You’re reading along in a book, part of a book discussion, nodding and agreeing, and then you hit a chapter that takes you off the rails. And you’re trying to figure out how to get back on the rails.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. It’s a good book, filled with the kind of insight that comes from personal experience and theological understanding. I’ve found myself smoothly moving with the narrative flow.
And then I had my train wreck: Chapter 7 – “Comfort for the Afflicted.” Right up front, Sorge lays out his thesis: Affliction and infirmity are useful tools in God’s hands to refine His servants.
Sorge is speaking from a place of physical infirmity, He doesn’t say what it is, but it has been severe enough to lead him into a spiritual wilderness. He’s been suffering this infirmity through the writing of two books, this one and a previous one, some four years after suffering an injury.
Two-and-a-half years ago, the Saturday before Father’s Day, I was working in the garden, digging a hole for a small plant, and I stood up. A pain shot through my body like I had never felt, and I grabbed the side of the house to steady myself and keep from falling. The pain was severe enough to have knocked me down.
Somehow, I maneuvered myself inside. The pain was lessening; ibuprofen was at hand. Things gradually returned to a semblance of normal. A few weeks later, the pain came back, big time. I had suffered a ruptured disk in my back. The pain extended from the middle of my back, down my left leg and to the toes of my foot. I could not function with strong pain medications, the one that’s a step below morphine. I had to take the maximum dose, and I can remember watching the clock as it ticked slowly toward the next allowable dose.
The pain medicine was so strong that I couldn’t drive a car. The pain was so strong that the only comfortable position was flat on my back on the floor. A third person came to live in our house for the next six months, and his name was Mr. Pain. He was my constant companion, and my wife will tell you he changed my personality (and not for the better).
What lay ahead was months of intense physical therapy and traction twice a week. For a time I was walking with a cane, my body tilted at a 30-degree angle. I parked in handicapped parking spots. I learned how to walk in the rain (and snow) with a cane, carrying my briefcase and holding an umbrella. Surgery was a distinct possibility, and I had heard all the stories about how back surgery never works. A business associate I met stared at my cane and said, “You know, you’re never going to get better.”
I’ll cover some of what I learned from this experience next week, but Bob Sorge forced me to consider something I had not previously considered. This pain, this horrible pain I experienced, may likely have come from God.
That thought took me right off the rails.
We’ve been reading The Fire of Delayed Answers. To see more posts on this week’s chapter, “Comfort for the Afflicted,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.