Believe me when I say I can empathize with those of you who suffer from chronic pain conditions. I know how exhausting it can be to hurt all the time. I’m right there with you with my fibromyalgia (which feels like somebody has pulled the plug, drained all the energy out of me, then thrown a wet blanket on me, and infused me with the body aches of the flu, plus the pain of overworked muscles, plus the tenderness of pressing on a bad bruise). It takes a herculean effort to do anything, and when I do it hurts to move, it hurts when I don’t move, and I’m tender to the touch. With my pain receptors out of whack, if I bump my leg on the corner of the couch as I walk by, it may throb for hours.
I also have chronic headaches, sometimes morphing into migraines. It’s not uncommon for me to have a headache 5-7 days a week, even if it’s only part of the day, but I found out I had migraines when I went to the doctor with a headache that had lasted all day every day for 3 weeks and was unresponsive to over-the-counter pain meds. I have arthritis in my spine and hips (one hip is better now I’ve had the joint replaced), bulging discs in my neck and lower back, TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder), irritable bowel syndrome, and recurring muscle cramps with knots (especially in my neck and shoulders). Fortunately, I no longer suffer from endometriosis since I had all those parts removed fifteen years ago. What a blessing that was!
I don’t know what condition(s) you have (you can let me know in the comments, if you like), but I do know how hard it is to push past all that pain, mask the grimace with a smile, and live a productive life.
I know how much easier it would be to give in, go to bed, believe there’s no hope, and cry yourself to sleep (if that’s possible).
I know how discouraging it is to want to do something fun with a friend, yet not feel up to it physically.
I know how frustrating it is when a doctor, friend, boss, or spouse doesn’t understand how you could possibly feel that bad that often, especially if you don’t look sick and/or all your tests come back negative.
I know how hurtful it is when people think you’re making it all up for some reason.
I know how chronic pain wears you down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
It’s no wonder depression is more prevalent in those with chronic pain conditions.
I can’t say I understand why some of us have to live with chronic pain conditions but there is help and hope for those of us who have asked Jesus to forgive our sins and be our Lord and Savior. We now have Jesus on our side and the Holy Spirit in us.
Jesus is still in the business of healing, and although He doesn’t heal everyone, nor does He necessarily heal as fast as we’d like, the Holy Spirit is our source of strength and wisdom.
The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to push through the pain when necessary and as I say, “Do what you have to do,” but also to know when our body needs rest, which is hard to do without feeling guilty in today’s fast-moving, first-in-first-served, go-after-what-you-want world, but getting plenty of rest is essential in coping with the fatigue resulting from chronic pain.
For those of us with a compassionate and Spirit-filled church family, we always have support too. That may come with a listening ear, with a healing prayer, a loving hug, or a lending hand. Don’t withdraw, thinking no-one understands, because as prevalent as chronic pain conditions are, I guarantee there are others in your church family who understand where you’re coming from, will pray with you and for you, and will walk with you through it, helping in any way they can.
We need to remember there’s always something to be thankful for. For instance, I’m grateful I’m in less pain than I was years ago thanks to the gift of modern medicine. I’m grateful for the good days, when the pain is minimal, and I’m grateful for the multitude of other blessings the Lord has heaped on me.
Because depression and chronic pain often drag each other around in a downward spiral, focusing on the positive, or doing something we enjoy, especially if it makes us laugh, can sometimes help lift the depression and, in turn, alleviate the pain a little, even if only temporarily.
I’m of the belief that the devil just wants us to give in, give up, and go to bed for the rest of our lives. If he can get us to focus on our problems, waste our lives having our own little pity party, inviting anyone and everyone to join us, then he doesn’t have to worry about us being effective for God’s kingdom and he’s won that battle. And as tempting as that is sometimes, I’m also of the belief that we need to fight it with prayer (including intercession from others, if necessary) and with every ounce of strength the Lord gives us, pushing through and doing as much as we can, despite our bodies screaming at us in pain.
Maybe it’s just the stubborn streak in me, but I don’t want to let the devil win and I don’t want to waste my life. I believe each one of us has been put on this earth for a specific purpose, and it’s up to us to search out what that is and accomplish it with the Lord’s help.
Despite my chronic pain conditions, I’ve always worked full-time and I’ve only called in sick to work a couple of times in the last 15 years, and that was because I had the flu. I won’t lie, more often than not, it’s really hard. Soooo many times, all I want to do is go back to bed, but something clicked in me years ago when my boss told me HR was breathing down his neck about my excessive call-ins.
He furrowed his brow and nodded understandingly when I gave him my list of conditions, but I realized, although they were completely valid reasons for not feeling well (and you can add insomnia to the list back then too), I was allowing them to control me and limit me. Not only were those chronic conditions affecting me, but they were affecting my girls, my husband, my coworkers, my relationships, my spiritual life.
I had given up crying out to the Lord. I had given in to the lies it was never going to get any better. I wasn’t living, I was existing from day to day.
I can’t say it’s been a bed of rose petals since then, because there’s been plenty of thorns too, but there have been some really good days as well, and even some decent months, dare I say years. I sought out doctors who were qualified and caring enough to help, tried different ways to cope such as physical therapy (no, it didn’t help, but I tried it) and chiropractic warm water massage beds (no, it didn’t help, plus it got expensive), and finally found a couple of medications that work well for me.
Since then, I’ve taken five cruise vacations (two around Europe that were amazing), made several trips home to New Zealand, enjoyed being a part of my grandchildren’s lives, grown in my relationship with the Lord, and participated in some great small groups at church, among other things.
None of that would have been possible if I’d stayed stuck where I was, curled up in bed, in a pit of despair.
What I’m trying to say is don’t give up on better days to come, don’t give in to the lies that this is your lot in life, never give up on asking the Lord to heal you, and don’t confine yourself to your bed or home thinking the Lord doesn’t care. He does.
But you’ve got to ask yourself the tough question, “Do I really want to get well?” That may sound like a funny thing to say — who wouldn’t want to get well?
I’ve noticed, though, there’s some people with chronic conditions who become so accustomed to being ill that their illness becomes their identity. They get used to people catering to them, they expect others to fill in the gaps for them, they’re validated by people’s pity, and they think they have a right to handouts and special treatment because of their condition.
In the Bible passage above, the invalid, rather than answering with an emphatic “Yes!” made an excuse that he had no one to help him. But Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, you poor thing! Here, I’ll help you.” No, instead…
The man had to get up first. He needed to be face to face with Jesus, the source of hope. Only then would he realize a better life was a step away.
Don’t settle for a less-than life. If you really want to get well, prove it to yourself and to the Lord by making the first move — get up, pick up your mat, and take a step of faith.
A step in the right direction.
A step toward healing.
Does anyone have a healing story they’d like to share?