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On Being Weary-- Stuntz

I’m unbelievably tired these days, and I know I’ll feel more so after this week’s surgery. I’m tired from the drugs I take, tired from the pain in my back and leg, and now tired from the tumor inside me. The end of Isaiah 40 seems to speak to that weariness. The words are famous:

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I’ve heard and read those words many times. Roughly translated, they seem to say: when we fall, God picks us up. Sometimes it works that way. But often, I find that when I fall, I stay down – or fall farther. Life is not always a happy picture of obstacles overcome, difficulties surmounted. Rotten things, like cancer and chronic pain, happen. Healing happens too, but not always. There are no guarantees.

Actually, that well-known passage in Isaiah 40 speaks well to people in rough circumstances, and not by promising some magic wand that will make those circumstances disappear. Rather, the passage speaks of the intersection of two different and opposite realities. One is diseased and twisted – notice: youths grow tired; young men stumble. An upside-down, backwards world is being described here, a world in which the wrong people are tired and tripping over their toes, a world that seems out of joint. Anyone who has suffered chronic pain knows that feeling. You simply cannot shake the sense that this is wrong – that backs and legs are not meant to feel this way, that life is not meant to feel this way. Cancer patients are told, basically, that our bodies are attacking us, eating away our insides. Talk about a house divided against itself: the world can’t get much more warped than that.

But behind that world lies another. In verse 21 and again in verse 28, the writer uses the refrain: “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” – a reminder that what follows is old news – and then proceeds to describe a God of boundless energy and strength, presiding over a reality that isn’t backwards or upside-down. That reality stands outside this one yet also runs through it, as a river runs through the surrounding valley, bringing life-giving water to nearby farms and cities. I may live in the world of stumbling, but I can still touch the world of soaring eagles. More precisely, that world can still touch me.

C.S. Lewis liked to say that our reality is a shadowland, a pale reflection of another, better reality. I hesitate to suggest that C.S. Lewis got something wrong – the ratio of what I know to what he knew equals the ratio of a grain of sand to a beach – but I think his Platonic metaphor doesn’t quite do the job. Our world is indeed a reflection of something larger and better – but like all reflections, it reverses the picture; it distorts that which it reflects. Reality is screwed up, as a fun-house mirror screws up the image it displays. Certainly my reality is screwed up: weariness and pain are everywhere; nothing works as it should. And yet, that fun-house-mirror world we see and feel and touch and taste is not all there is. The mirror reflects another, different world that operates by different rules. Somehow, in some way I can’t fathom, that other world is working in this one – even in my small circumstances, and even now. Somewhere, an eagle is soaring. Though I sure can’t feel it, maybe I’m soaring too.


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» Stuntz on Suffering from StephenBainbridge.com

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David Skeel and Bill Stuntz have started a new blog called Less than the Least: We are both law professors and evangelical Protestants – a weird combination in our time. We hope it’s also an interesting combination. We plan to write abou...

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Comments ( 16 )


Thanks for posting about this. It feels a bit awkward to say such things in a public forum like this, but I'll be praying for you -- and I know many many others are as well.

Be well,

TO: Bill Stuntz
RE: Seeing....

"And yet, that fun-house-mirror world we see and feel and touch and taste is not all there is." -- Bill Stuntz

....what others cannot begin to perceive, is the essence of Faith.

It's a world of pain and anguish. We all experience it, in one form or another. I can appreciate your situation; as described.

[1] Threw my back out, for the first and second time in my life last year. Getting out of bed was like climbing over the edge of a cliff during the Ranger course. Walking was going along doubled-over like the classic old man with a cane.

[2] Medicine prescribed to me by my GP only made life miserable. Even to the point of almost dying in my sleep, vis-a-vis central sleep apnea.

Every month, week, day, and even sometimes hour, seems to bring some new form of torment; physical, mental, emotional, social, whathaveyou. It can become so overwhelming.

The only thing that keeps people going in situations like that is the sort of strength that comes from Faith in Someone greater than ourselves. Otherwise, they start thinking about a one-way visit to Oregon; or some other such place.

Prayer helps. It seem like just asking for help can result in receiving it. It may not come in the form expected. [Note: Funny thing that. It seldom comes as I expected it to happen.] But it does help. Maybe it's just recognizing the problem; expressing it. However, on occasion it has been a literal physical help, as with an attack of gout I had three years ago. Just a prayer for relief from the staggering pain—which caused you to appreicate the experience of having 16-penny nails driven through your foot; think Christ on the Cross. five minutes later the pain was gone.

On other occasions, when just about to be snuffed out of this venue due to (1) on one occasion a malfunctioning parachute one night over Fort Stewart and (2) on another an 18-wheeler that was about to climb into my lane on I-25 one wintery night, I heard that proverbial 'still small voice' screaming in my mind's ear....DO THIS!!!!!

So, in the next second, I did that and I'm here to testify to His help.

He is there. He does care, albeit we may not understand it all....just yet. Probably later it will be plain to us too.


[God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein]

Mr Stuntz,
Thank you for your encouraging words. You have my prayers. I wanted to point to a modern-day CS Lewis, though he shrinks from the comparison. Dr Timothy Keller's new book, THE REASON FOR GOD, currently #18 on the NY Times bestseller list, is worth a look. He is very readable and a superb teacher of the Christian faith - in all its many flavors. May you continue to encourage others through your suffering as you point to the only source of healing and real peace.
David Hayes

I just added your blog to my favorites. You write very well.

Good to hear from you again. May grace visit you, and hold you up.

I will be praying as well. I know how chronic pain can suck away at our spirit. I pray for relief for you.

TO: Maggie45
RE: Howdy

"I will be praying as well. I know how chronic pain can suck away at our spirit. I pray for relief for you." -- Maggie45

Good to see you.


[Keep the Faith, baby!]

Actually, your body is healing more often than anything else. Health is the predominate action of your body.

Try this for the next 10 days.
Spend 10 minutes each day quietly contemplating the various parts of your body at are healthy and working well. I'll give you some examples;
- Do your eyes work? Can you see?
- How about your eyebrows? Do they keep trying to grow back?
- Surely your fingertips still have feeling. Appreciate that.
- Can you stand? Walk? Even a bit? Well, those are both victories.
- Consider for a moment the miracle that happens when you raise your hand over your head. You don't consciously direct each muscle and actively change your balance - but it happens.

So many things happen perfectly in your body that they far outweigh those things that aren't. Please spend some time focusing on what works. In less than two weeks, you'll feel better.

And that's the goal - for you to feel better.

I hope you'll give it a try.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee.

As my father's heart failed in his last days, so did his ability to speak and comprehend. Stiffening joints became more painful and shifting his position grew more difficult with each passing hour, it seemed, till he was simply too weak to manage it on his own. And yet he had to be moved or suffer all the more from the consequences of immobility. My memory of being the one who moved him, time and again, remains wrenching nearly a decade later. I struggled with being the agent of terrible pain, at a point when the father I loved could no longer hear or understand my apologies and my explanations for why I had to hurt him so. Knowing, myself alone, that I had good reasons and a larger purpose in sight was cold comfort then, but I have sometimes wondered if, in some essential way, that's not how a loving god must feel.

I'm looking forward to what will come of this blog. The combination of gentlemen, talents and experiences should make for interesting reading ... and praying. As I go through my week, I will pray for healing, strength and endurance for the both of you.

God Bless

I had cancer 5 years ago and felt much the same. I can only say that maintaining my positive mental attitude was the best thing I could do. I couldn't control anything else, the parts they cut out of me, the poisons they pumped into me, the side-effects of those poisons, or the course of the disease. But I could control what I did and what attitude I chose to embrace in response to the disease. It confounded some friends that I could look like death warmed over and act cheerful and optimistic. But it was the best thing I could do for myself and those around me.

There are hard times in life and you get through them one step at a time. It says, "walk and not be faint" and you come out the other side.

This will be interesting...the teacher v. the practitioner of 20+ years in criminal law application and now an instructor in a police academy on criminal and procedural law. I look forward to future dialogs. BTW, most importantly, a follower of Christ, too.

May God bring peace and relief to you.


TO: Bill Stuntz
RE: Some Interesting Observations, Here

I'm particularly drawn to the one (above) about focusing on what is going right. It ties in well with what else was said about casting your burdens upon the Lord.

I have to admit that I sleep better going to bed thinking like that than focusing on what is going badly.


[Know Jesus....Know Peace....]


You've been in my prayers for a long time.

When I was sick years ago with a brain tumor that badly affected my life, Jeremiah 29:10-14, lifted me:

"For Yahweh says this: I know the plans I have in mind for you. It is Yahweh who speaks; plans for peace not disaster; reserving a future foll of hope for you. Then when you call to me, and come to plead with me, I will listen to you. When you seek me you shall find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me."

Take care,


Thank you for your courage to show your pain to the world, and your feelings to the unknown. My prayers are with you.