Have you sat with someone who was in extreme pain? It is a riveting human experience. I remember one such time in my life. I was working at a nursing home. One of the senior women I was caring for had diabetes, and as a result she had one of her legs amputated just below the knee. This was a very hard thing in and of itself. However, the difficult fact in her life was that even though she had no right foot any more, she still felt excruciating pain in that foot. A phantom limb, hurting and hurting.
I don’t know the medical details of her condition, I only know that she was allowed morphine on a strictly regulated schedule, and as it wore off, the pain got worse and worse, and in the hour before her next dose, she would be crying in pain. I remember sitting with her as she cried. We prayed together. She lived with that pain for the rest of her life.
I think of her sometimes as I sing the hymn “Healer of our every ill”. The second verse reads, “In the pain and joy beholding how your grace is still unfolding.” I saw grace unfold in this woman’s life, the pain of her body did not change her kind and beautiful spirit.
I have to admit it was hard to take care of her. I found it so difficult to enter her room, because I felt so helpless. The hymn in verse three says, “Give us strength to love each other…Spirit of all kindness, be our guide.”
This week we will be thinking about our God in troubled times…when the trouble we face is close to home, in our own bodies. How do we meet God when our bodies are challenged by disease or chronic illness? How are we the family of God for people who suffer?
This week’s prayer: You who know each thought and feeling, teach us all your way of healing. Spirit of compassion, fill each heart.
What would it be like to not be able to talk? I’ve been thinking about this a lot since our church member Rhea had a stroke several weeks ago. As we visit with her, she can nod and shake her head, or shrug her shoulders, but words escape her. I don’t know whether she has words inside her head and can’t get them out, or if her thoughts are mostly images and emotions.
Now her family and friends and community of faith gather around her hospital bed. We find words for her that she can no longer speak. She reaps the harvest of many words she’s sown in the lives of her family…they visit and tell her constantly that they love her and care for her. As a community of faith we share scripture, hymns and prayers, familiar words that have always provided meaning for her. We remember Rhea in our prayers, praying to a God who has no problem at all communicating with her.
There are other people in our church who may feel speechless. A person who is so depressed, they cannot face meeting people. A person who has just heard terrible news, and cannot bear to say it out loud. A person who has such big doubts, they are afraid they will be rejected if they articulate them. I know there are times in my life that I’ve felt speechless, maybe you have felt that way too.
This Sunday we will be celebrating the baptism of four new church members, as they dedicate their lives to Christ. They are joining us in our journey of faith. It’s a journey that may take us many places, maybe even places that leave us speechless. God goes with us everywhere.
A scripture for a week like this:
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4