I’ve been pondering on this one a little of late. Over the summer, after I came out of hospital in early June, I felt considerably better. For a considerable amount of time – around two months in all. I had some glimpses into ‘normality’, whatever that may be – life without pain, without my lungs feeling constantly full of rubbish which won’t go no matter how much physio I do and without all the associated stuff that goes alongside this. It was great! At New Wine I stood up a lot in worship times. Big deal? yes – for me. The year before I’d felt out of it, or at least felt out of it when I decided to allow myself to wallow in Feeling Out of It. I’d had to sit down a lot anyway and watch people standing up in front of me blocking the words on the screen. They could worship and I couldn’t, went my little pity script. I’d soon given up on that one, thankfully, and found something deeper. But then this year I could stand, and it was different, and I did feel more part of it.
The truth is that when I feel ‘well’ I feel more part of life, I feel like I am a useful cog in the machine as busyness swallows up my time instead of lying down attempting breathing. I feel strong. And the question I am asking myself is, does my perceived strength in these (admittedly few) times make me perceive God as stronger?
I’m the first to jump on the Philippians passage about God’s power being most evident in weakness and all that, and firmly believe it. But I wonder if, when we are feeling strong and busy, we don’t take time to realise this, and our strength becomes more important and becomes what makes God ‘strong’? Did my standing (and even dancing!) at NW make God more happy than my sitting and being? It’s definitely the strong that get noticed and the strong that make things happen. And strength is certainly not purely physical, many people talk of others being strong despite physical difficulties. But I wonder if we all need to be weak sometimes, in order to more fully appreciate how God works in weakness, and how God loves the weak.
I’d prefer my whole life to be like that two months, of course – but then would I know so well of God’s profound presence in my suffering, and identify with Jesus’ suffering, and know so clearly of God’s great desire for those who are suffering to find comfort and peace in God? I don’t know. I might be too busy rushing around, enjoying the feeling of busyness and the feeling of usefulness. I know I do this, and then when I am forced into inactivity I get grumpy for a while, but then begin to live in acceptance, and then it’s sort of OK. And it’s those times that I experience God’s strength more powerfully – not in the times I can ‘do’.
I have found the book ‘Where is God when it hurts?’ really helpful, but would like to ask the question ‘where is God when it doesn’t hurt?’ Is God more in the not hurting times because God doesn’t want us to hurt, or more in the hurting times because God wants us to know God’s love in these times? And do we miss God in the not hurting times because we can be so full of us? I think I do a little bit, and I’m not speaking for anyone else, but it’s worth a thought or two.
Since that two months ended abruptly with a most uninvited buggy guest taking residence in my lungs, I’ve been back to my normal, with a lot of pain and a lot of rubbish. I hate it and wish it would go away. I liked the good of the not hurting. But the good of the hurting is that God hurts too and that God knows how it feels and that God is somehow in it with me. Does that mean hurting is good? Never. But it means we can be real about it. And perhaps for me it means that next time I have a ‘well’ period I might just take the time to think about where God is, rather than where I am at this moment in time.