“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
II Corinthians 1:3-5
“The movement from loneliness to solitude is a movement by which we reach out to our innermost being to find there our great healing powers, not as a unique property to be defended but as a gift to be shared with all human beings. And so, the movement from loneliness to solitude leads us spontaneously to the movement from hostility to hospitality. It is this second movement that can encourage us to reach out creatively to the many whom we meet on our way.”
We’ve just reached the end of chapter three and the end of the first movement (loneliness to solitude) so this quote is a transitory statement leading to the next chapter. Nouwen is also summing up his major point that we’ve been talking about these last few weeks. We’ve begun the journey from loneliness to solitude.
Nouwen mentions the “great healing powers” that are found in solitude. This isn’t some mystical New Age thing going on here. When we reach deep down and meet Jesus in the solitude of our hearts, healing can take place. What’s more, these healing powers are meant to be shared, not hoarded.
I mentioned in the past that the first Henri Nouwen book I ever read was called The Wounded Healer. Any reader of Nouwen books will realize that he kept talking about the same themes over and over again. That’s not to say it was in a repetitive and inane way – like a broken record – rather it represents a unity of thought for Nouwen. He never left who he was. His innermost thoughts and feelings came out over and over again. He was genuine and he genuinely cared about how we are shaped by our spirituality. The Wounded Healer talked at length about ministering to others out of the pain and suffering we have experienced and when you read this book you get that theme once again. Nouwen lived this.
I’m not an emotionally open person. I think we’ve established that in past blogs. When I get deeply hurt I hold it inside. My desire is that it never sees the light of day. Let me explain by sharing a physically painful experience from many years ago. When I was a senior in high school I was working on my car one evening. It was low on radiator fluid so I was adding more with the car running so the fluid could cycle through the engine. Now, normally there was a plastic shroud that covers the top of the spinning fan at the end of the motor. The problem is that I lived in western Nebraska where the winters are often bitterly cold. It’s not uncommon for an older car to have lost that fan-shroud to the cold weather. My car lost that shroud and, as I tightened the radiator cap I accidentally dipped the fingers too close to that spinning fan (back in the days were fans were made of metal and they weren’t electric). Of course, you know what happened next. The fan hit my fingers and I immediately pulled away shouting what sounded strangely like obscenities. When I looked at my fingers I was relieved to see they were still there but they weren’t feeling very good. Two fingers were deeply cut and bruised to the bone.
I took care of my fingers, bandaged them up, and they healed just fine after a few weeks. That first week, however, I discovered the real pain of my injury. I couldn’t believe how often I could bump those fingers into walls and anything else I was walking around. And every time they got bumped I experienced a surge of pain that, quite frankly, was worse than when it first happened. Such is the fate of the wounds that we bear on the outside. They’re always ready to cause more pain as a constant reminder of what happened.
The problem of what Nouwen is suggesting is that it requires us to share our pain with others to help them through the same situations. I don’t like sharing my pain because often it requires me to experience it anew just like when I bumped those fingers and experienced that pain once again. But this isn’t some trite assertion by Nouwen. He knows about the pain.
God doesn’t desire that any of us should experience pain. He doesn’t hang around the corner with his foot out in order to make us fall and suffer. But one of His miracles is that he can take our suffering, bring healing to our bodies and souls, and bring glory to His name. That’s how the healing that happens in solitude can be shared with the world. It hurts, but the pain can be worth it if another hurting soul is reminded that he is not alone and those wounds will one day heal.
Often we find a real ministry in places where we have been hurt the most. Like the woman who had a child at sixteen who later volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center. She’s better equipped to help young girls go through the same experience. Maybe you’ve had a painful experience in your past and maybe you’re still dealing with that pain.
Let God make something good out of the bad in your life. Somewhere, someone needs the help you have to offer. You understand the pain they are going through in a way few ever will.