Psalm 62:8 - Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Here I am sitting at my computer creating this post, and today I’m feeling a bit angry. Angry that my body hurts so much it’s hard to move. But did you know that it’s okay to sometimes be angry? It is a natural feeling to have when you see your body degrading as your health condition is trying to snatch away years of being able to do what we want to do. It’s also okay to sometimes be afraid; afraid of what the future will hold for you. Perhaps you can’t work anymore and you don’t know how your bills will be paid. It’s okay to sometimes stay at home and rest when you need to, because that way you might be able to do things that take a little more strength. Did you catch the words, “It’s okay sometimes”? I believe this is one of the keys to finding your way down the chronic health condition highway. Let that road lead you past anger and fear and onto trusting God with everything in your life including your feelings. He can handle your woes and give you his loving comfort.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 - There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
There are seasons in our lives that come and go. Some go by quickly, while others drag on. Some are seasons of great joy, while others leave our hearts broken. Sometimes we have a season when our bodies are working correctly and our pain is held at bay. Our bodies let us go out and take part in family gatherings and spend time with friends. But then our chronic pain slaps us in the face demanding that we focus on it instead and we head into a season of pain. This is where the rubber meets the road. If we are by ourselves it may be okay to let down our guard and grieve this day of chronic pain. But when we are with others, it’s okay to grieve in front of them and be an honest person. But it’s not okay to do all of the time. If we constantly have our heads laid down with no hope of a smile forming on our lips, how will that give courage to someone else who sees us and is also grieving from chronic pain? Be real, but also show others that though life is really hard living with chronic pain, it doesn’t have to mean that this season of our lives is only meant to be lived in grief. This won’t be easy. It will go beyond our own strength to do it. We can reach out our hands toward God. He will take hold of our hand and help us stand back up. Then we can reach out our other hand towards someone else who is also struggling in pain. Together we can lift each other up and be honest when life is hard.
Psalm 139:15 - My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
With chronic pain, I think this is where the rub is – not being able to return to a normal life. Everything changes in a heartbeat when either an accident or illness takes pain and maximizes the suffering it causes. Our eyes now look through tainted glasses. Each time a project or event comes up in your life, you have to decide if going will bring you a flare-up of pain. But life wasn’t meant to bring only suffering. There can be joy even if there’s pain. They can coexist, but you must be willing to be flexible and let how your body feels guide your day. That way, you will be less likely to automatically take something on that might bring more suffering. Taking a day to rest after your activity is also a good way to allow your body to recover. Remember, God is the maker of your body, and he knows what you can and can’t do. Ask him what you should do with your day and he will direct you.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
After battling chronic pain and illness for over twenty-six years, I’ve learned there really isn’t a “normal” for my life and if there was, I don’t want to live it. What I want is to be an encouragement to those who are suffering. I want to minimize how much pressure I put on myself and be who I am. I’m not going to get to that place if I keep wanting that “normal life.” I will find it by focusing on my world as a place where I can plant flowers to bloom in another person’s life. There are always ways you can do that, even if it’s only to be real in your world. Even if you think you can hide from your friends what your life is right, don’t try. They can still see what’s beneath you. They will also find a breath of fresh air by seeing you pour your life into others; and they’ll see you not giving up on how you can still be of use to those around you. God is the one who guides my life and he can also guide yours towards that goal.
James 1:12 - Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
What is normal? That’s a heavy question. Normal to some is being free from pain, coming and going as you please, and feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of a day. But that’s not what a person battling chronic pain looks like. Yet, here we are trying to be “normal.” It puts a lot of pressure on us to try and look like we have at least part of a normal lifestyle. Yet, for me, after battling chronic pain and illness for over twenty-six years I’ve learned there really isn’t a “normal” and if there was one, I don’t want to be it. What I want is to be an encouragement to those who are suffering. I want to minimize how much pressure I put on myself and be who I am. I want to show the world that there is life after an injury. And you know what? Life can be filled with blessings, joy and yes, fulfillment. But I’m not going to get there by myself. I’m going to lean into God and he will show me the way I should go.
Job 16:6 - Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved; and if I refrain, it does not go away.
What we need to understand is that you manage chronic pain. You can’t cure it. Also, you must take chronic pain as seriously as you would diabetes or a heart attack. You may feel guilty taking some time off when you’re having a flare-up of pain, but pushing through it can only be handled by the body for a short time. Your body will eventually cause you to have to take a break as it places you flat on your bed. Do you find you push yourself instead of giving your body a break when you’re having a flare-up? But if you do take that break, do you feel guilty about it? I’d love to hear from you.
Luke 13:12-13 - When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity."
Finding a cure for your pain sometimes seems just out of reach. You try to stretch your body a little more forward and almost have it in your grasp. But then a spasm of pain attacks your body and you’re pulled into a retreat. Somewhere along the way, through our dark valley of pain, we must put down our binoculars, looking into the distance, and find that we can still live a full life even with our limitations. Do you long to find a cure? Is it hard for you to stop looking into the future and trying to see what it will hold? I’d love to hear from you.
Ecclesiastes 2:23 - All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
You wake up in the morning and pain is waiting for you at your bedroom door. You go to sleep and wake up the next morning, and pain is waiting for you. Day in and day out, there it is. Living with chronic pain gets exhausting. But even if the pain is there, you can still find a reason for hope if you look for it. Can you find a reason to find joy even when your exhausted and in pain? Let’s talk about it. I’d love to hear from you.
Jeremiah 15:21 - I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.
Everyone gets hurt from time-to-time. We know it’s just part of life. But that doesn’t make it much easier. Being in physical pain and illness can be difficult, but I think it’s the emotional pain that’s harder to handle. People can be so cruel at times. Thanks be to God, Jesus pours a healing balm on our wounds and binds them up with strips of love and hope. Have you been hurt recently by the cruel words that came from someone you know? What helped you get through it or are you still reeling from the blow?
Luke 10:41-42 - "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed--or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
We all face disappointments. The worst of which is disappointment in ourselves, even if it couldn’t be avoided. Maybe we’ve taken on a project that consumes all our time and we then decide to add yet another one. But there is a limit to what we can do especially if you suffer from chronic pain and illness. God never meant for us to put an extra layer of cookies on our plates. In order to make the best effort, sometimes we have to give up something else, even if it’s something good.
Have you had to give up something because you only have a limited amount of energy in a day? How did you get past the disappointment? I look forward to hearing from you.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.