Monday, December 3, 2012

What To Do About Pain

It's a wonder that pain -- in and of itself -- cannot kill.

A friend had a migraine for so long and so severe that she lied on the floor crying and telling her husband she thought she was going to die from the pain.

I have never said those words, but I have felt that pain.

Pain would like to convince us that it has the power to kill in all its agony. Pain can do many things, but kill it cannot do. In fact, if you can feel pain, you are most certainly alive.

Not to brag... but I might be one of the most "alive" people you've ever met. Yep... I like to live what they call "life to the full."

You should try it. (Just kidding.)

No, pain can't kill anyone. But it can do lots of other unpleasant things... It can cause shivering, muscle spasms, vomiting, and, if prolonged, it can cause you to lose your mind.

In the hours of deepest pain, how was it that Jesus did not lose his mind? I know he didn't lose his mind because he was able to pray for others. I think he kept his sanity by defeating the fear of pain. He did not allow pain or the certain coming of pain to make him fear. If he would've given way to fear of pain, he would've come down off that cross. But in those dark Gethsemane hours, knowing pain was coming, I believe Jesus made a conscious decision not to fear pain.

Wouldn't it have been so much easier for Jesus if his death would've been instant, without the pain of crucifixion? But then, what kind of hero would he be for us without having to face our fear? The fact that pain itself cannot kill becomes an even scarier thing than if it could. If pain could kill, one would at least have a peace knowing the end of the pain was coming. But it's even scarier to think it will go on indefinitely... Indeed, that is the scariest thing about pain: It lasts. Until you die.

For a lot of us, that means pain could last a long, long time.

The only way I am able to handle this thought without losing my mind is to rest on the surety of my eternity with Jesus:

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)

My comfort is in my assurance of salvation I have through Jesus Christ. I belong to him. For me, pain will end, and in the spectrum of eternity the pain that I experienced here will one day seem short.

Still, there are days when it's just hard.

Fear of lifelong earthly pain can still cause a person to lose their mind, especially in the middle of it. Chronic pain became long enough and frequent enough for me that I needed to start consciously deciding not to fear pain/life. I do not want to lose my mind; there are other people who depend on me to not lose my mind.

Here is how I overcome the fear that pain hurls at me: I tell God "thank you."

Thank you, not just in this circumstance, but for this circumstance.

Thank you that it can't kill me.

Thank you that I need not fear it, because you are with me.

Thank you for taking care of my family.

Thank you for the treasures of darkness you can give me only in such dark pain.

Thank you for humbling me.

Thank you not just that this bout will eventually end, but thank you for now. I have a pillow. I have water. I have a bedroom. This moment is sacred.

Thank you for the loss of time with my people.

Thank you for all I have lost because of this pain.

Thank you for this pain.

Many people say that you don't need to thank God for pain or loss or injustice. That God does not require the hard thanks. This thought might be consoling, but I declare with Paul that I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation. I don't have to thank God for it, and I might not always practice thanks as well as Paul did. But when I fail to give the hard thanks -- perhaps the most important thanks -- my peace is stolen and my joy is stolen and quite frankly I lose my mind.

Maybe this is a treasure of darkness that can only be understood after you go through it.

What I know is there are many ways experts have found to deal with pain. For example, medicines to prevent it and Botox to numb it and chiropractic to get at the physical root of it and counseling to get at the emotional root of it and deliverance to get at the spiritual root of it. So we pray, then do what seems good to enable us to function despite the pain.

But even after all this has been done, if you are still alive on this earth, you will find out that there is still pain. Oh, yes! It comes back in one form or another.

All of these dealings with pain can be good and make us healthier in some way and we should do them if we can... but the deepest "root" to pain will never be fully yanked out until we are yanked off this planet and taken home to heaven for good. The important thing is to not let pain take our mind. We must fight to keep our joy. And giving thanks for the now always precedes the joy.

So, you may not think it's necessary to thank God for everything. But this giving thanks in the middle of pain is my crazy sword, this is all I've got. I have a Father who continually gives gifts to me and I intend to find them... in every station.

1 comment:

Pam Taylor said...

Wow! What a redeeming post! Beautifully stated! The only other time I've heard of anyone talking of the "treasures of darkness" was Joni Eraekson Tada. And I was as stunned when I read her post as I am reading yours. Stunned to reality. Stunned to the TRUTH of God's word anew! Thank you Kati for this blessing! For your transparency!