Double-Edge: A Means of Healing, A Means of Hurt

[I struggle with a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) called Scrupulosity – which focuses around one’s spirituality…This post reflects my being during these times…I take comfort that John Bunyan, who struggled with the same, somehow managed to serve God.

This is my normative experience when studying Scripture…the intensity of the anguish seems to vary somewhat – always despairing, but sometimes infinitely so…Yesterday and today it has beset me like the tentacles of an octopus squeezing its prey…

I am currently “off of” wheat for most intents and purposes. It is possible that this is intensifying the anguish right now…I can’t tell from time to time how bad it hurts – it always seems the same.

Just as likely (more likely?) is that it is caused by starting a new series and needing to understand the big picture. I can digest (with difficulty) smaller chunks of Scripture, but when it comes to taking in the big picture…

I usually preach week-to-week, which leaves little time for others to organize the elements of the service around the theme of the sermon…this is not b/c I want it this way…or even b/c of the time I don’t have…but b/c when I tackle the larger chunks I spiral like this…]

I’ve been teaching the Scriptures on at least a weekly basis for the last 10+ years. I love to help others understand what the Scriptures say, how to study the Scriptures for themselves, and to see the change that God operating through the Scriptures oftentimes brings into people’s lives. The Scripture are a means of healing for many…and I seek to always bring healing as I preach/teach.1Of course, sometimes healing is painful. I am willing to tackle difficult Scriptures – but the end goal is transformation.

I’ve been studying the Scriptures my entire life. When I engage the Scriptures I occasionally experience healing, but almost always I experience hurt. The surgical procedure necessary to bring about change has gone wrong and the knife is slicing much too deep – a process of healing has become a process of hurting.2I think of Edmund in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. While on an island he transforms into a dragon and cannot change back. He requires Aslan to remove the scales from him – and it hurts excruciatingly – but in the end the scales are removed. I feel like that, except that in this case Aslan’s nails are going far too deep, cutting through muscle, organs, bone.

Some have told me that my best sermons are usually when I am struggling and sharing out of that pain. I know what I am experiencing is not normative…that this isn’t the way that it should be, but it is, and all my desperate endeavors to change that have remained unchanged.

I am preparing to preach through the Gospel of Luke and to lead a small group through the same. I have been working through the “big picture” of the Gospel…and the pain I experience trying to consume the gospel’s big picture is excruciating. I can only work for so long before my head begins to throb, depression rises in my chest, my eyes begin to shutter with weariness.

“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh [so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.]3from Luke 8:10 , ESVshall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:5-6 ESV)

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’…And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.[how long am I to be with you and bear with you?]4From Luke 9:41'” (Luke 5:8, 10b ESV)

“And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV)

“But love your enemies [it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.]5From Luke 10:12, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil [but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven]6From Luke 12:8-10. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.[but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.]7From Luke 12:8-10” (Luke 6:35-36 ESV)

I survive by breaking up my studies. When the headache comes and the depression rises I take a break and watch TV or take a nap. Over and over again, what a frustrating cycle. I work from morning till night b/c I cannot work all in one shot…the pain simply becomes unbearable and I become unproductive – reading and writing yet not understanding nor comprehending.

I survive by reading William Barclay.8I have had this issue even before I began preaching. I somehow stumbled upon one of his commentaries in my early adolescence and felt a wave of understanding wash over me like I had never felt before… His commentary provides reasonable explanation that soothes my soul – or at least somehow diminishes the anguish. Perhaps it is just the distraction – the distraction from the text itself to the commentary.

I know the gospel. I know it is true. I am able to minister grace and love to others…to extend hope and encouragement to others, but the same blade that provides healing slips between my ribs with astonishing ease and begins to wiggle around – wreaking havoc at every moment.

Dear God, will you take this burden from me? But I have begged a hundred thousand times if I have begged once and you have remained silent. Your grace is sufficient – but it must fall on me like the floodwaters rushing down upon the earth in Noah’s day – b/c, O God, I am not sufficient…I cannot bear up…and I do not understand…and the sky, it looks so dry.


“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:5-6 ESV)

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’…And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.'” (Luke 5:8, 10b ESV)

“And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV)

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36 ESV)

“[H]e said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'” (Luke 8:10 ESV)

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it…For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-24, 26 ESV)

“Jesus answered, ‘O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.'” (Luke 9:41 ESV)

“Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:61-62 ESV)

“I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” (Luke 10:12 ESV)

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Luke 12:8-10 ESV)

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Of course, sometimes healing is painful. I am willing to tackle difficult Scriptures – but the end goal is transformation.
2. I think of Edmund in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. While on an island he transforms into a dragon and cannot change back. He requires Aslan to remove the scales from him – and it hurts excruciatingly – but in the end the scales are removed. I feel like that, except that in this case Aslan’s nails are going far too deep, cutting through muscle, organs, bone.
3. from Luke 8:10
4. From Luke 9:41
5. From Luke 10:12
6, 7. From Luke 12:8-10
8. I have had this issue even before I began preaching. I somehow stumbled upon one of his commentaries in my early adolescence and felt a wave of understanding wash over me like I had never felt before…
Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.