If I am being completely honest and transparent with you, I’m struggling. I’m wrestling with the mental affects of chronic pain. Now, chronic pain can be labeled in different ways and is usually reserved for pain that has no real end in sight. Hopefully, that is not the definition for me.
I have been dealing with some form of pain in my left shoulder for over a year. It’s a very life-altering thing that has changed how I do life in significant ways. I am hopeful that there is an end in sight as I am recovering from surgery performed one month ago tomorrow. In light of that, I have hope for normalcy.
That being said, I’m still dealing with some significant pain. I write that not for pity, but with a mind for those who are dealing with pain much more severe than mine and with little hope for relief in the near future. I know something of the mental anguish that is involved with extensive physical pain. I understand a little of the twinges of depression that try and creep in. I feel the despair that lurks around the edge that maybe this will never go away. It’s very real. It’s very challenging.
Any time we have challenges like this in our lives, it causes one or two things to happen. One, we get angry. We give into despair and begin a downward spiral of sadness, anger, rage and self-destruction. In short, we run away from God. We don’t understand why He would allow this in our lives. We can’t get our minds around a loving God who would allow such suffering with no relief in a way no earthly father would, if he could stop it. Yet, the suffering continues.
A second possible response sees things differently. Though he hurts the same, he runs in a different direction. He runs to the God of all comfort in the midst of pain. He holds onto God’s promise that was made to Paul during his suffering: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s reply, appropriately, is, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)
This second response is the one I am holding onto. I understand that bad things that happen in my life are not for my punishment (that was taken care of by Christ on the cross). Instead, as John Piper put it, they are for my purification. I am made strong through suffering. I am made more Christlike in tough times, because that is where I learn to rely on His strength rather than my own. I feel weak. I know God is strong. That’s the glory of the Gospel…the glory of the cross.
I work my shoulder everyday. I go to physical therapy faithfully. I pray for healing regularly. I believe it will come. I am content, though, knowing that in my weakness, He WILL BE strong!