Introduction to biblical pain
The pain in my body is a more significant issue than my paralysis and given I am a Christian, I researched biblical pain. I already knew that a Christian life doesn’t equate to a perfect life. The church was full of people who were imperfect, with faults, and they experience painful events. The pain can come in various forms. My pain was physical, and to a lesser extent, I’ve experienced emotional pain too. Being a Christian wasn’t a ‘Golden Ticket’ to a wonderful life on earth.
There are times when my pain levels increase, and I may blame people who work at Cedar College for allowing the accident to occur. The school pleaded guilty in the Industrial Relations Court in 2011, so I feel justified in blaming them. However, this type of thinking doesn’t reduce my pain. I didn’t hear Jesus complain about the reasons why he was on the cross. Instead, he was on the cross and ministering to the thieves next to him. Maybe I could emulate Jesus, by encouraging someone in need, or meeting their needs, or praying for them? Could this take the focus off my pain?
Jesus and biblical pain
The starting point of biblical pain is Jesus. He didn’t sin, lead a life full of love and care for others, but was crucified and experienced much pain. An invention of the Persians around 300 BC, crucifixion was modified by the Romans two hundred years later, and typically only used for low life criminals and enemies of the state. Rather than a quick execution, crucifixion was a slow and painful death, open to the public, so the word could spread and act as a deterrent to others committing the same crime. Slaves that escaped their masters were crucified, and we know that Jesus was placed between two thieves, and Jesus fell into the ‘enemy of the state’ type of criminal. The English word ‘excruciating’ has its origins from the Latin word ‘excruciare’, taken from the word ‘cruciare’, which is ‘to crucify’. I awoke to excruciating pain in October 2010, and although the pain is still with me, it is much less than the biblical pain Jesus faced. I have the benefit of modern drugs, in the form of Lyrica (for nerve pain), and various brands of morphine based pain relief, but Jesus refused wine. The wine would have provided relief, as it has an anaesthetic effect due to the myrhh, but Jesus wanted to endure the cross with full consciousness. Later, Jesus was offered a second type of wine, and he drank this, and it prolonged the pain.
Initially, the weight of Jesus was supported by his feet as they were nailed to the cross. Over time the strength of the lower body failed, and the upper body provided the support. This resulted in dislocations of the shoulders, elbows and wrists and an earlier prophecy predicted this in Psalm 22:14…
‘I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.’
Once the upper body was unable to support his body, Jesus was unable to exhale without moving his body up and down. This increased the level of pain. After six hours on the cross, Jesus became short of breath and developed Hypoxia as his brain was deprived of oxygen. He continued to bleed from the injuries sustained, both before and after the crucifixion, and he was dehydrated. The excessive sweating made the situation worse. John 19:28 records the point of time when Jesus realised death was imminent…
‘Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.”
The likely cause of death was heart failure, and it seemed fitting that Jesus died of a broken heart. John 19:30 records the last few words of Jesus before death…
‘When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’
The experience of Jesus helped me to cope with my chronic pain, knowing that Jesus went through pain much worse than me, and Jesus did it for me. Would I go through this type of pain for others? I doubt it. And my pain wasn’t a choice, it is a result of other people making decisions, or failing to do so.
The twelve disciples and biblical pain
Did the disciples and other followers of Jesus experience pain? They sure did experience biblical pain, and eleven out of the twelve closest believers died as a result of following Jesus.
Simon-Peter opted to be crucified upside down, as he didn’t feel worthy to be given the same execution method as Jesus. Andrew travelled to Greece and was given an opportunity to give up his beliefs about Jesus or be killed. He continued to believe, and instead of being nailed to a cross, he was tied, as the pain would last longer. His cross was X shaped and became known as ‘St Andrew’s cross’, and can be seen in the flag of Scotland. While on the cross, Andrew continued to preach about Jesus. Unlike Andrew, I do not talk about the love of Jesus when my pain reaches higher levels. Philip, the first disciple, preached in Asia and he was arrested and thrown into an Egyptian prison, and eventually crucified. Bartholomew also preached in Asia, and one account of his death involved being skinned alive, followed by beheading.
Thomas was active in Greece and India, and there is an account of him being speared by an upset resident. Thaddaeus was another to die via crucifixion, and I was surprised to find that Simon was executed in England, via a cross. The legend of Matthew’s death involves being executed by a hitman after Matthew offended a King by suggesting he had questionable morals. The disciple, James, had a much quicker and painless death, as he was beheaded by the Romans. The other James made it to the nineties and died from being beaten to death by non-believers. And finally, we get to John, the only disciple to live to old age, and seems to have escaped from the type of biblical pain that others experienced. Judas Iscariot, the traitor, hung himself after feeling remorse over betraying Jesus. Judas’s death was so violent, his bowels came out of his body, and the place was given the name ‘Aceldama’. The translation is ‘Field of Blood’.
When I read about the description of biblical pain experienced by Jesus and the early believers, I have no right to complain about the pain I experience. The topic of persecution is expressly plainly in 2 Timothy 3:12…
‘In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’
Why would I want to follow Jesus?
Why then, would anyone want to be a follower of Jesus, with promises such as this? Possibly this question is answered in Matthew 5:10-12…
‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’
No pain, no gain, I guess, and the promise of eternal life is a big factor. Fortunately, I live in a country where you may worship the God of your choice, and there is little persecution. I know of missionaries that have ventured to other countries, and they have been persecuted, and some killed for their beliefs.
Jesus provided encouragement to those who were experiencing hard times, in Matthew 11 28-30…
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
Paul was also encouraging when he wrote in Romans 12:12…
‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’
No life with hope
Having hope is vital in life. Although I am paralysed from the chest down and have chronic pain, I have hope. The hope isn’t in me, it is based on God, my two children, my partner and friends. I would be hopeless without them, and establishing and maintaining relationships is vital, even when the odds are against you. During 2012 I attempted self-harm as I had little hope. I stared at the 40 or more pain relief capsules for about five minutes, trying to imagine a good future for me. Apart from the physical damage to my body as a result of the tree falling on me, I was in shock about my marriage.
Just at the right time, a visitor opened my front door, and noticed the pile of pain relief, and took it away from me, and arranged for me to go to the hospital. I spent a night there, and the next day heard the words ‘You do not belong here’. Shortly after this, I convinced the psychiatrist to allow me to go home. I didn’t tell her about the message I heard, as I thought she would keep me locked up. I believe the visitor was sent by God, and the words were from God too. I’ve experienced many little miracles from the time the tree hit me.
Promises from God
The Bible contains many people who were great at praying. My children are always hearing from me that they need to be proactive, rather than being reactive, but my prayer life is reactive, and not proactive. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 mentions…
‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’
Praying continually is proactive, but the default setting on humans is reactive, rather than proactive. If God only hears from us when we experience problems, it doesn’t leave much room for praise, thanks and worship towards God.
In Revelation 21:3-4, there is a promise that in the future, pain, struggles and suffering will be over, and I looked forward to this day.
‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
I would be in Heaven and without a physical body, so it makes sense that physical pain would no longer exist. I struggle with the whole concept of Heaven, and also that of Hell. My brain wants to understand facts, rather than relying on faith. The idea of Hell is a bigger issue for me, as I know many good unbelievers that are on their way to Hell, and they have much better character, values and morals, than many believers.
There is more comfort in Psalm 34 18-19…
‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all’
When pain hits me, everything else I need to do becomes more difficult. Stress and anxiety levels rise and Philippians 4:6-7 and Matthew 6:25 are helpful.
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?’
Not being anxious and not worrying, is easier said than done. Particularly for someone who likes to be in control, and is well organised. There are times when I have to force myself to ‘let go’ and allow God to be in control. I have to repeat to myself ‘God is in control. God is in control’.
Summing up biblical pain
Biblical pain existed for Jesus and the disciples. Living without pain may not be possible for me, however, I keep praying for it to happen, while taking steps to control and limit the pain. God is in control, and one day my pain will end.
Read about how I attempt to deal with physical pain.