As I have thought about writing this post numerous titles have gone through my mind: “Surrender”, “Admitting Defeat”, “Getting Honest” and a bunch of other similar titles rolled out of my brain onto the keyboard. As you can see, I chose none of them.
I am living with chronic pain. I have been living with it since 2008, shortly after I unknowingly contracted Lyme Disease. I was unknowingly bit by a tick one early spring day while cleaning up the leftover winter leaves from the little flower garden in my front yard; which happened to be in the middle of the city. An unlikely place to be bit by a tick carrying Lyme for sure. I was ill for a while before I knew I had Lyme and began treatment.
Over the years I have developed many of the same problems/complaints others who’ve had Lyme experience, and feeling physically like I have gone a few rounds of mixed martial arts (and lost) is now a part of every day life.
My purpose is not to receive your sympathy or your well-meaning suggestions to be healed or cured. My purpose is to (hopefully) encourage you with what I have learned over these past seven years. My friend Suzanne over at Near to the Healer does a much better job with the pain of chronic suffering and I encourage you to to link up with her blog for excellent wisdom.
God is by no means finished with me yet, but what I have learned from this (so far) is as follows:
God has a purpose for this and I trust His wisdom in allowing this into my life. I believe He intends to use it for a variety of purposes that will conform me into His likeness and glorify Himself (Romans 8:28-29). One purpose is limitations. I am limited in my energy and endurance and I have to be wise in what I choose to take on. So, I expend the greatest energy on things that have eternal value. Another purpose is humility. It is difficult for me to admit, “I cannot.” That smacks against my prideful heart. A third purpose is in a word, others.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)
Chronic pain is not only for my growing and changing, it is for the benefit of other people.
I have learned that my response to this is a choice. Some wise person said with respect to suffering of any kind that it will either make you bitter or better. I don’t want to be bitter and I believe it is making me better. This demands a God-ward perspective. I have to see, believe and function out of the things I write about here, otherwise I am a hypocrite and I fail to persevere. It is easy to fall into despair if I take my eyes off the goal. I find refuge and comfort in the Psalms as well as reminders of God’s faithfulness.
It is making me a better dependent. I can do what is needed through Christ who gives me the strength I need each day (Phil. 4:13). I depend on Him to enable me and to meet me at the level of my heart’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires. I depend on Him to remind me when I am becoming sullen and self-pitying about my circumstances. I depend on Him to remind me to take my thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) when I am tempted to be irritated at the limitations I am experiencing. I also depend on Him to help me to be content in my circumstances. It is tempting at times to chase down every new internet posting and get in conversations with fellow sufferers about what I should be trying to do about this, however that removes my gaze from where it needs to be.
I have learned that by His grace and power I can still glorify Him even when I am physically miserable. I am no hero, nor do I enjoy pain. Let me assure you, I take a few ibuprofen to take the edge off, this is something God has provided for my comfort! However, that is not where my help comes from.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed 2 Cor. 9:8 (NASB)
I have seen this truth demonstrated in my own life as I continue to function with this in the midst of my demanding schedule. It is not easy, but I am not at all sure it is about being easy or that it is supposed to be easy! Jesus told us we would suffer in this world and I am sure He meant more than just for our faith (John 16:33). This fallen world includes illness and physical decay. It makes me long for the next stage of life, when I will be like Him (1 John 3:2).
By God’s grace I have another forty years to learn more about the “why” of chronic pain. It’s odd, but I am looking forward to what I have yet to understand. God is good, and I am blessed beyond reason and measure.