Friday, January 02, 2015

The Unexpected Gifts of Chronic Pain

I just ended treatment with my chiropractor of the last 3 1/2 years, and I started sobbing. 

Chronic pain has a way of taking you to a place of desperation and humility like very few other things can.  So when you find someone who relieves that pain even in minute ways, you give sincere thanks to God above and you think long and hard about ever parting ways with said care provider.

But, it was time. 

I have had pains creeping, now constant, in other joints without relief or any guess as to the cause. After waiting, praying, talking with others and trying once to leave, it came time to confidently end treatment with my current chiropractor in order to try yet another specialist with the hopes that a new set of eyes on my scans, my history and me will perhaps gain me more ground in recovering a pain- free body. 

But, I wonder often if my quest is a worthwhile one. How much money should I spend?  How many different specialists should I see? tests should be done?  Self doubt enters in and I beat myself up, (figuratively because you know, I'm kind of already feeling beat up enough physically) with thoughts of others who have "real" chronic pain (the kind that has a diagnosis). I think, 
I must just be a wimp or overly sensitive or too attune to my body.  
I'm too high-strung, and my character flaws are actually the root cause of my physical ailments. 
I think too much about myself and my body. I should pour myself out more into the pains and problems others are facing. 
I need to toughen up and deal with it; I am just getting older and this is life. 

And, you know what? All these thoughts MIGHT actually be true. But, it is of little consequence really because whatever the source of my (or your) pain might be, it is for us a context from which to live desperate.

Desperation is likely not on anyone's list of New Year's resolutions. It's not something most people aim for, pray for or welcome into their lives. But, out of desperation comes the sweetest intimacy one can experience, the most genuine experience of Immanuel, God with us, the One whose birth we just finished remembering and celebrating. 

We so often want to do anything and everything we can to rid our lives of pain whether it be physical, emotional or otherwise. We want to dismiss it, deny it or mask it but not press into it, feel it fully and allow it to just be present without answers or remedy to take it away.

But, one thing I have learned over the last seven years of  living with pain is that this thing that I would swiftly kick to the curb if I could, is the very thing that keeps me ever so close to Jesus. It is one of the most pronounced tools God uses in my life to draw my heart closer to His, to experience His abiding love for me, His mercy sustaining me, His ear bent to listen to my cries for help, His hands extending to be that help I need.

The pain that I often wish I could numb is the thing that keeps me from being numb to others' pain. In its height, it heightens my awareness of others' suffering. It fills me with great empathy. It fuels passionate prayers on behalf of others. The thing that I think is stealing my life away is actually what is making me live it more fully, more deeply, more keenly aware of what is worthwhile and eternal.

Today I am seeing a new-to-me doctor with the hopes that he will help me discover the causes and cure for some of the chronic pain I experience.  While I still hold out hope to lose the pain, I pray I will never lose the unexpected gifts pain has given me. 

Are you living with chronic pain, physical, emotional or spiritual?
I would love to pray for you.
No need to write specifics if you are not comfortable doing so; you could simply leave a comment of, "Yes," and I would be honored to pray for you today. May you, too, see and relish the unexpected gifts of chronic pain. 

1 comment:

Melissa Marsh said...

Thank you for this. It is so beautiful and well-written. I was diagnosed with RA a few years ago, have had tension headaches for 20 years, and now have a myocardial pelvic pain. I get so very tired of going to doctors. I just want the pain to go away, but I realize that it is my thorn, like Paul's. It does keep me humble, makes me empathize more, and draws me closer to God. Blessings to you in this new year, and I pray your new doctor will help you find relief from your pain.