The first group is characterized as ‘before pain.’ These are souls who have yet to experience the trials and tribulations associated with human life. Human suffering and loss have yet to darken the recesses of their souls. They are unaware of the depths of despair that they are capable of descending when injured by the destructive hand of life. They are oblivious to the steady, piercing pain associated with regret, loss, or betrayal. It just hasn’t happened to them. Yet.
The next group of people are those who Hybels describes as being “in pain.” Emotional and physical suffering has pierced the hearts and souls of this group. These are the afflicted. These are the agonized. These are the down-trodden. These are the hopeless. These are the dejected and the lost. These are the souls whose lives are burdened by the presence of disease, death, anxiety, depression, and hardship.
The last group of people are described as those who have come through their calamities, afflictions, and sorrows and have reached the “after pain” camp. They have memories and scars from their pain, but they have been released from the grip of day-to-day suffering.
Do you classify yourself in such a way?
Are you experiencing life before pain? Is life just amazingly wonderful and good?
Are you feeling the oppressive weight of sorrow, relational loss, illness, or failure now? Are you in pain?
Are you grateful for the journey you have made in life as you look back and realize you are living beyond your time of pain?
Of course, we have different ways of responding to the various challenges we are presented in life.
Some choose the stony trail of bitterness. Jagged rocks and piercing stones along our way continue to cut into our unforgiving hearts. As we stumble forward, we only see more dangerous rocks ahead. There is no way we can trust anyone now – not now, that we have become so exposed and so vulnerable to the terrors of this world.
Some decide that we will stay parked near our pain. It is familiar. We have acclimatized ourselves to the dark recesses of our hurt and our sorrow. We have grown fearful of life because, well, it’s just so uncertain and unpredictable. It seems safer to stay parked in the dark. We just don’t want to know ‘what is out there.’
Then there are others that choose the expressway of life. They screech onto the freeway determined never to look back and never to remember the pain they left behind. They’ll go too fast and stay too busy to ever feel again.
Of course, there are many more souls who are living life after the pain in a variety of ways.
They are walking.
They are running.
They are trudging.
They are marching.
They are traipsing.
But the ones that are growing, thriving, and living life after the pain?
They are dancing!
Who are they?
These the souls that have chosen the path of faith and trust – no matter what they’ve been through and no matter what still lies ahead.
How did they get there?
In my mind, one of the central reasons anyone makes it through their pain is because of the love and encouragement of a generous and caring fellow soul.
I call them the soul refreshers!
To refresh, comes from the Greek transliterated word, anapauo. Anapauo doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? However, this is not the intent or meaning behind this word. To refresh another means to come alongside someone in such a way that the person is stopped in their tracks. They stop moving. They stop striving. They stop struggling. And as they do, they recover and regain their strength.
The soul refresher comes alongside the person in pain and stays with them there. There is no need to push forward or to even hold back. The soul refresher chooses instead to remain alongside the one who is hurting and just.be.with.them.
The soul refresher provides rest.
The soul refresher dispenses peace.
The soul refresher offers comfort.
The soul refresher imparts wisdom.
The soul refresher yields grace.
The soul refresher ministers love.
The soul refresher inspires hope.
I’ve been blessed by many soul refreshers in my life. These are dear friends who have let me – be me – as I worked through my challenges, my hardships, my losses, and my sorrows. They stuck with me and chose to love me at a time when I really needed their love.
Do you have a soul refresher or two in your life?
Philemon, one of Paul’s friends, was definitely a soul refresher:
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people, His saints. New International Version, Philemon 1:4-7
Friends, this life is not getting any easier or any better, is it?
Turn on your computer, your television, your radio and they all scream pain. Pain. PAIN!
And if you or someone you care about is in the middle of difficult time, the last thing we need are people telling us to get over it – or to move on – or to tell us why their pain is so much worse – or to tell us how terrible the world is and that everything is going to h_______! – and so we should just …..
No, what we need is a soul refresher. We don’t need tons of people telling us what to do or not to do. We just need one or two soul refreshing friends in our lives to sit down in the middle of our pain and be with us – holding us, caring for us, listening to us, and loving us.
Philemon was one of those soul refreshing guys.
I want to be one, too!
I want to be a soul refresher!
Hybels, Bill. The Power of a Whisper. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Press. 2010. 125- 126.