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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Experience of Pain

“And they all lived happily ever after.”

That’s a good ending to a good story.

But is it true?

I think it is, for the most part. I think it is based on what we mean by “happily.”

For a Christian, it might mean that heaven is awaiting us. It might mean that we will live forever with Christ in paradise. It might mean that we live – in this life – with the joy of the presence of God in our life.

I’ve heard from several people that have gone through sickness or injury about how God got them through, calmed their hearts and minds. How they had a sense of peace because they could feel the presence of God with them.

But I’ve come to realize that being a Christian doesn’t mean that this kind of happiness comes automatically. Sometimes it works out that God changes your circumstances to give you happiness. But sometimes, God changes your perception of happiness to fit the circumstances you find yourself in.

I think that’s what has happened to Craig.

Craig loves to climb. He climbs with ropes carabiners, and he climbs with just his hands and feet (bouldering). He’s also really, really good at climbing – as is his wife, Cyndy and their two children.

One day Craig was climbing with a friend in Colorado and, through a misunderstanding and miscommunication, he ended up falling.

Statistics tell the story – that if a person falls 10 feet, they have a 10% chance of dying, and if they fall 20 feet they have a 20% chance of dying.

Craig fell 100 feet. Statistics tend to not lie.

But Craig did not die. He fell straight down, starting out horizontal, but about half-way down he hit a tree branch and it turned him vertical. He hit the ground practically standing straight up. He landed on his feet at nearly 55 miles per hour.

His story is told in “After the Fall” – which he wrote with Bill Romanelli.

Craig is honest about his Christian faith and where he was in his relationship with God before and after the accident.

Craig says, “I thought about how I had worked hard to fit God into my life where it was most convenient for me, and wherever there was a conflict it was as if God was just the kid I played with because he had cool toys. I saw how I had always put my faith and trust into my own body, and the fall had taken away the one thing I had put the most stock in, myself” (After the Fall, page 51).

During his recovery and rehab, Craig documents how sometimes he felt that God wasn’t there. I’ve heard this called the “Silence of Heaven” and I know from experience that it happens. Not that God isn’t there, but sometimes He’s not saying anything. I wrote about this in what I called “The Silence of Heaven.

Craig says it this way, “But as the weeks went on [after leaving the hospital and was going through rehab], the apparent absence of God became like a huge hole. I kept thinking God would keep guiding me, and He wasn’t. Where I should have seen his hand at work all around me, instead almost every experience was a muddled collage of good and bad, as if joy and despair were waging war inside me, and to the victor would go my spirits” (After the Fall, page 80).

Planet of the Apes Wall 1This is what Craig is teaching me: that while God is always in my life, and is always there through good times and bad, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to have a life that is all “sugar plums and lollipops.” Craig has taught me that life will have pain. God in my life doesn’t change that. But God in my life does change how I deal with the pain.

It helps me to remember this: because Jesus endured pain – the pain of the cross and death itself – I can deal with pain, too. Jesus forgives me all my sin and restores true life to me. Jesus restores the life God intended for me to have. In doing this, Jesus never promised that I wouldn’t have pain or trouble or disappointment. He promises that I will have Him! And He promises that He’s preparing a place where all that stuff will never be experienced again – heaven.

Thank you, Craig, for reminding me of this!

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