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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

When Christians are a pain

This blog comes to you thanks to imigran, from the laboratories of GlaxoSmithKline, for which I praise God. At about 5.00 am this morning I woke with the aura, the sensation in my head showing that a migraine was on the way. No problem – I simply fumbled for my imigran blister pack, took the tablet and went back to sleep. Otherwise by now I would be fighting the pain, usually over my left eye. By 10.00 am I would have to lie down with severe pain, ending at about 4.00 pm with vomiting. By 6.00 pm I would be well enough to watch television with the pain going at about 8.00 pm. The following day I would be drained. I was first diagnosed with migraine just three years old by an alert doctor at Alder Hey. And it has been with me ever since, several times each month. No idea what causes it. Kind friends would regularly send me cuttings from women’s magazines, to no avail. This all changed in 1991 when imigran was launched “for those migraine sufferers for whom nothing works.” I’ve just been reading online the original marketing blurb: “Essentially the product could put sufferers back in control of their lives – one pill and they’re back living normally.” That's me. And yet over the years I had been prayed with, received the laying on of hands, been given words of knowledge – the whole works. Sometimes I thought I was healed – until the next migraine came along. I did know people whose migraines had stopped following the laying on of hands – Auntie Rita, for example. However, this never troubled my faith in God's goodness. I just realized that we are not there yet. We still live in a dysfunctional world, awaiting God's glorious future. It was the eminent RC theologian, Hans Kung, who observed that “the Kingdom of God is creation healed.” The problem is usually other Christians, those with an “over-realized eschatology”, who play down the “not yet” of God’s kingdom while stressing the “already.” The film “Joni” was made in 1979 at the peak of the charismatic movement about quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, paralysed from the shoulders down following a diving accident. It features an incident when a friend offers to pray for Joni, for her complete healing. He soon gives up and simply leaves her to it. Which reminds me of Cynthia, a saint and a member of the church where I was curate. Confined to a wheelchair she once shared with me how she endured healing services. Endured, because at the end of each service she had yet again let everyone down by her failure to walk. In fact, only yesterday I heard how one mother was promised by her pastor that her unborn child - against medical expectations - would be born perfect. He was wrong and yet it was they who paid the price for his imprudence. Maybe the apostle Paul suffered from migraine. This could have been his thorn (or stake) in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7) . This was a common figure of speech in Paul's day for excruciating physical pain. Moreover Galatians 4:14 ("my illness was a trial to you") and 4:15 ("you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me") lend support to this theory. I personally don’t buy it, but it does go to show that even the apostle Paul had to live with unanswered prayer. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:8f) And that’s the good news. God can use us best when we feel least useful. I have no doubt that I have a greater empathy for those who are in chronic pain. I still flinch when people tell me that they have a headache. But the wonder of the Kingdom is the discovery with Paul that our frailty we can offer to God for him to use in some way. “Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (v10, the Message translation).

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