Nothing unites the individual parts of a body like the pain network. An infected toe nail announces to me that the toe is important, its mine, it needs attention. If you step on my toe , I may yell “That’s me!” I know it’s me, because your foot is at that moment resting on pain sensors. Pain defines me, gives me borders.
Wolves have been known to gnaw off one of their own hind legs once it has grown numb in the winter cold. the numbness interrupts the unity of the body; evidently they no longer perceive the leg as belonging to them.
A baby chewed off her own finger. Unable to feel pain , she had no acute sense that the finger was hers, and needed protection. Alcoholics and people with leprosy, diabetes and other problems of insensitivity face a constant battle to keep in touch with their extremites…
In the human body, blood cells and lympy cells rush pell-cell to the sight of any invasion. The body shuts down all nonessential activiteis and attends to the injury. And physical pain lies at the heart of this unified response.
Pain is the very mechanism that forces me to stop what I’m doing and pay attention to the hurting member. It makes me stop playing basketball if I sprain an anckle, change my shoes if they’re too tight, go to the doctor if my stomach keeps hurting.
As in the body, so in this new kind of relationship the key to success lies in the sensation of pain. All of us rejoice at the harmonious working of the human body. Yet we can but sorrow at the ill—relationships between men and women.
In short, the healthest body is the one that feels the pain of its weakest parts…. Likewise, I must argue, the most civilised and well functioning community is one that looks after the most needy amongst them.
In human society we are suffering because we do not suffer enough. So much of the sorrow in the world is to the selfishness of one living ornaism that simply doesn’t care when the next one suffers. In the body if one cell or group of cell grows and flourishes at the expense of the rest, we call it cancer and know that if it is allowed to spread the body is doomed. And yet, the only alternative to the cancer is absolute loyalty of every cell to the body, the head.
Not all pain is so far away: there are some in every (home, street,) church and office. The unemployed, divorced, widowed, bedridden, homelless, aged — are we atteding to them?
The Christian church, by all accounts, has done a mixed job of acting as Christ’s body through the ages. Sometimes it has seemed to devour itself (the Inquisition, releigious wars). Yet in his commitment to human freedom Christ still relies upon us to communicate his love to he world. And despite its failures the church (particularlly in the Western World) has indeed responded in part. In every major city in the U.S., you an find hospitals with names like Lutheran General Christ Hospital, St. Mary’s, Good Samaritan, Baptist Hospital. These institutions, although often run as secular businesses, had their origins in a group of believers who believed healing was part of their calling as Christ’s body.
In nation like India , less than three percent of the population call themselves Christian, but Christians are responsible for more than eighteen percent of the health care. If you say the word ‘Christian” to an Indial peasant — who may never have heard of Jesus Christ — the first image to pop into his mind may well be that of a hospital, or of a medical van that stops by his village once a month to provide free, personal care in Christ’s name….
Bear one another’s burdens, the Bible says. It is a lesson about pain that we all can agree on… pain and suffering are here among us, and we need to respond in some way. The response Jesus gave us was to bear the burdens of those he touched. To live in the world as his body, his emotional incarnation, we must follow his example.
The image of the body accurately portrays how God is working in the world. Sometimes he does enter in, occasionally be performing miracles, and often by giving supernatural strength to those in need.
Healing or miraculous healing (breakthrough) is one way out of the dillemma, but in truth we must aknowledge that not everyone finds miraculous healing. I don’t mean to dwonplay physical healing. But …. everyone who has been healed (and those who have been used to heal others) eventually face death. So healing (or breakthrough) does not remove the problem of pain; it merely delays it.
We are asked to live out the life of Christ in the world, not just to refer bak to it or describe it. We announce his message, work for justice, pray for mercy… and suffer with the sufferers.
—Philip Yancey; Where Is God When It Hurts , Page 248 – 250