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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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Pain: Useless intrusion or gift of God?

By the Rev. Dr. Ed HirdDr Paul Brand

One of the most significant books that I have read  is “Pain: the Gift Nobody Wants” by Dr. Paul Brand & Philip Yancey.  Dr. Paul Brand was a world-famous leprosy surgeon who has spent most of his life caring for the forsaken lepers in India.  He performed countless medical miracles, enabling people with leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) to live healthy and productive lives.

 

Dr. Brand’s  book was endorsed by Dr. C. Everett Koop, a former Surgeon General of the United States, who bestowed on Dr. Brand the Surgeon General’s Medallion.  Dr. Koop said that when he wonders who he would like to have been if he had not been born C. Everett Koop, the person who comes to mind most frequently is Paul Brand.

Dr Paul Brand2One of Dr. Brand’s greatest breakthroughs was the discovery that people with leprosy do not have ‘bad flesh’ that just rots away by itself.  In fact, their flesh is just as healthy as yours or mine.  They are usually not even contagious.  What they lack is the ability to feel pain.  As the blood flow is cut off from key parts of their body, their nerve endings die.  With the death of their nerve endings comes the death of their ability to sense danger to their bodies.  Leprous people live a virtually pain-free existence.  Many of us would do anything to live a pain-free life.  Yet in fact, the absence of pain is the greatest enemy of the leper.  Again and again they wound and impale themselves.  Yet they don’t feel a thing.

Dr. Brand spoke movingly about little Tanya, a four-year-old patient with dark, flashing eyes, curly hair, and an impish smile.  She seemed fine as an infant.  Then when she was a year and a half, her mother came into her room.  She noticed her daughter finger-painting red pictures on the floor of her playpen.  Suddenly her mother realized that her daughter had bitten off the tip of her finger and was drawing with her own blood.  Because of her leprosy, Tanya felt no pain even when she damaged herself.  I wonder how many of us as parents have ever thanked God that our own children can feel pain?

We in the west live in a culture that has a Dr Paul Brand 3remarkable ability to shut down pain in our lives.  People in North America consume over thirty thousand tons of aspirin a year.  North Americans, who only represent 5 percent of the world’s population, consume over 50% of all manufactured drugs, one-third of which work on the central nervous system.  We are the most advanced society in the world in terms of suppressing pain.  Yet the more we try to shut down pain, the more pain strikes back.

 

When we refuse to listen to the pain in our bodies, we invariably begin to destroy ourselves.  Just think of the number of famous football, basketball, and hockey stars who have damaged themselves for life by going out on the field, still injured, with the help of painkiller injections.  If leprosy is the inability to feel pain, then alcohol and drug addiction, which deaden our pain, are forms of modern day leprosy.  The greatest damage that pain-dead alcoholics and drug addicts do is the damage they do to their spouses and children.  That is why I am so grateful for the gift of AA and related 12-Step groups.  I wonder how many of us as parents have thanked God for the ability to feel our family’s pain?

Dr Paul Brand 4As you are reading this article, you have probably blinked your eyes hundreds of times.  Have you ever wondered why we blink?  Dr. Brand discovered that leprous people go blind, because they don’t blink.  Blinking functions like our car’s windshield wipers, washing away the impurities.  It is pain that causes us to blink.

 

Try not blinking for the next 60 seconds, if you need proof of this.  Because leprous people feel no pain, they don’t blink.  The absence of pain actually makes them go blind.  Dr. Brand solved their blinking problem surgically by attaching the chewing muscle to their eyelid.  Every time they chew gum, their eyelid blinks.  As we lovingly look at the faces of our children,  how many of us as parents have ever thanked God for the ability to feel pain in our eyes?

One of the greatest mysteries that Dr. Brand faced was why leprous people kept losing their fingers and toes overnight.  He knew that they didn’t just shrivel up and fall off.  but no one could ever find what happened to the lost fingers and toes.  Finally Dr. Brand decided to have people stay awake all night watching the leprosy patients sleep.  To their surprise, they discovered that rats were coming in and nibbling off their fingers.  Because the patients felt no pain, they never woke up and brushed away the rats.

 

To save their extremities, leprosy patients are Leprosy_hand_affected_fourth_digitnow required to take cats with them, wherever they plan to sleep.  I encourage you as you are reading this article to look down at your 10 fingers.  How many of us as parents have ever thanked God for our hands that reach out to touch our children, and for the gift of pain that keeps them healthy?

 

Over 2,000 years ago, a Jewish peasant loved us so much that he allowed people to drive spikes into his hands.  I thank God that Jesus chose to bear our pain that he might give us the gift of life.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s  Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 1008- 555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7N 2J7, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

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Curse God and Die

By the Rev. Dr.  Ed Hirdjob in sackcloth

There is a time in every life, comments Stephen Lawson, when all hell breaks loose.  Suddenly.  Unexpectedly.  Cataclysmically.  All hell breaks loose.  One day, life is sunny. Calm. Clear. Predictable.  Your job is secure. Your children behave. Your health is good.  Then out of the blue, like a violent, angry thunderstorm blowing across your landscape, tragedy strikes.  You’re hit hard.  All hell breaks loose.

 

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why does tragedy strike those who love God the most?  Why do the good die young?   One of the most famous sufferers on Planet Earth asked all these questions.  He suffered so deeply that his wife couldn’t stand it anymore.  She said to her husband Job: “Curse God and die”.  In other words, get it over with.  It’s no use.  There is no future.  You could almost see Job’s wife as the first Euthanasia advocate.

 

job's friends2Yet rather than choosing suicide, Job clung tenaciously to life.  Often human tragedies like the loss of career, family, or home leads to an even greater tragedy – the denial of any meaning to life.  This was the great temptation that faced Job, and that faces each of us at least once every 18 months on average.

Job went through horrendous suffering for 42 chapters, and yet he never once gave up.  He was tormented by insults from his friends, harrassed by their insensitive advice and browbeaten into admitting wrongdoing that he never committed.  Under attack, Job groaned, he wailed, he doubted and fell into deep depression, he lashed out like an infuriated animal….but he never cursed God.  No matter how discouraged he was, he clung to his integrity.  He never gave up his rock-bed conviction that he was not to blame for his terrible illness.

 

Thousands of years later, we contemporary, job_friends3scientifically-sophisticated people are still often blaming people when they become sick.  Even in the 21st century, we can too easily be just like Job’s three comforters who just made their friend feel worse.  “Oh, you’re sick in hospital with cancer…Obviously you are not thinking enough positive mental thoughts, or jogging enough, or eating enough granola.”  One way or another, we can slip into psychosomatically blaming others for their illnesses.

Job was covered from head to toe with putrid boils that never stopped itching.  His feverish body hung limp on its frame, his eyes sank back into his head, and his ribs protruded from his skin.  Job’s three friends lacked the courage to feel Job’s pain, and respond rather than just react.  Job didn’t need a lecture from his three friends; he needed love.  He didn’t need a sermon;  he needed sympathy.  He didn’t need criticism; he needed comfort.  When we are struck down by tragedy, we need to know that our friends really care.  And we need to know that God cares, God really listens, and God will never leave us.

Why is it that so many famous writers, poets, philosophers, and scientists have turned time and again to the book of Job?  Perhaps because it easily takes its place among the masterpieces of the world’s literature.

 

The author of Job was a poet of rare genius who powerfully expressed our deepest feelings and thoughts.  Sooner or later, we all identify with Job because suffering is part and parcel of life.  We are bonded to Job Job biblethrough our common experience of pain.  Many reject God, but no one rejects Job.  Simply by suffering so greatly and hanging on for dear life through it all, Job has won our hearts.

As Stephen Lawson puts it, heaven is often silent.  In such times, the only answer God gives is a deeper revelation of Himself.  We learn that He is the answer we seek.  Ultimately we must not trust a plan, but a Person.  There is something about our questioning minds that longs for answers.  If we only knew, we reason, we could handle our pain.  Yet placing God’s infinite wisdom into our finite brains would be like trying to pour the Atlantic Ocean into a Dixie Cup.  It just wouldn’t fit.  It’s too vast and deep.

Job’s faith wavered.  He mourned.  He cried.  He protested.  He questioned.  He even cursed the day of his birth.  But he never cursed God.  In the face of adversity, he remained firm in his only hope – God.  When our world falls apart unexpectedly, we must  not dwell on why but on who.  Only God’s disclosure of Himself is powerful enough to heal the heart and relieve the pain.

Job in his sufferings, said Mike Mason, resembled Jesus on the cross.  The only person who has ever endured more than Job was Jesus of Nazareth. We do not need to have nails driven into our hands and feet to know what a cross is.  A cross is a cross.  To be crushed is to be crushed, and we all have Jesus on Cross picturehad a taste of this.  Job in his suffering was looking for what could only be found in a manger, on a cross, in an empty tomb.  The key to Job’s sufferings, and indeed to life itself, is the cross.  Jesus did not rise above suffering; he went through it.  Jesus let himself be captured by soldiers, tried by legalists and bureaucrats, condemned by a mob, scourged by mockers, and finally pinned and exhibited like a specimen insect.

 

No amount of suffering could shake either Jesus or Job from their rock-bottom clinging to God.  Though he slay me, said Job, yet will I trust in Him  This very day we can either curse God and die, or bless God and live.  May we choose Life today.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird,  Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s  Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 1008- 555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7N 2J7, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide