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Life Lessons From Pain

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By Tammy Hensel

Chronic pain. It never goes away. Friend or foe, it nags at you daily, no matter how hard you try to ignore it or determine not to give in to it. “Just let me do one more thing, and then I’ll rest,” you silently pray. But that one more thing may be the thing that puts you out of commission for weeks!

For many years I have suffered chronic pain from a variety of health issues. During this time I have come to realize that my pain is a refining fire God is using to make me into the woman He wants me to be. Here are some of the lessons I have learned from my struggle with chronic pain.

God cares about my body. It is His holy temple and good stewardship requires that I take care of it.

There was a day I cried out in desperation for God to heal me from my pain. It was an intimate moment with my Father in which I felt His arms around me, His presence enveloping me. His voice spoke to my spirit, saying, “My daughter, I love you. I understand your pain more than you can imagine. I want to heal you. But if I do you will never learn to take care of your body. You know what the doctors and the physical therapists have told you to do. Do these things and draw your strength from Me!”

I must learn to listen to my body and the advice of those people God brings into my life to help and instruct me.

My first physical therapist said to me, “Listen to what your body is telling you. Distinguish between the good pain and the bad pain.” In Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, authors Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancy wrote: “We doctors know the truth, but we shy away from interfering in our patients’ lives. If we were fully honest, we might say something like this: ‘Listen to your body, and above all listen to your pain. It might be telling you that you are violating your brain with tension, your ears with loudness, your eyes with constant television, your stomach with unhealthy food, your lungs with cancer producing pollutants. Listen carefully to the message of pain before I give you something that will relieve these symptoms. I can help you with the symptoms, but you must address the cause.’ ” (HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1991, p.226; Reprinted in 1997 as The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt & what We Can Do about it by, Paul
W. Brand and Philip Yancey by Zondervan.)

I am not superwoman, but I have a supernatural God.

At one point in my life, I became so depressed by my inability to take care of my family that I even thought of suicide. To my amazement, I found I was not the only Christian woman to be brought to that point by pain. In her book, Silent September, Joyce Landorf confessed her distress from chronic pain: “Pain had destroyed my sense of humor, annihilated my ability to think logically, and had done its best to shatter my relationships with my husband and family. I simply did not care about one single person, thing, or event. I just wanted to be out and off this planet. I wanted, most of all, to go home to be with God.” (Word Books, 1984, p.18)

She was writing about me! And her courage in being willing to expose her feelings to the world impressed me even more. I eventually adjusted my attitude from self-pity to surrender. Now, instead of throwing a pity party, I ask, “what is God trying to teach me through this pain?”

There is no shame in asking for help.

I was raised in the philosophy of self-reliance. While there is some merit in stoic acceptance of circumstances, I experienced the value of having a support group. Among my church family and Christian friends there were those who longed to help me. Indeed, I discovered that if I do not accept their assistance, I am robbing them of a blessing God wants to give them.

I can savor the victories and mark the milestones of my recovery.

Now, when I struggle with pain, it is the victories, such as not succumbing to the desire to end it all, which I recall and draw upon. On Easter Sunday 2006 I was able to share with my church family a dramatic monologue. Because of my health problems, I hadn’t been able to present this particular piece for many years. It involved bending, bowing, and stretching—movements impossible for me just the year before. It was an amazing testimony to God’s faithfulness in my life!

Life is not about me!

God doesn’t want me to make pain the focus of my life. As I direct my attention to the needs of others and what I can do to meet their needs, my own pain fades into the background. W. Phillip Keller expressed this same thought most eloquently in Strength of Soul. He wrote, “ . . . instead of being preoccupied with our own problems, pain, protests over every petty complaint, we look out beyond ourselves to the goodness of God and others. Instead of seeing life through the narrow slot of our own self-centeredness we take the wider view of realizing all we have, all we are, all we enjoy, comes to us freely, generously from our Father’s gracious heart and open hands.” (Kregel Publications, 1993, p.76).

Christ understands my pain because He suffered much more while on earth.

Recently a friend who was suffering called to ask me to pray for her. As she began to describe her agony, I wanted more than anything else to put my arms around her and simply cry with her. I later realized that is exactly what God did for me on that day I cried out for healing. He held me in His arms and cried with me. He gave me the courage to press on.

I now know that there is no pain we can ever feel—be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual—that Christ has not felt. Pain is part of the human experience. He went through it and so must we. Just as I longed to put my arms around my friend, He is there waiting with open arms. All we need do is step into His embrace.

©2008 Tammy Hensel. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bio:
hat.jpegTammy Hensel is a part-time freelance writer for newspapers and magazines, as well as a public relations consultant for small ministries and businesses. She is a 1980 magna cum laude graduate of Baylor University in Waco, TX with a BA degree in journalism and history. She and her husband currently reside in the Bryan/College Station, TX area.

Tammy has been an active church member since giving her life to Christ in 1972 at age 14 and has served in a variety of ministry areas.. You can read more about her on her blog Dedicated Writer at http://dedicatedwriter.blogspot.com/