You ever have one of those days where all these thoughts and ideas and feelings are tumbling around in your head and you know you're not going to sort them all out unless you write? Well, if you do, then this is one of those days.
First, God's timing never ceases to amaze me. In big things, in "small" things, things that don't seem to really be that important or things that are huge and critical. He's always on time, and always faithful to be on time. I'll explain:
The last week or so I've been having an extremely painful neck injury flare-up. I don't remember when it started but I think it was about a week ago. Granted, my "extremely painful" is subjective. I'm sure it's not as bad as the pain someone with bone cancer suffers with, and I'm certain it's worse than "run of the mill pain". When I was in physical therapy my doctor asked me every week to rate my pain (scale of 1-10, 1 being mildly annoying and 10 being the worst pain I've ever felt in my life) so on that scale, for me, this current pain is at about 7+. I have experienced a few other things in life that blow that scale off the charts, so 7+ is pretty tolerable and pretty miserable at the same time.
Whenever I have one of these episodes I never know how long it's going to last or how bad it's going to get, so I try really hard to watch my attitude. The other day I snapped at my hubby and instantly felt like the biggest loser on the planet because I wasn't mad, I was just edgy from the pain. Thankfully, he understands.
So then this morning when I clicked a link off twitter that was said to be a "good example of suffering well" I was hopeful to read something that encouraged me. It definitely did and that link is here: What God's Teaching Me Through Epilepsy. I can't encourage you enough to go read that. After I was done reading it I had to ask myself the question "do I suffer well?" I don't think I need to tell you, I didn't like the answer. Sometimes I think I do (there are people that have known me for years and have no idea I have this chronic pain), and other times I know I don't. Like when I snapped at my husband.
It's complicated though (and no, this is no excuse, it's just the truth). You see, I don't think it's possible to suffer with chronic pain for years and years without it changing you, no matter how hard you try to simply be yourself. I've had this injury for 21 years and I've often wondered what kind of person (general disposition I mean) I'd have been were it not for this constant pain. Of course it's all speculation but I know that dealing with pain all the time, every day makes you weary, impatient, irritable, exhausted, intolerant, etc. Oddly enough it also makes you compassionate, understanding and sympathetic. I realize anyone can be any of those things without ever having to deal with chronic pain but I think as a direct result of dealing with it, that these things are more prominent - both good and bad.
I've read all kinds of things over the years about pain. Pain is a Gift, Don't Waste Your Pain, Living with a Pain in the Neck (yes, literally) and so on. Some of these things I've read are very helpful and some are just so full of baloney you know the person who wrote them has never suffered more than a stubbed toe. Sometimes when I read something about living with pain I can tell immediately if the writer actually does live with it, or if they do not. The ones that do, completely and totally and wonderfully understand and make the most sense. The ones that don't usually offer fluffy-wuffy feel-good advice that would definitely help a stubbed toe but don't even touch what it's really like. I'm sure they mean well, and I'm sure they are full of compassion for those who genuinely suffer but their experience in it doesn't exist, so I just don't connect with them. It would be like a man telling a woman how to handle natural childbirth. Of course they can have knowledge and wisdom about it but without ever actually experiencing it... well, the connection just stops after a certain point. Besides, they generally tend toward encouraging folks to have this "I should be a shining example of awesomesauce while I suffer" attitude. Ultimately yes, we should all strive to be examples of grace at all times but the reality of it is, it's very very very difficult to be awesomesauce when all you want to do is scream and then scream some more. It can be done, and sometimes God's grace is so astounding it is done, but generally it doesn't work that way.
So allow me to offer two positives while I'm feeling so negative.
1. Pain is a Gift. Yes, that sounds contradictory but it's 100% true. God designed our bodies to respond to pain so that we'd know when something is wrong and needs to be treated. There are some with an insensitivity to pain and that's actually far more dangerous and deadly than you might imagine. For them, the burden is on their 24/7 caregivers who have to guard them constantly to keep them safe. As miserable as my own pain is, at least I have it and know that something is wrong and I need to do this or that (or not do this or that) to alleviate it.
2. Don't Waste Your Pain. There are certain times, seasons, events, moods, etc. in your day to day life that bring you closer to God and further away from your own self-interests, than others. The birth of a baby, the death of a loved one, news of someone's salvation. And, extreme pain. If you're a Christian and you're reading this, you already know that in these events your thoughts turn to God and you ponder the eternal things, the glorious things, the forever things. Temporal thoughts of paying the phone bill, washing the dishes or changing the oil in the car are the furthest things from your mind. It should be the same way in your extreme pain as well. Since He's already brought you there, embrace it and use that time to count your other blessings, thank Him for His mercy, seek wisdom for comfort, and remember that He is faithful. It's very easy to get wrapped up in your own misery when you're in pain. As easy as breathing, actually. It takes concerted effort to step outside of it and focus yourself on God. Sometimes it takes a LOT of effort but it's always a good place to go and you'll always be glad you did. You still might need to scream, but that's okay too, because it's a perfectly natural, God-designed way to react when you're in pain. If anyone ever tells you it's not, drop a hammer on their bare toe and see how they react. I assure you, it won't be with a smile and a "thank you sister, that was glorious".
I wrote this today more for myself than anything but if it helps you, then that makes me happy.