PAIN. Just the mention of the word usually causes us to recoil, to shudder at the very thought. I’m sure most of us can identify with that feeling at some point in our lives. Pain can come in varying degrees—a sharp twinge in bending the wrong way or neglecting to warm up before an exercise routine, to prolonged, searing pain that seemingly never finds relief no matter what we do.
Sometimes prolonged pain can be productive—it can alert us to further investigate our ongoing distress and recognise that our symptoms are in fact a warning signal of a deeper issue. It’s a prompt to address complications of a more serious nature.
Pain is not always physical. Emotional pain can be just as debilitating, sometimes more so, and is often borne privately for many years, sometimes a lifetime. It’s hidden because we feel others won’t understand, or maybe they’ll even judge us. Perhaps the hurt is too raw to acknowledge or express. Behind a managed smile there is often a heavy heart. Silent tears can be very lonely.
Constant nagging pain is a slippery slope, at times all-consuming. When there is no physical evidence of pain, the sufferer is often dismissed or not taken seriously. My pain began after a workplace incident in which I sustained a “frozen shoulder”. At times I felt the pain was almost unbearable. My range of movement in the affected shoulder was reduced to almost nil. While my pain has decreased somewhat, six months later my range of movement remains limited.
Sitting on my bed in tears one day I thought, Surely God has a purpose in all of this and I asked myself, Can I find 10 things to be thankful for in my pain? I surprised myself when I got started. In fact, I found 11 things to praise God for! I want to share these insights with you in the hope that you too can find reasons to hope and find some blessings, even through painful times:
1. My injury was not sustained to my dominant arm.
2. I can still use my unaffected arm.
3. I can still walk.
4. I have medical and financial help and support.
5. My own pain has helped me to realise more fully the depth of other people’s pain—sometimes it’s easy to forget when are not in pain ourselves.
6. It has helped me to realise I need to take more time out for rest and recovery and not feel guilty in seeking that balance.
7. Sometimes we can be too stoic in not acknowledging our pain and thereby deny others and ourselves a blessing in their ministry to us.
8. I’m thankful for practical help from family and friends.
9. It has helped me to realise that sometimes nature just has to takes its course and can’t be hurried—it’s a lesson in patience.
10. By not working in my usual capacity I’ve had more time for prayer and personal reflection.
11. I’ve been reminded of timeless words of wisdom, such as “This too shall pass”, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step” and the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” Having said those words to others many times, did I really believe them myself in my own situation?
Having had much time to contemplate the feelings and emotions pain evokes, I realise more fully my own pain is but a shadow of the pain Jesus bore for me. It is but a glimpse of the immense suffering He was willing to bear to show us the Father’s unfathomable love. Agonising pain, shame, torment and humiliation were His lot in order to reconcile a broken and hurting world to Himself. God can and does bring blessing out of the most soul-shattering and trying circumstances.
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” says the Bible in Hebrews 13:5. Those are words worth clinging to.
If you are living with pain, don’t lose hope. Allow Jesus to press you to His heart and give you peace within the pain. We may not see it at the time through our tears, but God’s promises are sure. The last few lines of that beautiful poem, “Footprints”, sums up the essence of divine love in a hurting world: “When you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Lyn Scarr is a nurse in Ocean Shores, on NSW’s north coast.