Phantom Pain

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:44)

Having a heart

Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth (for the first time) and he’s using the metaphor of seeds and harvest and whatnot (as Christ was wont to do on occasion; see Mark 4:26-29) as a means of helping us wrap our minds around the fact that we are more than our physical body. Let me just skip ahead a little bit and show the end result of what Christ came to do and what Paul sought to elucidate throughout the letters and missives he sent off that make up about half of the Protestant New Testament:

“For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man (or woman), so making peace.” (Ephesians 2:14-15, emphasis mine)

Have you ever thought about the seeming-dichotomy inherent to life? There looks to be this fissure between our insides and our outsides. Even for Christians, it looks sometimes for-all-intents-and-purposes that the body in which we live would look to supplant every good thing that we would like to do for the Lord. Paul talks again (this time to the Christians in Rome; Romans 7:20-22)

“Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:”

I other words, Paul is talking about the very real thing known as desire. This is something—much like Jesus’s parable alluded to in the big paragraph up top—that grows in us slowly upon receiving Christ. And the King James version is admittedly a little archaic (400 years old) but when Paul says “when I would do good”, it literally translates to “when I have the desire to do the right thing…” (the word “would” being the past tense of “will”). This is so much more than just doing charitable works and helping those who are less fortunate; it refers to having a heart in synch with the Father. This is from where true motive springs. And it is also from where we struggle with a malady or handicap, call it “spiritual phantom pain”, that is flat-out against the newfound life of Christ that has altered us down to the very fiber of our being.

“We are confident, i say, and willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Look again at the passage from Ephesians. This dawned on me the other day, but Christ was complete when He died. It says in that little verse that He made “in Himself, from two, one”. This means that He was perfect inside and out when He died. As we were born in sin, the Father sees us on the inside and likes what He sees. This is purely by virtue of the perfection of Christ. The body dies. But the spirit lives. And yet, how come we still feel the effects of this thing known as sin?

“Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6-7)

Here’s the thing. That God allows us to feel the pain and the struggle and that He even lets us make mistakes on the road to where He’s bringing us—all of these things are gifts. He’s waiting for our mind to catch up. It isn’t about becoming smarter, it’s about filling our mind with what He said on whatever matter we’re dealing with. And if the Bible doesn’t contain some pointed scripture that addresses your situation verbatim, then there’s a deeper issue it does address. An issue that has its root in a lack of closeness to Him. Draw close to Him through praise and worship and meditation (quiet time in whatever way you choose) and He will reveal just what it is that’s causing that elusive phantom pain. He knows.

“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8)


Head in the Clouds

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