The e-mail stunned all who read it. My dear friend and mentor had received the horrible news that her son was in a dangerous situation. Dire circumstances had left him fighting for his life. As a professional firefighter, he was on the job helping others in need when he became trapped under some debris, full of fiery blaze, trying to escape from a burning home. Eighty percent of his body was burned, and it wasn’t even certain if he would survive.
After it finally became clear that he would live, the need for skin grafts then brought with it a whole new set of pain. The dreadful event was magnified when some of his limbs were at risk of being lost. The shock and grief rippled its way to his family, parents, friends, coworkers and others who knew him.
Our emotional pain expanded as the news came to us. Although nowhere near the physical severity of this man, this sad news was still imprinting itself in our inner being, affecting all our hearts and all our emotions with pain. Like a stone leaving a ripple effect after being thrown in the water. The rings seemed to continue and multiply forever, never ending. This was synonymous with the pain of those who received the news.
Perhaps you have had similar pain. Or maybe reading this immediately reminds you of a person close to you who has experienced pain. Possibly not at this magnitude, but pain nonetheless. We all experience pain in some form simply by living here on this earth. So I want to ask you, what has been the most difficult area of pain in your life? What specific pain are you dealing with right now?
Is it trying to handle the trickle down effects of the economy? Trying to decide how you are going to feed your children when your paycheck doesn’t cover all the bills?
Is it the fact that you need a home because the sky in the forest has become your roof and shelter?
Are you in physical pain due to a long-term injury, so now your only focus in your daily life is how to endure such excruciating pain?
Perhaps your pain comes from complete loneliness. Being around many people yet feeling invisible, left out, abandoned and forgotten.
Or it might be like that of one of those who lost all their belongings in the Rodeo-Chediski Fire.
Look on television, read the newspaper, or simply listen on the radio or look around our community. Pain is everywhere you turn. Emotional, physical, or mental pain surrounds us all daily.
Often times as I minister to people in various situations, I am asked to pray for others and encourage them in the very midst of their specific pain, offering them spiritual comfort, reassurance and inspiration by reading the Bible.
My experience has taught me that pain is not a stranger to anyone and it crosses barriers of race, nationality, age, gender and economic status. Its markings are the same across the board. In addition, the response is the same: asking why, questioning, doubting, fear.
So, whether I minister to women who are barren, or to those who lost all their belongs in a flood or in a fire, pain touches us all.
A hospice care provider can easily identify with the cycle of grief. Psychiatrists and psychologists alike will attest these same behaviors are also detected in dealing with the many types of pain we endure as humans. The behavior of the grief cycle includes; shock, denial, anger, guilt, bargaining and depression.
No doubt this widow was going through this cycle. This woman in the Bible no doubt experienced some of these behaviors.
Pain is the core of the story of the woman at Nain. She lost her son to death and she was like any other person in the midst of pain: numb, stoic, throbbing. Perhaps confused, definitely emotional, and she probably had feelings of hopelessness as well as, multiple questions of “Why?” Why did this happen to me? Why this pain? Why now? Why me?
The author of this story is Luke, a doctor and the only gentile writer of the New Testament. I believe that Luke focused on these attributes in this situation of this widow because as a physician, he could relate to the demanding needs of all kinds of pain. He highlights and brings out the core attributes of Jesus, thus clearly demonstrating that Jesus cares for those who are hurting, those in pain. From one physical physician to the great spiritual Physician, this story unfolds.
The account takes place after Jesus heals a centurion’s servant at the beginning of chapter seven. This wealthy Roman ruler was in such great need of his faithful servant being healed that he desperately called upon Jesus to help him. In great faith, the centurion even requested that Jesus just speak the word — not even bother going to the servant’s bed — confident that his servant would be healed.
Jesus not only marvels that this man had so much faith, but He turns to the crowd, lifting this centurion up as a perfect example of faith, expressing praise toward him saying, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” When Jesus himself gives a compliment all of heaven is in agreement. A compliment indeed!
So at the beginning of chapter seven of Luke, it starts out with Christ pronouncing praises and compliments to this Roman soldier. Then it quickly contrasts to a less than festive circumstance.
Jesus begins to walk into a new city called Nain and his disciples accompanied Him there followed by a large crowd. We have just observed them in a situation of joy and celebration at the healing of the servant, but soon the narrative will shift to completely different emotions of pain, grief and despair. From afar, walking from one place to another, Jesus could see something different from his previous encounter.
We can all relate to this, can’t we? Everything is going great, even to the point of joy and celebration, but then all of a sudden we are struck by some kind of pain, some kind of bad news of a drastic situation that affects us or our loved ones.
They could see the bad news as they approached the gate of Nain and as they were going into the city of Nain, all of these people were coming out. It was as if these two groups almost bumped into each other at the city gates. What they encountered was a body of a dead young man being carried out. This was the only son of this widowed mother. Talk about pain. It is one thing to lose a son, but her only son? And she had no husband either, adding to her pain. This is where I feel the reality really sunk in, during the funeral. Her questions, concerns, feelings of despair all overflowing with untamed emotions.
During that time frame and in that culture, a woman depended solely on the support of her husband and sons. The culture really did not allow her any means of taking care of herself. She had grief on top of grief. Where would she go? How would she support herself?
Then the text then reads:
When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”
And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!”
This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.
Several things happened after Jesus first entered the city of Nain.
1) Jesus saw the widowed woman
2) Immediately His heart had compassion upon her
3) He spoke to her with comfort
4) Jesus ministered to her specific pain
5) All those around glorified God
6) The news spread all around “God has visited His people!”
One phenomenal thing about this story is that Jesus broke all barriers to minister comfort to this widow in pain. It was against tradition that Jesus (of Jewish descent) would touch the coffin of a dead person, not to mention communicating with gentle compassion to a woman, especially of gentile ethnicity. This, in the eyes of man, was seen as abomination and unclean, but not in the eyes of God. It did not matter to Jesus what man thought, only His heavenly Father. There was a greater need that catapulted His boldness of compassion and humility, the ministering to someone in pain.
The second phenomenal point about this passage is that Jesus demonstrated His power over life and death. We are dead in our flesh but Jesus has the power over death to give new spiritual life and bring it abundantly. When in the center point of our pain, Jesus can bring new life to our personal situation of pain. He can bring that through you opening up your “gate” which is your heart, and allowing Him to touch you with great comfort at the core of your pain.
(To be concluded in the May 20, 2009 Review)
Biblical Text: Luke Chapter 7
Book to Read: “Why? ... Trusting God When You Don’t Understand” by Anne Graham Lotz
National Day of Prayer: Thursday May 7, 2009; theme: Prayer … America’s Hope
Scripture Verse: Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You. (Psalm 33:22)
For local prayer vigils, check local newspapers, posters and the Web site www.ndop.org
About the Author
Simone Lake is a full-time minister and serves in her calling in the areas of international Bible teacher, speaker, missionary, mentor, chaplain and author. She holds a master’s degree in theology and attends Church on Randall Place where she serves in various capacities alongside her husband Pastor John Lake.
Read more about Simone’s work and upcoming events at simonelake.com or simonelake.blogspot.com
Current Bible Studies
Pursuing More of Jesus begins Tuesday, June 2 at 9 a.m. at the Church on Randall Place in Pine. Call (928) 595-0837 for more information.
National Day of Prayer, various prayer vigils — May 7, 2009
Medical Strategic Network, teaching and training for health professionals — June 2009
May 2009: Ecuador — teaching, training and leadership development for nationals.
Summer & Fall 2009: Virgin Islands — teaching, training and leadership development for nationals.
Simone Lake, minister of prayer, education and administration at Church on Randall Place in Pine
“Let us put on the armor of light ... Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 13: 12, 14