Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Gift of Pain

“You’re no stranger to pain.”  I looked at him, taking in his observation.  Like it or not, he was right.  Pain and I have become well acquainted.  

If I were honest with myself, I would admit that I have experienced inconsistent low-level back pain for about a decade.  It’s usually a dull ache that comes and goes.  “It’s probably just from your CP,” I was told once by a physical therapist.  Research confirms this suspicion.  One study compared adults with CP to those without and found that nearly one-third of the adults with cerebral palsy had chronic pain, vs. 15% in the general population.  Back pain was the most common in both groups.

Lately, my pain has transformed from a dull ache to at times a stabbing pinch and travels down my leg.  MRI scans revealed that I have Spondylolisthesis and Degenerative Disc Disease.  Medical terminology aside, I’ve been experiencing a little more pain than normal.   

Philip Yancey, in his book Where is God When it Hurts says the following,  “Suffering produces something.  It has value.  It changes us.”

Pain, I am learning, is a gift.  Marcel Proust is quoted as saying, “Illness is the doctor to whom we pay the most heed: to kindness, to knowledge we make promises only: pain we obey.”  Not something to be ignored, pain can be the compass that ultimately points us in the direction of help and healing.  

Although my acute pain has nearly subsided as April came to a close, there was a time last month where simply walking became painful.  It was especially during these times that I was reminded that the Lord will sustain me and He is committed to walking with me every step of the way.   Britt Nicole’s new song All This Time has been particularly meaningful to me this month, so I am including it at the end of this entry.

Pain has helped me gain perspective, causing me to become more grateful for many things: over-the-counter pain killers, access to health care, health insurance, compassionate physicians who have devoted their professional careers to caring for the back, and having a physical therapy clinic next to my work.   
It’s when I lay in bed at night though, my knees propped between a pillow, situating my back as I prepare to sleep that it seems I can hear my body aching for a new being.  I am reminded that this is not my home.  Ultimately, one day I will let go of the hand of pain and the two of us will part ways…forever.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  (Revelation 21:4). 

What has suffering produced in your life?  How have you responded to your pain?

Recommended Reading: 
The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What We Can Do About It by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey
Where is God When it Hurts? Philip Yancey

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