All of this talk about Bathsheba and seeing things from her point of view bring to mind what it must be like to go through real pain. To have life rear up and smack you around, randomly or even not so randomly. And I guess I wonder how do we respond to the tragedies and pain of life. How does the reality of pain impact our faith, our view of God? How do we treat and comfort each other when faced with real pain. This brings us back to my favorite Psalm, Psalm 88. Renee Alston, in her book Stumbling Toward Faith, puts her frustration this way:

“In desperation I raced toward things that pretended to ease the loneliness, the aching yearning broken emptiness I could never explain. I swallowed offered solutions without argument, though they tasted bitter, though I wondered if they were poison even as they went down. … But when the pain, struggle, and doubt returned, it swept me under its power, and I found myself overwhelmed, feeling helpless, unloved, unvalued, and unsaved. All the “truths” that came to me in those powerful moments of “inner healing” had vanished from my consciousness. All my worth in God’s eyes dissipated, and I was left struggling for conviction that I mattered, convicted only of my brokenness, my terror, and my shame.

“The people praying over me didn’t know what to do with me. I frustrated them … once real life crashed into me, and the despair presented itself to them as raw, vulnerable woundedness, they feared for my salvation and their own expectations of Christianity were threatened. My pain didn’t fit into their carefully prescribed solutions, their falsely created illusions of ‘what God does” and “who God is.” My questions, my despair, my broken stilted half-destroyed faith wasn’t good enough for their pat answers and had no place among them.

“Then I learned to pretend … I welcomed my non-thinking, my ability to escape from my pain. I embraced their answers and buried my doubt and insecurity so deeply that I could deny it was ever there. … and when the time came to open my hands and show my Christianity, I discovered I was clutching nothing.”

Your assignment is to think about what advice you’d give to someone in real pain. (For advance homework, read the book of Job. I know, it’s more homework than you’d have to do for an episode of Oprah. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but pay particular attention to the response of his friends.) Because cliches are not enough. And eventually we all have to deal with a dark night of the soul.

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