This is a difficult post for me to write not because the subject is difficult, but because I’m writing while in the grip of much pain and in the fog of medication. Such is my situation right now due to my chronic illness made worse by the serious car accident we were in.
Most of the time, I am doing so well that nobody is even aware I am sick. And then sometimes, I can’t juggle all my roles I love so dearly anymore. My fibromyalgia takes over…
So I’m writing today not from my usual beloved chair by the window, but from my bed surrounded by a cloud of pillows with fingers that don’t want to type. Please, I’m not sharing this to gain pity because I don’t want that. I’m sharing this side of my life because it is one that most people don’t see and even fewer experience.
Our culture doesn’t do well with pain; we are far too anesthetized for our own good. We’ve lost touch with what pain is so much that some of us are scared to even talk about it as if it was contagious.
If you don’t believe me please ask yourself if you’ve ever unfriended someone on Facebook for being too “negative”. Do you answer “fine” when someone asks how you are doing, even when you’re not? On your next trip to the store please notice how much space is devoted to the painkillers in the pharmacy section and how many other medicinal products promise “fast relief”.
Our culture’s pain avoidance is systemic.
Contrast this with how painful life was in Jesus’ day: it was a world without pain killers, social safety nets, and labor-saving devices. Life was hard.
And yet people followed Him joyfully. There was never this expectation of a pain-free, easy life that seems to trouble us so greatly today. It boils down to us reading scripture through the lens of our culture and demanding of God something that isn’t actually good for us.
It’s this fearful running away from pain and the lack of authenticity that is dulling down our existence to something that is merely existential, but it’s not about us. Our lives are one small part of this incredible, grand narrative in which God is the Hero and is going to redeem us for His glory. In our limited view we miss sight of how great this story really is; so much more so than any story or movie we have ever seen or will see.
All pain has a purpose. In such a huge scheme of things I may never know why I am going through this and that is okay. But if we deny what is going on with ourselves, we deny that part of God’s story because, ironically, we think it is too ugly for Him to have anything to do with it.
We should handle pain so much better. We need to share it so it isn’t quite so scary when it comes along and touches us. It is a now familiar path to tread for me and people need to know they don’t have to walk it alone.
We don’t need to compare our pain. Pain is pain and how it individually impacts us varies greatly. All pain though serves to strip away the outer, hardened layers of our heart and tries to remake it in the shape of our Lord’s. But we have to let it…
There are only two responses to pain. We can either run towards Christ in it or we can blame Him in it. Standing still simply roots us deeper into the distance from God making it all the more difficult to pick up momentum to move. There is no middle ground.
The amazing thing about what we’ve been going through is our friends’ and family’s response to our pain. The amount of support and prayers we’ve received has been astounding and humbling; it is the church acting as the Body of Christ at its finest.
It is scary, I know. If you don’t know how to respond to someone who is in pain, ignoring it is the worst possible response. Pain is miserably isolating in and of itself and the inattention only makes it feel even colder. Just listen, offer to pray, bring a meal, offer some company. It’s amazing what some chicken soup can do when a friend offers it especially when it is offered in Christ’s name.
One of the hardest things about pain and especially long-term pain is that the cost isn’t just physical. It’s mental too.
It seems to unfair at times that this is my path to walk and now my family is walking it alongside me. I know God has His purpose, but it is easy to forget especially when the words aren’t coming since I have a concussion. Or when each breath physically hurts. And when I see the accident again every night in my sleep and I remember the sickening feeling when I turned around to see my six-year-old covered in blood and his forehead split open showing his skull. It was one of my worst nightmares as a parent, but I didn’t expect my kids to be walking with me in the emotional aftermath. They are having nightmares and are terrified to ride in cars.
It’s ugly and not easy. Grief for what we’ve lost is part of pain.
We all need this everyday grace. My kids need grace as they struggle to find normal again. I need grace as I am thrown back into my battle with fibro.
And yet, I’m so grateful for the grace that we’ve been given. No matter how dark the path, God promises to walk it with us in Psalm 23.
God has offered the ultimate grace. Pain needs to remind us to share this grace in any way possible especially to those who are hurting. It starts with empathy because pain doesn’t need to be scary. Run to Christ and not away from Him. Those are the only two choices.