Today is just another day. The dull ache in my left shoulder creeps down my arm. The muscles over my shoulder blade send pain up my neck and into my jaw (or maybe it is the other way around). The joints in my wrist and fingers are begging me to stop typing. My hips and lower back are fighting sitting in an office chair, so I stand up every few minutes to give them a break. My head throbs softly, causing a hint of nausea – I never know whether or not I should be running to the closest bathroom. A sharp pain shoots from my lower ribs up to the tip of my shoulder; slow and easy breaths help it subside for a moment. My knees ache when I walk. Even the little joints in my toes find a way to scream. I can’t help but wonder if it is the weather that has brought the pain twofold. Like many days, I just punch myself. This at least distracts me from the aches, throbs and pangs saturating my body. I hate it. I want to crawl out of my skin. I can’t sit still, I can’t shake it, I can’t kick it with medicine. On top of this, I have three ulcers in my mouth brought on by Sjogren’s syndrome and stress. How can I not be stressed with all the pain I’m feeling? It is a vicious cycle. Pain leads to stress and stress causes more pain.
My eyes pulse to a darker shade of blue; the tears welling up spill over and I begin to think about the cross. I think about our Savior. He bore the cross in agony… the thorns in his head, nailed to a tree above his accusers when he did nothing to deserve this persecution, nothing to assume the wrath meant for me, nothing but defeat every sin and bring peace and life to a broken people. Christ suffered so that we may live protected and joyful lives, even if they’re not necessarily comfortable. He never promised comfort. He promised Himself. All I have to do to join the ranks of eternity is believe that Christ lived, died, and rose again, defeating sin and death. If I believe those things, I have a place in heaven where pain will be no more. Can you imagine a place where pain, tears, and sadness are gone? A place where we don’t have to suffer earthly inconveniences? There lies my hope.
My pain is nowhere near that of our Savior's. I also have to remember others’ sufferings: parents grieving lost children, fathers and grandmothers battling cancer, dads with back pain from years of being a fighter pilot, children with heart problems, and so on. There are all kinds of pain in this world from known and unknown causes. The Lord is sovereign over all of it. He has given us nothing that we can’t handle with Him at our sides. To carry us when we are weak, to love us when we feel unlovable, and to remind us we are beautiful though we may feel anything but.
God chose us to live the life we have been given. I need this daily reminder that I am supposed to feel this pain; if nothing else, it brings me closer to Him. I am supposed to battle through it joyfully and willfully as it is my pain and no one else’s. God gave it to me and so how I choose to handle it is on me. I am choosing to tell you about it. I could easily quit everything. I know people who have. I could quit my job – better yet, I could make doctor appointments my fulltime job and enjoy the comforts of pain medications and my couch. I could stop moving and just sit and cry, feeling sorry for myself because of all the things that I have to “deal with.” But I don’t. Because despite it all, I want to be out there, making a difference so that other people can see that life – even a painful one – is worth fighting for.
Pain is pain, and for those suffering with chronic pain like myself, the physically reality is arduous. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know one thing: never stop praying for comfort because I know the Lord does provide it. The biggest thing that has helped besides physical therapy, exercise, and diet is distraction. I try to find anything that can take my mind off the pain, especially small joys like this. Writing this blog helps me. Even if it is just for two or three minutes at a time, it helps. Putting my thoughts elsewhere, though not easy, is a step in the right direction. Like I said, I don’t have all the answers. I’m suffering through this just as others are, and I would love to hear how you deal with the pain you have been given.
I believe I have a purpose on this earth. A purpose that may not be revealed to me soon. I hope those of you dealing with pain can turn to our loving and faithful Father. A Father who promises a new earth in heaven, a Father to whom we can turn over our pain and our burdens. A Father who is sovereign over all things and will one day make all things new. Even though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly, with Christ, we are being renewed.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18