin and God was wanting to get my attention – to show me there was something wrong in my life
  • Or my injury had nothing to do with God – it was simply the consequence of getting older
  • Then again it could be one of those unpleasant experiences which we don’t necessarily deserve (or understand) but which God uses for good

The point is, whenever we suffer loss or pain we look for some kind of meaning to redeem (or at least explain) the situation

  • It was a busy year last year and I was becoming a bit hurried on the inside
  • Perhaps God used the enforced rest to slow me down a bit – perhaps that’s the positive I take from it?
  • I’m not sure, we don’t know what we don’t know

In David’s case though, he certainly was aware of some moral or spiritual failing and considered his illness a punishment from God

  • In verse 18 David says he is troubled by his sin
  • We may not always be as troubled by our sin as we should be
  • We may excuse ourselves by saying, “Everyone else does it so it’s not that bad”, or we might say, “I was just having a bad day” when in fact our ‘bad days’ have become the norm, rather than the exception

Guilt and shame are often dismissed in our time and culture as unhelpful residues of a by-gone era – something from the dark ages

  • But actually the pain of guilt and shame (when these are appropriately placed) is a good thing

Shame is like a concrete median barrier on a highway – it prevents us from crossing over into the wrong lane and causing an accident

  • Society needs people to feel ashamed about crossing certain lines where those things are wrong – like stealing or bullying or whatever

In a similar vein, guilt can also be a good thing, when it is appropriately placed

  • Guilt is like a stone in the shoe of our conscience – it creates the discomfort needed to move us to repentance
  • David handles the jandle of his guilt by confessing his sin to God and changing his ways

Obviously shame & guilt can be misplaced

  • Nothing is gained by making people feel ashamed simply for being alive
  • That would be like putting the median barrier across the road so the traffic smashed into it
  • Likewise once the stone of guilt has been removed from the shoe of our conscience we throw the stone away – no need to hold on to it
  • Much less reason to look for larger stones of guilt to carry around with us

As I’ve already alluded to, not all pain can be explained as punishment from God

  • Job suffered a great deal of pain although he had done nothing to deserve it – and in his pain he demanded an explanation from God but God did not give him one – although he did restore Job in the end
  • Sometimes we don’t know why it hurts – it just does
  • Even though Job didn’t get an explanation he was changed through the experience – he received a new orientation
  • His faith became better able to cope with the mystery of God

Returning to Psalm 38, as well as the mental pain of guilt and the physical pain of ill health David is also conscious of the social pain of isolation

  • Verse 11: My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbours stay far away.
  • People don’t know how to be around pain – it hurts too much to watch others suffer

Pain is a prison – it separates us from the ones we love and it limits our freedom, but it can also protect us

  • In the case of my leg, pain stopped me from moving and forced me to stay still
  • But this staying still protected me – it prevented me from causing any further damage to myself and gave my muscles time to heal

It was interesting to hear Bernie speak a couple of weeks’ ago about her trip to Nepal with the Leprosy Mission

  • I imagine for people with leprosy the prison of pain is different
  • Because they don’t always have feeling in certain parts of their body they don’t have the sensation of physical pain to protect them
  • And because they are often excluded from main stream society they also experience the social pain of isolation
  • It seems they miss out on the upside of pain   Now in saying that ‘pain is a prison’ there comes a point when you need to break out of the prison
  • Rest is helpful to the healing process, at least initially, but eventually we need some physio to get moving again
  • In my situation physio meant stretching & strengthening exercises which were painful at first but which did bring freedom  We might think of Jesus’ words about picking up our cross and following him as a kind of spiritual physio which leads us to freedom
  • We live in a time and place in history when we are anxious to eliminate all pain – we have a prejudice (or a mind set) against suffering
  • But actually the right kind of pain, at the right time and in the right dose is good for the soul
  • Pain purifies our thinking – it keeps us honest, stripping away all illusion
  • Pain wipes the slate of our mind clean
  • If we look at Psalm 38 as a whole we realise that David is totally absorbed with his pain – he can’t think of anything else
  • When you are in deep pain for a long time your mind finds it difficult to entertain any other thoughts

According to legend, St Benedict of Nursia cast himself into a thorn bush while naked, to escape the wily temptation of a woman.

  • Benedict seemed to understand that the pain of picking out thorns for days on end would occupy his thoughts and thus prevent his mind from going down a path he didn’t want it to go

Now I’m not suggesting you throw yourself into a gorse bush every time you get the hot’s for someone

  • I don’t think it is healthy to inflict pain on ourselves
  • But nor is it healthy to numb all our pain – sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable
  • Taking pain is like eating vegetables – we may not enjoy it but, in the right measure, it can be good for us

So far, in looking at Psalm 38, we have explored…

  • The physical pain of ill health
  • The mental pain of guilt
  • And the social pain of isolation
  • Hand in hand with the physical, mental and social, comes emotional pain
  • In verse 8 David writes …I groan in anguish of heart.
  • And in verse 10 …my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes (sounds to me like David is describing the symptoms of grief – that emotional heart ache combined with a loss of energy and enjoyment)
  • Pain is a thief – it robs us of motivation and pleasure

So how does David handle the jandle of emotional pain?

  • Well, by giving expression to it – Pain requires expression
  • In verse 9 David says, All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
  • In other words, David gives voice to his hurt in prayer to God
  • He lets God know what he is feeling and what he wants
  • Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane – the night before his crucifixion and death
  • In that situation Jesus found it necessary to deal with the mental & emotional aspects of his pain before confronting the physical & social
  • He made sure the inside of the cup was clean (in private) before facing the public

We must give voice to our pain – if we don’t it will build up inside us creating a pressure which is impossible to contain – like napalm

  • We might play the glad game in public for the sake of others (so we don’t burden them) but we still need to do our groaning and sighing in private
  • Otherwise some poor unsuspecting soul will wear it
  • Hurt people hurt people

It needs to be said that while giving voice to our pain offers some relief – it is not the whole remedy – God is our healer

  • We need God to make things new again
  • Sometimes God heals quickly but more often than not his healing takes time
  • Even after we have healed though pain leaves a scar on our memory
  • Pain increases our sensitivity so we are more careful in future

If the physical, mental, emotional and social pain is not bad enough, to top it all off, David is also in touch with the pain of being misunderstood and having no response for his enemies – we might call this the pain of injustice

  • ­Whatever sins David may have committed against God he has done nothing against those who are out to get him. From verse 12 David says,
  • Those who want to kill me set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they scheme and lie.
  • 13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear, like the mute, who cannot speak;
  • And in verses 19 & 20: Many are those who… hate me without reason… who slander me when I pursue good.

Here David is the picture of vulnerability

  • David is like the deaf, in the sense that people are saying all sorts of nasty things about him behind his back
  • And because he is not part of the conversation he is like the mute – he has no opportunity to defend himself – he can offer no reply
  • But even if he could, what good would it do?
  • The more we try to defend ourselves the more guilty we seem to others

Conclusion:

I’m not sure what pain you have experienced in your life

  • The physical pain of illness or injury no doubt
  • The emotional pain of loss
  • The mental pain of guilt & regret
  • Or perhaps the social pain of rejection
  • In some ways we develop a higher tolerance for pain as we get older
  • But in other ways it takes us longer to recover
  • Whatever form our pain may take I believe God feels it with us
  • Our pain leaves a scar on God’s memory too

We don’t ‘handle the jandle’ on our own – we handle it in the knowledge that Christ has gone before us

  • In some mysterious way (which words can’t explain) our suffering connects us to Christ and his suffering connects us to God
  • In fact Jesus suffered our pain in our place
  • As the prophet Isaiah writes…

 

He was despised and rejected by mankind,     a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces     he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

 

 

Let us pray…

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, thank you for the gift of pain in right measure

  • By your grace use our suffering to bring us closer to you
  • And when we have suffered enough heal our hurt that we would be free of bitterness and fit for heaven. Amen.

[1] Matthew 16:24-25

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