This post is part of a new project that I’m working on. Visit Jess Alston’s website to learn more about the Dig Deep Podcast.
I have a confession: there’s this song by Zach Williams called Chain Breaker, and the chorus starts with, “If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker.” Sometimes, when I’m alone and angry and prone to wander and singing this in my car, my brain tells me to sing, “If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain maker.”
The first time the slip happened, I was so caught off guard. I think I even looked around to figure out if some invisible friend in my passenger seat actually sang those words. But, I suppose it makes sense after a lifetime of a relationship with pain that’s best described as, Well, it’s complicated.
I grew up in waiting rooms, the cold and uncomfortable kind. A few years ago, I wrote about mastering the art of waiting rooms. Born into a sick family, I’ve kind of seen it all, whether it’s my own pain or pain of a relative that pulses and throbs like it’s running through my own veins. I have this theory that waiting rooms speak volumes about how a person approaches this whole big game of waiting. There are sleepers, laughers, eaters, workers, starers, and escapers. I don’t even think that the pray-ers get their own category because praying can sometimes look like sleeping, laughing, eating, working, staring, and escaping.
Stacia spoke this week at Dig Deep in the most raw and honest way about her family’s story in dealing with affliction, in all of its forms, including sudden events that knock us back into bed, or the form of long, chronic suffering. A unique flavor of pain and affliction that never fails to bring you to your knees. She shared how we’re weighing ourselves down with what the idea of a prayerful life has to look like. All those “supposed tos” that creep into our soul.
I’m always amazed when I hear other people’s stories about wrestling with pain, as I’ve already busied myself crawling over to the corner (permanently), convinced that I’m the only one in the whole world hauling around bricks on my back. Suddenly, I’m not alone in this lifetime of pain, of waiting, of unknowns. The bills that pile up, the fear of that lump that could mean something, or could mean absolutely nothing. The searching for God in the pain like an endless game of Where’s Waldo? And you’re telling me you want me to REJOICE in THIS?!
Recently, a good friend described how helpless she feels caring for her friend with cancer. “All I can do is pray and make soup.” And maybe this is the recipe that’s been there all along to answer the lifelong question, How do we keep moving forward?
Pray. And make soup.
Stacia’s beautiful story feels impossible to fit into three takeaways, but here’s my best shot:
- Every morning that you cry out, you’re still in the game. Stacia reminded us that our spiritual lives are compared to war in the bible. “Why do we think it will be a cake walk?” Enough said.
- Unanswered prayer, answered prayer, and listening prayer. Unanswered prayer often feels like a no to us, when really we don’t give God enough credit for what’s going on behind the scenes. Answered prayer doesn’t always look like what we thought it would, like the big prayer that we want a relationship with God where we can’t take a step without him. And then he literally answers this in the form of desperation. Listening prayer is the type that you feel in your chest to keep going, keep walking toward that vision of being mature and complete.
- Do a check up from the neck up. Our culture is not telling us to be joyful in affliction. They tell us to run from it, avoid it at all costs, and that you deserve better. Stacia reminded us to run to Jesus in prayer. Keep doing it until you feel him personally. “He knows all of us. He knows we’re dust,” she said.
I hope I can live a life of proclaiming that I am sorrowful, but always rejoicing. That my faithfulness in prayer will transform my heart to know without a doubt that my God’s a pain taker.
That this life spent in a waiting room will teach me all that I need to learn about waking up every day, making the choice to walk as a joyful, faithful, and patient child of God.
I’d say that would be a life well lived.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”