My Faith Votes recently spoke with John Paine, author of The Luckiest Man: How a Seventeen-Year Battle with ALS Led Me to Intimacy with God. 18 years ago, Paine was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a degenerative neural disease that has progressively left him paralyzed from head to toe and will eventually take his life. ALS changed every facet of his life, causing daily challenges and physical suffering, but Paine has refused to be crushed in spirit or even to despair of life itself. On the contrary, he credits his experience living with ALS as the cornerstone of a deeply intimate relationship with God. Take a few moments to watch the powerful interview.
John Paine recounts that the journey through ALS can be characterized by pain and suffering, but suggests there’s another aspect of the journey if one looks for it. “On the one hand is a journey of death,” he says, “on the other is a journey of life, and I promise you life outweighs death.”
Paine’s experience with ALS has produced a cherished victory — deepened dependence on and intimacy with God: “It’s been a journey of trust, of vulnerability and of communication with God, one that has produced a closeness, a wholeness, and a knowledge that I am fully loved and accepted and that I don’t have to be or do something different to earn that love.”
People often put up walls or emotionally distance themselves from others, including God, in an attempt to protect themselves from being hurt. To practically cultivate intimacy with God, Paine encourages others to practice vulnerability. “How can you be intimate if you are displaying a false self or withholding your emotions?”
Similarly, it seems one of the primary goals in our world today is to limit pain and suffering and to increase pleasure and comfort. We asked Paine about his unique perspective on suffering given his 18 year battle with ALS.
He told us that Christians can easily mess up their theology if they’re not careful because too often we associate negative circumstances with God being displeased or even punishing us and, conversely, if everything is going great we must be in God’s favor. Paine is emphatic: “I live in pain and suffering, but I am not out of favor with God. Suffering is not fun. As I sit here in this chair I’m in pain, all I truly want is out of it, and yet, what I’ve learned is that if you’re going to live in this life there’s no avoidance of pain and suffering.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jason Yates