GRATEFUL FOR PAIN

by David Sisler

I first time I saw Freddie Joe Patek play baseball he wore the uniform of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs traded Patek to the Kansas City Royals in 1970. In 1981 he was traded to the California Angels, and retired from baseball the next year.

Because he was one of my favorites from years when, as now, the Pirates were, alas, second division dwellers, I followed his career. Because of that, I remember when his daughter Kimberlie was nearly killed in a car crash in 1992.

The family was told that because of her extensive injuries a spinal cord injury she might not live through the night.

Kimberlie did live, but she depended on a respirator to do her breathing for her. There was constant pain, but the pain ended on June 15, 1995, when Kimberlie died in her sleep.

"Sometimes I wish I'd have died," Kimberlie once said, "not to go through all this pain and suffering."

I remember as a child, walking around blindfolded because I wanted to see what it would be like to be blind. I knew it was just make-believe because soon I could take the blindfold off and see again.

There is no way, however, to imagine what it would be like to depend on a machine for my next breath, or to understanding total, unremitting paralysis. I cannot, therefore, appreciate the depth of Kimberlie's statement, "I wish I'd have died," but I think I understand the anguish of that confession.

The quote does not end there. Kimberlie Patek went on to say, "But now, I'm glad I've had this time."

Was she glad for the pain? No, she said she hurt so much she wished the doctor's had let her slip out into eternity. Did she rejoice that she depended on a machine to sustain her life? That was not the reason for her joy at all. No one would be glad to be forced to breathe through a machine.

Well, what did she mean?

"I'm glad I've had this time," Kimberlie said, "because I'm with God. I know now I'm going to heaven. So I'm thankful for this time."

Modern society does not understand that. Much of modern theology does not understand that.

We've been lied to by preachers who have told us that God does not want us to suffer distress of any kind. We've been lied to by preachers who have told us that God wants us to always be healthy and wealthy. We've lied to by preachers who have twisted God's Word for their own selfish reasons.

And those lies have caused us to miss great truth and even greater blessing.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "We have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts."

Only trouble can drive you to abandon those things in which you trust.

If you thought you could trust money, in times of trouble you will find money will not pay the price.

If you thought you could trust friends, despite warm and wonderful friendships, you will find friends cannot do you any good at the point of trouble.

It is in trouble that we take an inventory of our lives. It is in trouble that we are drawn more and more to the Lord. It is the most effective way that the Lord has of drawing us to Himself that we might be blessed by Him.

On your way to the first day at a brand new job, you wrecked your car, broke your neck and you lived three years on a respirator. Kimberlie Patek, how do you feel about that?

"I'm glad I've had this time. I know now I'm going to heaven. I'm thankful for this time."

There is no pain too great if that pain leads you to the Cross of Jesus Christ and to eternal life through Him.

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Copyright 1995 by David Sisler

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