For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18
I’ve been reading, Where Is God When It Hurts?, by Philip Yancey. For the girl who has tried to manage chronic pain for all of adulthood, this book is proving to be incredibly enlightening and powerful. It quickly occurred to me that I had NO IDEA what leprosy actually was! I had read about it and heard about it and believed it was a disease of the skin. But many who suffer from leprosy have numbness or a lack of feeling in their hands, feet, or legs (disturbingly similar to diabetes symptoms, huh?). While leprosy is caused by a bacterium, it is worsened and difficult to manage due to the absence of pain or sensation in the extremities. Yancey describes individuals who put their hands in fire and wear shoes that wear down toes because they do not feel the warning signs those of us who feel pain heed. Can you imagine? How dangerous is this world for those who may not feel pain??
I know pain. Too well. I spent a great deal of my time, energy, and money trying to manage my physical pain throughout 2007-2010. This came after years of trying to ignore or self-medicate this pain and suffering. My first recollection of pain is from middle school – sitting in the bleachers for a pep rally, hiding the tears that built up because of the pain in my knees. My mother disregarded this discomfort as growing pains. So I silently dealt with it. One morning when I was 16, I could not get out of bed. My back hurt so badly and I could not sit up. I eventually got up and my mom took me to the urgent care – x-rays, muscle relaxants, and steroids were the answer! The cause? According to the x-ray, I must have been dropped on my head as a baby (seriously!) and my spine was being compressed. A few days later a specialist called. After looking at my x-rays he suggested that I seek additional treatment or suffer extensively in the future. I tried chiropractic adjustments for a while, but then I came to rely on unhealthy doses of ibuprofen to make it through my days.
Fast forward 6 years or so to 2004, I was no longer taking regular doses of ibuprofen – I was silently suffering. I was introduced to water aerobics and as I became stronger, the pain lessened! It was not gone, but it became more tolerable. I fell in love with exercise – leading me to where I am today. I learned what my body could and could not handle. I learned what made my pain worse and what made it better. I learned to be in tune with my body. Being a master at ignoring pain – I ignored it too often and by 2007 I had done damage to my knees. I was in agony. I made a too-quick decision to have surgery in December 2007 on my right knee. While this surgery led to a miserable year of pain and suffering, it forced me to rest and protected me from doing permanent damage to my left knee – which exhibited ACL and PCL strains.
2008 was the year of great suffering. I had complications following surgery that significantly limited my rehabilitation, exacerbated pain, and led to a second surgery. Doctors and specialists told me that I would never run, jump, or squat again. I was told to stop exercising (or anything that caused pain – living caused pain at that time). At the same time, I was told to lose weight (at 5’7″, 155lb.) and to do so without exercising or much physical activity at all. I was recommended to try an experimental antibiotic regimen that had been shown to help osteoarthritic patients – I declined. Going into 2009, I was told that I would spend my lifetime managing my pain with medications (which by the way did nothing to alleviate my pain) and that the chances were good I would require joint replacements and invasive surgeries as early as age 30.
I was angry. I could see how my pain and suffering were molding me into the wonderful professional and woman I am today, but it was difficult to cope. I now know my body better than most people you will ever meet. That little tweek in my hip means no heavy lifting. The pain in my right temple is actually my trapezius screaming for a rest. I will not give up. I will not stop. I will use my pain as a barameter. I will love my pain – as it protects me from evil, injury, and even death. So where is God with it hurts? I don’t know about you…but I’m thinking that I may be safely protected in His arms when it hurts. It’s certainly something to consider!
…nine months of waiting and preparation, intense labor, then the ecstasy of birth. – John 16:21