There are so many who suffer- sick and in pain, whose bodies fail and who silently endure the isolation and shame. Terminal illness, chronic illness, injuries, disease and age- there is no one who chooses to be sick or ill or in pain. There are countless numbers who needed assistance to perform even the most basic of functions- their sense of dignity and independence gone, overwhelmed with humiliation and shame. How many times would I see the silent condemnation of those who were smug, self centered and more able bodied. Sometimes, less frequently would be the looks of pity.
When I worked as an EMT I would see so many hurting people imprisoned and betrayed by their failing bodies. It was not a life they choose, and it was not their fault as so many heartened hearts would like to believe. One memory that comes to mind was a widowed woman - a double amputee as a result of diabetes, as well as a cancer survivor. Yet she was alert and in good spirits- clearly she had a great amount of strength and perseverance. I accompanied her on a follow up visit with her doctor. She had survived cervical cancer.- the final cancerous cells were eradicated months earlier after chemotherapy treatment. Her cheerful spirits were quickly replaced with anxiety and apprehension when the doctor explained she needed an internal exam. She did not want to be subjected to the humiliation of yet another internal exam- not now, not ever, much less in front of a stranger- that being me. I did my best to convince her to do the exam; explaining that it was better to get it over with and out of the way and that it needed to be done. She reluctantly agreed, her face and eyes vacant in an attempt to distance herself from the unpleasant situation. The exam was quick and relatively painless. Yet for her, it was another blow to her dignity. Nevertheless she wasn't alone. In that clinical examination room, Jesus was present. God did not need a temple, sanctuary or altar.... a simple, sterile examination room was sufficient for His presence. Jesus was no stranger to pain, shame and humiliation either. This woman had survived a double amputation and cancer treatment, but the humiliation of an internal examination was just simply too much. I did not have to go through what she had to endure- at that time. It was easy for me to stand there and offer my support. But my turn was coming.
It helps when I direct my thoughts were drawn to Jesus - and that long, dark, lonely night he spent in the garden of Gethemsane. Jesus was God in the flesh, divine in spirit. Yet, at the same time Jesus was fully human- with a body subject to the same pains, discomforts and sensations as the rest of us. Though he was God, he was also a man. He was subject to human emotions: pain, grief, fear, thirst and foreboding. With his divine nature, Jesus knew exactly what he was about to endure- a torturous death on the cross filled pain, suffering, humilation, shame. In fact the pain he was yet to experience in a few short hours was described in explicit detail by David in the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah! The torurous, sensations of drowning in one's own fluid filled lungs, in a prolonged death of asphyxiation, stretched out on the cross, was described by David. Isaiah and David foretold of the nakedness, shame, and humilation and abandonment that Jesus was yet to face at the cross. The sensations of thirst, pain, flesh stripped to shreds- to the bone, and even the shame- all fortold! Jesus was fully aware of what he would endure. Jesus was griefstricken, sickened, lonely, and axious. And who wouldn't be in the face of death on the cross? We complain and bellyache about much less! Jesus, in his despair and pain pleaded with God to take the cup of suffering away- three times! Jesus asked his apostles to have the strength to remain awake. But they could not remain awake. They simply did not have the strength. Blood stained sweat dripped from Jesus as he fervently prayed. (Whoever painted those santised, artistic renditions of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, depicting Jesus wearing a freshly pressed and laundered white robe, with a pensive yet peaceful look, in Italy in the 1400s, probably never read the actual biblical account. ) Yet, God gave Jesus- the supernatural strength he needed to persever, and Jesus responded "not My will but Your Will."
I remember going to the hospital months after my late term pregnancy loss- stillbirth. In all my years- I was fortunate to never experience any health problems. Despite my age, I was in perfect health- that is until my later term loss. In my years I took some degree of pride in my physical health and strength- those naïve and carefree days were over. From that point on it went downhill. My body had betrayed me. And I found myself once again back in the hospital, stripped with nothing more than a flimsy, clinical gown to cover my shame. I was wheeled into the operating room, with very little to cover my nakedness, filled with anxiety, stinging tears of anger and most of all humiliation as if I had not already been through enough.
The power of the Holy Spirit is very real. The Holy Spirit is here and alive and ready for us. Not many people meditate on the significance of the Holy Spirit. Yes it is true, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity. Intellectually many people are aware of the fact. Every Sunday morning, we are reminded. Yet the significance is enormous! When you consider the Holy Spirit- which is in fact God (just as Jesus is God and the Father is God), then the true meaning and significance become more apparent. It is nothing short of miraculous! God is with us through the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit of God is no less real than the presense of Jesus Christ in ancient Palestine, or the presence of God, the Father in his throne in heaven. All three are God, and the Holy Spirit is essentially God with us- here right now. It is the Holy Spirit that gave Jesus the strength to endure his fate on the cross. It is the Holy Spirit that helped Jesus survive 40 torturous and lonely days & nights in a dry desolate dessert, parched and hungry in the face of the devil's temptations. It is the Holy Spirit that gave a band of unlearned men. the apostles, the strength and wisdom to persevere and spread the good news of the gospel message. This same Holy Spirit strengthened the early believers to face a painful death, being torn to shreds by wild animals, as the were marytered for entertainment at the hands of the ancient Roman government. That same very Holy Spirit can help each and every one of us, infusing us with supernatural, spiritual strength to persevere, even when our minds and our bodies fail us. This is not about our own will power. It isn't about keeping a new years resolution or being tough and independant. This is not simply another self help type of advise that is contained in countless dieting, and relationship and other self helpbooks. This isn't like having a voice in one's head telling us what to do or what not to do. This is about the power of the Holy Spirit that helps us, when we are at our weakest. We don't muster this strength on our own merits, but rather by placing our faith in God.
Jesus explained that we must not live by bread and food alone but by the word of God. The word of God is more important than the food and water we need for our daily sustainence! Certainly food and water keep our physical bodies alive and functioning, but there is something much more important than the physical body- and that is the spirit. Our spiritual health is more important to true life than merely our physical state. And, even when our bodies betray us, when our physical bodies fail us and shame us, we can find renewing and refreshing strength that we need from the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has the miraculous life changing power to renew each and every one of us spiritually. Replace the expression or term "Holy Spirit" with "God" and it will become clear that God himslef has the power to renew and restore our spirit in order to give us the strength we need to endure and persevere. With God at your side, who needs a counselor or physchologist? Pills, doctors, drugs and medications pale in comparison to the power of God himself through the Holy Spirit! Everything is second place- money, prosperity, career, selfish ambition- its all a counterfit when it comes to the power for peace and strength. You can spend hours in psychotheraphy, you may spend lots of money shopping, or to go on drinking binges, or mind- numbing outings at bars, parties, clubs, sports and other entertainment- all these things may numb the pain or provide diversion- but none of these things can heal. Only God can heal. The power of the Holy Spirit can heal the sick and weak spirit. The power of the holy Spirit can changes lives- no matter how many days you have remaining before you- whether its one day or 70 years. We don't need to be vampires to live for ever, nor do we need superheros like Superman or Spiderman to save us.
And then suddenly in the middle of my pain and grief - from no where I felt a bit of hope, and peace and thankfulness. God did not take away my problems-they are still there. But, sometimes God's answer to our requests and problems is simply "no", yet I was offered spiritual strength and peace. It is through trials and storms we gain spiritual strength and the ability to persevere. I've been shortsited- overcome in my own personal grief and anxiety. Paul had the thorn in his side, that God chose not to take away and in his weakness he found strength. When Jesus pleaded with God in Gethemane to take away his cup of suffering he was given strength and peace to proclaim, "not my will, but yours." I have the spiritual strength to go on another day, and the peace to lay aside my worry and anxiety. God has the power to grant hope and change lives- God has been there for me in the past to pull me through and will do so now.