What Paul Taught Me About Pain

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

My cancer is growing. How fast, I cannot say, but it is more difficult now than it was last week, both in what I can do and in terms of pain. I won’t dwell on that here, except that it has brought unexpected blessings of perception, perhaps a few insights. That verse from Paul was one I thought I understood, but I have a different take on it now. Obviously, I have no idea what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, although I cannot help but consider my similarity when I feel a jab in my side, unexpected and sharp. I imagine Paul thinking from time to time, that maybe he has gotten past the problem, when suddenly he feels it again, maybe when he tries to sleep, maybe while eating, but a nasty reminder that he is never free from it. It seems quite apt to call such a thing a “messenger from Satan, to torment”.

But maybe it’s not quite the same for me. Where Paul calls his pain a messenger from Satan, I believe mine is a reminder from God. I am reminded that we all must die one day, that all sorts of things we might think are important are really just vanity and selfish pursuits. I am reminded that many people are in pain, sometimes temporary and sometimes permanent, sometimes minor and sometimes a torment, sometimes it seems just part of life which we all must face, and sometimes a singular injustice we did nothing to deserve. On the one hand, I sometimes complain that every time I seem to start getting things to go well in my life, something seems to happen which ruins it all. On the other hand, I have seen children with cancer, and people who found out too late to do anything but wait for death, and I am ashamed of my own complaint. Sometimes I feel that I do not receive what I have worked for, that I am cheated of justice and my right reward, but then I see others who have been cheated to a greater degree, and for much longer, and again I am silenced by that rebuke.

I think about things, especially at night when I am having trouble getting sleep. I realize that I live for a purpose, and I want very badly not to screw up the things that matter. I do not just desire to be a good husband and father, I need to be the best husband and father that I can possibly be. I do not simply want to live in service to God and as a witness to His love, I need to do so. I do not simply wish to help people understand what hope and joy and peace are really like, I need to do my best to help people find those things if they desire them.

Even if I beat this thing, I am aware that the clock is running.

Painfully aware.

A Cruel Stroke of Fate to be Born to into Radical Islam
Well, if we can't just kill them or lock them up forever...