I have a strange religious background. Strange, as in, I went from one extreme to the other.
I was raised Catholic. Then, at the age of twenty-five I had a power encounter with the Lord at a revival meeting in a charismatic Christian fellowship. Soon thereafter I left Catholicism for good and began attending that fellowship – may I say, religiously. After getting married about ten years later, I attended a couple of other similar fellowships with my husband until the age of forty-three.
Basically, I’ve been both Catholic and Protestant. But not just any kind of Protestant. No. Being the extremist that I am, I jumped head-first into the non-denominational denomination that teaches that if you pray for healing and don’t get it, you’re either in sin or you don’t have enough faith.
And believing in Yeshua’s words that “they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” isn’t enough. If you’re tight with God, are a “real” believer, you’ll get instant healing. Or, get healed much more quickly than is natural.
Because “greater works than these shall you do.”
Like all denominations of Christianity, the charismatic sector likes to pick and choose its favorite verses and ignore the rest.
How many people have walked away from God altogether because of that instant-healing doctrine? They or a loved one got sick or injured, and didn’t get healed immediately. Or if recovery happened, it took the same amount of time that it would for a non-praying heathen.
Why am I thinking about all that right now?
I have learned to appreciate my shoulders.
Long story short: two different injuries, more than a month apart, produced shoulder tendonitis in both shoulders as well as shoulder impingement in my right arm…at the same time.
I’m dealing with these issues right now, as I write these words. In addition to his regular chores, my husband has had to take on most of mine. I also can’t lift anything heavier than a half-gallon of water. Though my shoulders show signs of recovery, it’s a slow, gradual process, some days a two-steps-forward-three-steps-back kind of deal. It’s been really hard, because I’m an active person. And, it’s springtime. I love to be out in the garden, working. But this year, I have to ask J to do all the hard weeding. And my husband does not have the affinity for outdoor work that I do.
If only I were Catholic…
My mother, who turned eighty-four this year, will be Catholic until the day she dies. When I was on the phone with her a few months ago, she said something about one of her friends suffering from some ailment or other.
She commented, “I suppose she’s offering it up to the Lord.”
The charismatic-Protestant part of my mind initially scoffed at the idea. But when I thought about it later, I wondered why the concept was so bad. After all, Yeshua did say that we would have tribulations. Also, the apostle Paul suffered all sorts of hardships, yet he worked to be content in all situations. He counted all things as dung in order to achieve life with Christ.
“Take up your cross and follow Me.” That single statement is where the Catholics get the idea that their suffering should be as an offering to the Lord. They may take it too far sometimes with the belief that God has placed the suffering on them in order to teach them something (I think He does it more often than charismatic Christians want to admit, but less often than Catholics think).
Whether or not suffering and hardship come from God is irrelevant. Throughout the New Testament (and in many of the Psalms), believers are encouraged to “count it all joy.” To be content. To be thankful in all things. To be of good cheer despite the tribulations, because Yeshua overcame the world.
To yield ourselves to God’s will, to trust, to live at peace.
Yes, we are to pray the prayer of faith. But we’re also to remember that God isn’t a divine Santa Claus. We’re to remember that we live in a fallen world, and stuff happens. To us. Us believers who are doing our level-best to live righteously.
For decades, I’ve known in my heart that suffering, regardless of its source, is an opportunity to grow in my faith and trust, an opportunity to rise above my circumstances and find true joy, peace and contentment.
It’s just now clunked down into my heart.
I get it.
I have a choice.
My shoulders are sore. They ache. They’re injured, and because of it the muscles lower down on my arm are atrophying from disuse. It’s going to take time and effort to get everything functioning properly and pain-free again.
I can choose to accuse God of not answering my prayers for healing. I can choose to be angry at myself for not being careful that day I tripped and fell. I can choose to be frustrated that I’ll have to redouble my efforts to get my arms back into shape in a few months, to feel bad that J has had to take on extra work. I can choose to complain about my plight.
Or, I can choose to offer my suffering to the Lord. To be grateful for everything that’s right with my body and with my life, and to be content. I can choose to remember that when He was crucified,Yeshua suffered much worse things than I am now so that one day, I’d be able to escape this frail body and receive one that would never be injured or feel pain again.
I choose to offer myself up as a living sacrifice. I choose to be a little bit Catholic. Because, in this area, Catholicism is a little more biblical than charismatic Protestantism.