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'I am because we are'

Light for the Way seriesWe invite you to take a peek inside our Light for the Way devotional series. Each week we provide staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen oufocus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.

By Chaplain Steve Richards, Optage Hospice

Last week Chaplain Steve shared a staff devotional titled 'Free me from pain': a prayer of transformation. It's based on the following Scripture, which is part of the PHS biblical framework. Today he expands his reflections on the prayer of Jabez.

“Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, 'I gave birth to him in pain.' Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, 'Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.' And God granted his request” — 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

The story of Jabez is one of God working against seemingly impossible odds to bring someone from a place of pain and into blessing. Jabez’s prayer for God to bless him, to enlarge his territory, and to free him from pain is impressive both for its simplicity and audaciousness. For despite his lowly position, Jabez is totally committed to the idea that God can and will transform his life. He believes there is a deeper and richer story to be told, and that God’s desire is to show great love towards him. He has chosen to have faith in God to change the story of his life and to help him live abundantly. Jabez has also refused to pass his pain along to others.

We might think that nothing is more natural than the love of a mother for her child, but truth is, Jabez’s mother passed on her pain rather than love to Jabez. His name mirrored the pain she had experienced. One might say that she tried to hurt him as much as he had hurt her. This is what most people do. They often mimic and even ramp up the pain they are experiencing. Things escalate. Tempers flare. Violence is not far behind.

As a hospice chaplain, I have sat with people in the midst of their pain. Often that pain has led to periods of doubt and confusion, but sometimes it has manifested itself in outbursts of anger. I have been on the receiving end of angry outbursts due to the death of a loved one. Yet rather than lash out and become angry in response, I have recognised that their anger is an expression of their grief. They are hurting. They are in pain, and rather than engage in a shouting match I have simply held them in love.

All this makes me wonder: if I am prepared to do this in my role as a hospice chaplain, then what about with other people in my life? 

Jesus invited us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, but the reality is, we will only really love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves. This is why we are invited to love God first, live differently, and stop passing pain along to others. In fact, when we refuse to hurt someone when we are hurt, or lash out and try and hurt others, we are being like Christ who “took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4). Our lives also open up to others. In this, I lean into the African concept of Ubuntu, which literally means “I am because we are.” If you are in pain, then I, too, am in pain. If you are hurting, then I, too, am hurting. I am not separate from you. I need you as much as you need me. I want you to be free from pain, because when you are free from pain, then I, too, am free from pain, and when I show love to you, then I get loved in return.

Prayer: Gracious God, please keep me from harm and free me from pain so that I will be blessed, and that through me your love may be seen and known. Amen.

Check out this video devotional for more hope and encouragement from the Story of Jabez - as shared at the annual PHS management retreat last week: 

More selected readings in the Light for the Way series:
'Free me from pain': a prayer of transformation
Setting aside our differences
Living in the unknown — finding hope in the future
Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series

In addition to Light for the Way, you can find reflections, devotions, music and other resources on the Pastoral Care website

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