Surrounded by Screaming Fish

fish-288988_640Are you in pain?
How do you handle it?
Suffer through it? Medicate it? Ignore it? Seek professional help? Complain about it? Treat it yourself?
We live in world full of people in pain. Every day someone with whom we interact is experiencing pain on either a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual level.
How they choose to handle that pain could affect us in devastating ways.
My father has had severe knee pain for years. This month, he’ll undergo surgery to address it. One way he handles this pain is to avoid doing things that aggravate it- like climbing stairs.
I’ve struggled for months with severe upper back pain aggravated by tasks I do every day – computer work, driving, backpack, stress. I’m trying to make lifestyle changes to stop it. I’ve had amazing massages, taken medication, and been prayed over by my church.
Pain is a marvelous gift to us from a loving God. It’s like an emergency alert system letting us know something is causing us harm. Fire alarms are aggravating and not something we want to be going off all the time but they alert us to do something to get ourselves out of harm’s way.
So does pain.
Daily, I speak with people in pain. Most of them are treating their pain in ways that are destructive to themselves or to others and so they’ve shown up on my radar.
Their deep emotional or mental anguish is hurting them so it drives them to hurt themselves through cutting, starvation, truancy, isolation, depression, or substance abuse. Some are handling their pain by hurting others through manipulation, emotional games, rage, rebellion, domestic violence, bullying, abuse, withdrawal, gun violence, or worse.
Often, the visible pain of one person is the alarm system that saves that family – it helps the family move away from what they’ve been doing that is causing harm.
Sometimes people are so certain there is no solution to their pain, they decide the only option left is to end their lives or end the lives of others so the world will finally hear their anguished cry.
Untreated pain is the underlying driver of so much suffering in our society. It’s like the booming backbeat to the soundtrack of the modern age.
When Jesus walked the earth, He spent a lot of time healing people and the gospel writers featured this healing in their record of Jesus’ ministry.

When you read the gospels, it’s clear that each person’s healing was a little different from another’s.

Some healing was the result of a word from Jesus, some from a touch, some from them touching Him. For some, he used mud and spit. Some were healed instantly while others healed in stages. Some healing happened through forgiveness of sins, deliverance from demon, fasting, and prayer.

Just as a physician has many avenues of treatment for his patients, so Jesus displayed numerous avenues for relieving peoples’ pain -but every avenue passed through Him.
The church is called to carrying on this ministry of healing. We are called to be like Jesus and Jesus freed people who were in pain.
But, we live in a society so in love with experts and “professionals” that we often forget the power of a single soul, filled with the Holy Spirit, to reach out and heal another.
We can be agents of healing in a society writhing in pain through our willingness to listen, to offer a kind word, practical assistance, mediation between loved ones, our presence, our company, or our prayers and Biblically informed counsel.
People in pain are always looking for a way out.
We need to be sure that when they’re weighing their options, they know that one of them, the best of them, is Jesus.
I know you wouldn’t just step over a person who was writhing in pain on the floor in front of you. Are you stopping to care for those whose outward display of pain is different but just as clear?
Is something holding you back?
What is it?
There’s an old movie from 1984 called Mass Appeal. Take a minute to read this monologue about this one believer’s desire to be an instrument of healing among the people of God and ask God to give you His ears with which to hear the people in your world today:
“I had a tank of tropical fish. Someone turned up the tank heater and they all boiled. I woke up on a Friday morning and went to feed them, and there they were. All my beautiful fish floating on top. Most of them split in two, others with their eyes hanging out. It looked like violence. But it was such a quiet night. And I remember wishing I had the kind of ears that could hear fish screams, because they looked as if they had suffered, and I wanted so badly to save them.

And that Sunday in church I heard that Christ had told his apostles to be fishers of men. And from then on I looked upon all the people in the church as fish. I was young, so I saw them as beautiful tropical fish, and so I knew they  were all quiet screamers. The church was so quiet. I thought everyone was boiling, and I wanted the kind of ears that could hear what they were screaming about, cause I wanted to save them.

As I got older the people lost the look of tropical fish. They became catfish to me – just overdressed scavengers. So I drowned out whatever I might be able to hear, and made my world my tank, so hot that I almost split. And so now I am back listening, listening for the screams of angels.”
How about you? Do you have ears to hear?

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    The Conversation

  1. Maria says:

    We cannot hear if we are not listening.
    Thanks, Lori, great reminder.

  2. Maurie says:

    What an image. I pray for ears to hear and a mind to remember!

  3. The BearPair says:

    Lori, this is so good–thank you! I have suffered wt severe Migraines since I was 16… my wife has suffered wt Fibromyalgia for several decades… we know what it is to live with chronic, often debilitating pain. Let’s hope we ALL have those desperately needed ears!

  4. The BearPair says:

    Lori, a quick p.s…. Probably could have omitted the verbalization of your thoughts.image, etc following the fish tank story… the illustration speaks eloquently all by itself!