Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, authors of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, have unwittingly taught me some life truths as I have repeatedly read their board book to all three of my kids. That’s going on 10 years of periodic review of the principles of Bear Hunting.
Their book begins with a family engaged in a quest. You guessed it… a bear hunt. As the Mom and Dad pursue their family goal of finding a big bear, on a beautiful day, without fear, they come across a number of obstacles. Long wavy grass, a cold river, oozy mud, a dark forest, and a whirling snowstorm assault our little family of five. And with each obstacle they chant their mantra:
“UH-oh a (fill in the blank with said obstacle).
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We can’t go around it.
Oh No! We’ve got to go through it!”
Suffering happens. We all run into suffering at some point in our lives. Some of us don’t remember a time of not suffering. Some of us remember our suffering caused by others much easier than we remember the suffering we have caused others. And most of us like to deny the fact that we also suffer as a result of our own decisions.
Suffering happens because it is a part of our lives in this world. I wish we could go over it, under it or around it – but the simple truth is, WE HAVE TO GO THROUGH IT.
Not everyone has parents who can walk through suffering with them, such as the family in the bear hunt story. We must risk a “reach-out” to someone else who just might get what going through suffering means.
I have been suffering for almost four months with significant back pain. Back pain in general is nothing new to me as I have had low level chronic pain for the last 20 years. But over the last four months I have found myself dealing with pain on a daily basis that I haven’t dealt with in a long time. This pain came to a poignant “head” last Thursday as I stood in the kitchen, getting the kids ready for school, crying as I stood through the pain.
Later that day I forced myself to risk a “reach-out” and I emailed my intercessor friends. And they prayed – and we are not talking “Lord, help Cheryl today” prayers. We’re talking the kind of prayers where they jump into the tall grass, cold river, oozy mud, dark forest or whirling snow that I face. They find their sleep interrupted, their knees mucked up in ooze, chills up their spines as God calls their spirits into the fight with me.
You see these friends know they are not just praying about the physical pain, they are praying about the pain of past abuse too. They get suffering because they too have suffered. And they know that to find that great big bear of freedom in Christ: You can’t go over the suffering. You can’t hide under it. You can’t avoid suffering by going around it with name-it-and-claim-it theology. You have to go through it and you only get through TOGETHER.
These friends pushed through on Thursday night for me, and when I woke up on Friday, the pain was less than half. And on Monday my physical therapist confirmed that physical healing was happening.
I haven’t arrived at the cave where this bear of freedom in Christ lays, but I’ve caught a glimpse, and I have been hemmed in by the Lord with friends who keep chanting with me:
You can’t go over it.
You can’t go under it.
You can’t go around it.
WE’LL just have to go through it.
- My Prayer at Adoration (patheos.com)