Pain is good at getting our attention. As C.S. Lewis has famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures. . . . but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Last fall, with megaphone-like resound, God returned my attention to His Word like never before.
I thought I knew just what I needed. My soul was nearing the point of dangerous depletion after an intensely loaded stretch of ministry. So to revive my now highly-numbed state, I planned out a long day hike along the cascading landscapes of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It would be just what I needed: a feast of fall foliage, an indulgence of the open air. An only child’s paradise. I had it pictured perfectly–just me walking along the mountain ridgeline, wide in wonder to the beauty of God…and my best hiking buddy, of course, our yellow lab, Howdy.
Everything was off to a killer start. Surging waterfalls, gentle streams, bursting color all smiled at us as we trekked with joy along the well-cut trail. After an hour, we caught up to another hiker and his dog, and decided to hike part of the trail together. As our dogs played, and the hiker and I conversed, I began getting a little worried for Howdy. The other dog was getting rough, so I decided to grab Howdy, and let this hiking duo go on ahead of us. After all, this was supposed to be a solitary retreat. But in my efforts to free Howdy from the other dog, it happened. I slipped, fell, and like many times before, dislocated my left shoulder. Within seconds the pain set in maddeningly. With the help of the other hiker I was able to pull my arm back in socket, but the damage was already done. My perfectly planned day was over. I would have to turn around, and return to my exhausted world with even greater frustration.
As I slowly made my way back down the trail, I noticed a beautiful clearing arrayed by birch trees bursting with exquisite color. It was the perfect place to rest. As I began sitting down, it struck me that I hadn’t actually stopped moving for a single second on my retreat. Not only so, I realized I hadn’t looked to Holy Scripture either. So I turned to Psalm 19 to hear Scripture’s testimony to creation’s anthem. But in this text on God’s nature-song, I heard something far greater than anything I could experience on that trail. The painful noise finally became clear.
Verse 7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (NRSV, italics mine). Or as The Message puts it, “The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.”
It wasn’t just my shoulder that was dislocated that day, but my soul. It had been pulled apart from my unending, deafening busyness, and I wasn’t even turning to the source to put it back together, Holy Scripture. While the created order is undoubtedly to be savored and enjoyed, only God’s Word can bring life that truly satisfies. It is what revives my soul. So often when we’re burned out we look for easy-fixes, like TV or Internet or even escape, to sooth our souls, but only God’s Word can truly provide what we need.
I got the megaphone-projected message loud and clear that day. When my soul is feeling starved and pulled to pieces, I need look no further than God’s Word. It is my soul’s feast; it is my socket, pulling everything together.
Have you had a moment where God has sent you a “Meagaphone-projected message”? What was it like?
How has God gotten your attention through pain?
Dave Ripper serves as Pastor of Young Adult Ministries (20 & 30-somethings) at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA (grace.org). He is passionate about leading people to live life with God through teaching, writing, conversation, and the spoken word. Dave and his wife, Erin, a mental health therapist, are graduates of Denver Seminary and Grove City College. They write on spiritual formation and all else that brims over at daveanderin.tumbr.com.