Being faithful in the midst of pain

"The Prayer" - bubug, DeviantArt
When we are in pain, it seems as if the whole world revolves around us - or should. We only pay attention to our immediate situation.

When our kids were younger, Eldest Son had a lot of problems. There was a time - months and months - where his issues seems to need all of Dear Husband's and my attention. I clearly remember thinking one day, "Whoa - I have GOT to pay attention to the other kids." It's not like I was neglecting them ... no, I was. Maybe it was necessary; we were literally trying to save our son's future, but it didn't make the realization hurt any less. And I couldn't get the time with them back.

Maybe it's a job. Maybe it's a health issue. Maybe it's caring for a child or an elderly parent. Whatever it is, we get sucked into a situation where hurt is involved and we begin to act like an ER doctor - plugging holes, clearing airways, keeping the person alive. That's it. We are keeping the situation alive.

Then things quiet down. We look around and see a dead house plant. We forgot to water the darn thing. There is a pile of mail we have not even had a chance to glance at. There is a church bulletin buried in there - from 3 weeks ago. That was the last time we were able to get to Mass. Next to our favorite chair is a rosary we haven't picked up in a while.

I'm not really sure how this works. I know that God knows when we are in "ER mode" - just trying to keep someone alive. Often, our only prayers during this period are (according to Anne Lamott) are "Help!" "Thanks," and "Wow." And those prayers are enough during a time of pain and stress and keeping someone alive.

But maybe what makes those prayers work during those times is our attempts to be truly faithful when we aren't in that swamp of pain. "Help," "thanks," and "wow" are enough ONLY when we have sort of "banked" more prayers. And I am not suggesting that God counts our prayers like some miserly banker. No, it's that we've spent time with God, seeking His will for us, asking, probing, crying out, listening, listening, listening. Margaret Feinberg:
In our greatest moments of pain, loss and heartache, God wants to anchor us to the reality of His imminence. We do not serve a God who is far off, but One who is near and draws near to those shattered by life. God isn’t only with us in those moments, but also in ALL the moments.

Sometimes, holding on to a rosary is all we can do. Sometimes, the only prayer we can muster is "help!" Sometimes the pain is so great, we feel overwhelmed, crushed, forlorn. This is exactly when we most need to be faithful. And here's the ugly truth: that faithfulness does not always have a pay-off. We are not always going to get the cure, save our kid, undo the financial mess, bring a dead houseplant back to life. Yet no matter what we feel (pain, loss, abandonment, fear, shame) God is there. GOD IS THERE. He does not back away from us in disgust. He will not leave us alone in a hospital bed to fight the pain ourselves. He will not return to a castle in the sky and pull the drawbridge up behind Himself.

God is faithful in the midst of our pain, and we must be too. Not because of some reward, or thinking that God will punish us if we forget to say our prayers. No, we remain faithful because that is what is keeping us alive - that often tenuous reaching out for God. Be faithful today. Reach out to Him who is Love, is Faithfulness, is God.

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