I have had pain on my mind quite a bit. I haven’t posted lately because three weeks ago I had knee replacement surgery which has necessarily caused pain to be my fairly constant companion.
Before I went to the hospital I asked the Lord to help me. My desire was to be a blessing to each medical person I encountered. I believe he answered that prayer and it was made easier by the terrific attention and care I received (and pain meds). It’s easy to be nice to those who are treating you well!
But then I came home and the pain increased. I had a physical therapist who worked me hard. After his visits I was kept awake at night, unable to sleep because of my discomfort. It wasn’t always easy to be kind to him on the next visit! It also wasn’t easy to be patient with the family members who were taking care of me. It wasn’t their fault I was hurting, but they were the convenient ones to lash out against.
Here are some things I’ve discovered through my recent experience with pain:
- Pain makes it easy to stay entirely self-focused. It’s hard to be interested in others or show concern for them when I am hurting. My tendency to selfishness is greatly heightened.
- Pain causes me to feel sorry for myself. Since I’m already an expert in self-pity, it only increases my temptation to sink into this pit of despair. I do not run to Jesus, I curl into a self-protective ball. My eyes are on me and my situation, not on God. My faith falters, and I can easily move into pessimism and hopelessness.
- Pain increases my temptation to sin in many areas. I’m tempted to be unkind, to lash out at others, to demand my way. I’m tempted to ignore God because I’m miserable. I’m tempted to run to other things that may provide distraction or comfort (also called idols?). Anything my flesh tempts me to do, say or think can be easily justified because I’m suffering. “I deserve this,” I rationalize. Pain causes me to more easily believe lies.
- The kind words and actions of others really do make a difference. At one very low point during my hospital stay, my husband prayed over me. Another time a sweet nurse rubbed my arm and spoke comforting words. After I was home, texts and kind messages from friends came at just the right moment to encourage. While none of these things actually diminished my physical pain in the moment, they boosted my morale much more than I would have believed! This is certainly a lesson I will remember in the future when I know others are hurting.
So how to combat this? I’ve fought the battle to stay thankful, to think about the kindnesses I’ve received, to express my gratitude. At times I’ve succeeded more than others, but it’s a battle worth fighting. I have joy when I’m focusing on the right things. In the times I reacted poorly and was unkind, I apologized and received forgiveness.
“When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” – C.S. Lewis, from The Problem of Pain”
This quote from C.S. Lewis describes my experience in a nutshell. I was ministered to by the sympathy of others, but I needed to seek God and His love more than anything else. May I persevere down this path – of looking for a tincture (trace amount) of God’s love and presence more than any other relief or comfort.
How do you react when suffering physical pain? Is your experience similar to mine or different?