11. Poverty Strongholds – Pain Upon Pain
- Poor Stewardship
- Lack of Knowledge (common sense)
- Mind Sets (faulty thinking)
- Lack of Holiness
- Agreements with the Enemy
- Bad Theology
- Blaming & Excuses
- Refusing to be a Blessing
- Pain Upon Pain
Today in conclusion to this series I am writing about #10 Poverty Stronghold, Pain Upon Pain.
My original doodling of this material, while in Uganda, began with the first 8 strongholds, and then once home and as I was writing my first post about this topic I realized that pain upon pain is a critical contributor to poverty strongholds. In identifying this I thought I would rework the Poverty Stronghold Diagram / Pie Chart to add in pain upon pain, and yet, as I’ve been fleshing out the rest of the material I realized that in fact, pain upon pain is a stronghold that overlays all of the other strongholds; we see that strongholds of Pain Upon Pain are laid over it all, informing and confounding each individual stronghold in turn.
I begin by repeating here what I wrote in my first post regarding pain upon pain that is buried deep in a people and passed on to generations after generations:
“I initially came upon this on my fourth trip to Africa in the country of Mozambique. I had been to an amazing church and people for a few days and then moved locations, a mere twenty-minute bike ride away, where the tenor of the place was profoundly different. There was an oppression over the village unlike anything I have ever experienced before. At every moment (literally) there was a child sobbing — and worse, the adults and parents either ignored or mocked these sobbing children. At first I thought it was just very bad parenting, but then the Lord revealed to me that, “No Cyndy, this is pain upon pain.”
What was so interesting in this place was that the homes were the same, everyone was dressed the same as elsewhere in the country, there was plenty of food, all the outward elements required for safety, shelter,and food were in place and yet, this village had a profound spirit of poverty pervading the place. The homes were dirtier, the children neglected, the teens mocked the elderly women (shocking for me to see this in Africa – it was then I knew something was very wrong in that place), and the eyes of the people carried profound sadness. It was, I recognized, the first time I had come across poverty in my travels within Africa. And so, when we consider strongholds of poverty I cannot leave out realities of pain upon pain. This, from what I have seen, creates the most crippling poverty of all.”
I and those I was travelling with, were only in this village for twenty-four hours, and it was all we could do to stay there that long. The oppression of grief and despair was so compounded that it was as though a giant tree had fallen on us and we were gasping for air. And truly, after that experience, I don’t think I have seen poverty anywhere else.
From the book Helping the Poor Without Hurting Them, we find the author identifying poverty as described by those in poverty themselves, and what he found is telling. “The poor describe poverty as: shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.” Nowhere, in the words of the poor themselves, do they describe poverty as a lack of material possessions, but rather as a loss of meaning, hope and purpose.
This is an important distinction and one we often miss. When I think back to my own years when my ex-husband was caught in drug and alcohol addiction I recall a frozenness in my ability to cope or to lift myself out of the confounding of that time.
I was so knocked over with these very things, shame, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation and voicelessness, that I couldn’t see to a clear way out. And so, for instance, when food became scarce my answer was to eat very little so my children could eat; for some time I was literally starving myself so that my children would have food. This, of course, is no answer at all, and yet it was the only one I could grab hold of at the time.
Pain upon pain does this. It freezes our responses and bogs us down in a sea of confusion; we can’t really see which way is up. When a person is physically drowning I am told they thrash and drag down any would-be rescuers. In a similar way, when a person is drowning in emotional, psychological, and relational pain they too ‘drag down’ those around them; in their thrashing they hurt others with the pain they themselves are experiencing. Hurt people hurt others.
And so the cycles of pain upon pain become embedded in families, communities, and nations. With pain upon pain over-laying stewardship, lack of Knowledge, mind sets, issues of holiness, agreements with the enemy, bad theology, and blaming & excuses, we can see the multiple confounding and the multilayered ‘stuckness’ of entire communities.
And, as I write this I clearly see, clearer than ever before, why it is so important the work that Capturing Courage International Ministries does in standing back the pain upon pain in the hearts and souls and minds of people.
As a prayer minister working with many individuals over many years there are times when I’ll be working with someone who has so much pain that if they had the rest of their lives and all the necessary emotional energy, they still would not have enough oomph to process all the pain that they carry.
It is at times like this that the HolySpirit instructs me to ‘just pray that pain away’. It is the tangible outworking of verses like, “I’ll enter the darkness and remove the yoke from their necks,” and “Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed.”
This is the work I do around the world. As I travel to communities and gather with people I preach the kingdom of God always with an eye to kneeling together before the cross of Jesus and declaring, putting down, loosing off, the pains that confound us.
As is custom, when we were leaving the village in Mozambique we first entered the pastors home, the people broke out in song and then it was my turn to pray before we left and I prayed something like this,
“God I lift this village and people to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. God we see the pain upon pain that is here, carried in the hearts and lives of these people. Today I say enough is enough! In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ I declare a stop to these cycles of pain here and now. I put a stick in this wheel of pain and despair. No more! I reach with the strong yet gentle hand of my Lord Jesus Christ into each life and I touch the pain and declare the soothing of the Lord, the healing of Jesus, the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Today God we claim these people for your glory and we remove them from the despair of the enemy. Today I press a little bit of your gladness upon their lives, today we begin and declare a new way for them; from this day on may they not remain the same, but may they know you as the lifter of their heads. Amen and amen.”
The authority that I have to pray this for others is because I’ve found God more than big enough for my own pain upon pain. Years back I recall seeing the pain of my life as a witches cauldron that if I entered I’d never come out of. But God kept wooing me, showing me that he was in the pain, and so bit by bit I entered in and worked my way through. What I came to find was that it was no witches cauldron at all, but rather a reservoir of living water that now spills out to all others round about me.
The presence of God changed my pain into healing for many others. And what is interesting, as I’ve been writing these poverty stronghold posts and as I get to today’s topic, is that I’ve recently realized that I personally no longer have any pain.
About a week after I returned home from Uganda, around Christmas time, I realized that I had no pain, no relational pain, no regret pain, no loss pain, no pain. For a few weeks, and a few times every week since, I have scanned my mind and heart and soul for the pain that I’ve always had and it is not there. No pain. This has been quite amazing to me as I cannot recall a time without pain, it has certainly been some couple of decades if not my entire life. And the lasting thought has been, “It’s possible!”
While pain upon pain is the most crippling poverty of all, while within it we cannot see our hand in front of our faces, we cannot perceive accurately, and we are confounded in all our good efforts, the power of God to heal us, to touch us, to leave us refreshed is literal and real.
When I finished praying that day in Mozambique, and as I opened my eyes the women were wiping their tears with their aprons. We never had a chance to talk about what I was seeing, but the Lord touched them through my prayer. As part of healing, sometimes all we need is the validation of the pain that is present.
I’ve not yet been back to that village in Mozambique, but I’ve been told they are a bit freer and different since that day. And I hear this time and again as I minister many places. The touch of God into our pain changes our lives for the better. It is something only God can do.
While all of the other poverty strongholds are shifts and movements that we can make within our own lives, to be loosed of pain upon pain we must come in close, close, closer than we ever dared, to the feet of the Lord, the foot of the cross, the robe of God, the touch of Jesus, and allow him to see us and to touch us, to heal us and to refresh us. It is possible. I’ve lived it and I see it all the time, again and again. Glory be to the Lord.