Tag Archive | Pain

Easter Hope: A God Who Understands Suffering

Living with chronic illness is difficult. Having someone you can talk with who understands what it’s like to live with longterm pain, a friend who can say “me too” when you share some of the struggles you are currently dealing with, makes it a little easier.

I’m grateful to be a part of a group of ladies who love Jesus and also know what it is to suffer with chronic pain, exhaustion, and other common symptoms of chronic illness. As we share with and pray for one another, I am encouraged and strengthened. I consider that a blessing from the Lord.

But as I’ve spent this week preparing my heart for the celebration of Easter, one thought has come to mind repeatedly that I consider an even bigger blessing. We have a Lord and Savior who knows what it is to experience pain. A God Who can say, “Me too!”

Isaiah 53:3 (NIV) tells us that Jesus was well acquainted with pain and grief, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Therefore, when we suffer pain and grief, we are not alone. We have an ever-present God and Savior who understands.

As I was doing some research online, looking for a meaningful quote for this article, I came across some quotes from a book by Jon Weece,  entitled Me Too: Experiencing the God Who Understands. Weece speaks of the cross as “God’s ‘me too’ statement to a world saturated with suffering.”

Weece adds, “Pain is the common language of the human experience. Most people I know are fluent in suffering. They speak it, but they don’t understand it. One of the ways people begin to heal is to sit across the table from someone who can say, ‘Me too.'”

Jesus didn’t like suffering any more than we do. He strugged in the Garden of Gethsemane with what laid ahead of Him. There He cried out to His Father, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death… “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark‬ ‭14:34‬a, 36 NIV‬‬)

Jesus’ suffering was more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced. In his description of the Garden, Luke adds, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke‬ ‭22:44‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Have you experienced more emotional pain than this?

So why did Jesus go through this suffering in the Garden, just thinking about what was ahead of Him, and then the actual physical suffering leading up to and on the Cross?  He did it because of love. He did it to make a way for us to be restored to the relationship with God that we were created for.

Through Jesus’ suffering, His death on the cross, and His resurrection,  1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Because of Easter, we can have peace with God and hope for the future. And we can also have the comfort of knowing we will never be alone in our suffering. We have a Savior who understands and walks with us through whatever we face.

Have you taken advantage of Jesus’ immeasureable sacrifice? If not, don’t let this Easter go by without accepting the forgiveness of sin His suffering purchased for us. Ask Him to be your personal Savior and Lord. Make the decision to die to sin and live to righteousness. The price has been paid, and the gift is yours if you are willing to accept it for yourself.  

        

‭‭

The Importance of Rest and Refreshing

I read a quote this morning that I brought a laugh. “Some people wake up feeling like a million bucks. Others wake up feeling like insufficient funds.”  The author of these poignanat words is unknown, but as a woman who suffers from chronic pain the idea they communicate is very familiar. I usually wake up feeling like I have insufficient funds to face a new day.

Last night was a typical one for me. I was feeling exhausted around 9pm, so I decided to lay down with my current novel and read and relax until my normal bedtime of 10:30pm. I read a few chapters, then my husband came down, rubbed my shoulders to help relieve the tension of a full day, and we prayed together. It was time to go to sleep.

I understand the importance of getting seven to eight hours of sleep at night, especially when dealing with the challenges of chronic illness, and I’ve worked this into my daily routine. But unfortunately, my body doesn’t always cooperate with this plan. Numbness and a pins and needles sensation in my feet from peripheral neuropathy, pain from arthritis in my shoulders and lower back, and chronic pain and sensitivity to touch in my left knee from a regional pain nerve disorder make it difficult to get to sleep and even more so to stay asleep. So when morning comes, even though I’ve usually spent eight-plus hours in bed, I don’t feel rested. 

Through trial and error, I have found several keys to living the best life I can with chronic illness and pain. When I wake up in the morning, I usually feel tired from a restless night. But I’ve learned that staying in bed at this time only increases the pain, so I choose to get up and start my day. If you live with chronic illness, you will need to figure out what works best for you personally. 

I set aside the first part of my day for refreshing myself, in body, soul, and spirit. 

  • I try to eat a simple but healthy breakfast, one that I can fix on my own and that provides the nutrients needed to nourish my body. 
  • While eating, I may listen to some encouraging worship music or use an audio Bible on Bible Gateway or the YouVersion Bible app to listen to the chapter for today’s Bible reading. 
  • Next, I spend an unrushed time in God’s presence, renewing my spirit through prayer, Bible reading and study. I follow a daily reading plan – many great ones are available online. I currently use the First5 devotional and Bible reading plan from Proverbs 31 ministries and a monthly topical reading program on a subject I feel is timely, such as Rachel WoJo’s April plan on Confident Trust. Some days, I do more in-depth Bible study, digging into one or more verses that stand out in my reading. The amount of time I set aside for this varies according to the schedule and responsibilities for the day, but whether it’s twenty minutes or two hours I make this my highest and first priority for the day. My relationship with God reinvigorated, I’m ready to face another day.
  • Finally, this time of refreshing comes to an end as I turn to our God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness Facebook page to interact with some friends who face the same daily battles I fight. I’ve learned the importance of community in this daily life with chronic illness, and this has become a time of both being encoraged and of encouraging others. I leave this morning time of being refreshed a little better prepared to face the rest of my day.

After my time of refreshing, it’s time to get busy with the other tasks for the day. I have two keys I apply to this: (1) I determine my top priorities for the day (which often means asking God to show me His top priorites for my day), and (2) I take breaks between tasks and whenever they are needed. And before I actually get to work, I ask God to supply the strength I need to fulfill His purposes for my day. As Christians, God has promised His strength in our weakness.

As the mother of a special needs child, the bookkeeper for our home-based business, a weekly blogger, and a regular contributor to God-Living Girls, I could easily feel pressured to do much more each day than I am now. But since my energy and stamina are limited, attempting too many tasks per day leads to exhaustion and even flares in my medical conditions that have the potential of landing me in bed for several days. 

Therefore, I usually plan no more than three tasks per day, two of which can be done in my recliner. For example, at least one day each week, I work on family paperwork. I may spend an hour working on the bank registers and paying bills, then take a break from the work that requires mental focus. Next, I may do a brief housework task, such as folding clean towels or emptying trash cans around the house. Later in the day, usually after lunch, I tackle the final task that I ‘ve planned for the day. 

At the end of the day, I almost always have undone tasks remaining, but those are for another day. I’ve set reasonable goals for my day, and usually I feel good in having accomplished what I planned. 
Finally, I’m learning to pay more attention to my body and to not do more than I can handle on any particular day. On some days when pain levels are especially high or I feel unusually fatigued, that means taking a full afternoon to rest. Even on relatively good days, I often run out of energy by mid or late afternoon. I’m learning that it’s okay to lay down and rest for an hour or two when this happens. If I’m extremely tired, I may take a short nap. I’m learning to listen to my body and adjust my schedule according to my strength and stamina for today.

Many of you who read my blog share my goal of living a Christ-honoring life with chronic illness. These are a few of the keys that have helped me live my best life with the limitations I currently face. God has made each of us differently, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. For those whose rest and strength is not hindered by pain and chronic conditions, understanding the need for rest and refreshing is still important. God made each of us with a need for rest, of body, soul, and spirit, and ignoring this part of our lives results in serious consequences. Ask God to show you how to meet this important need in the way perfectly fitting to where you are in life. And feel free to share some keys that have helped you reach a wise and healthy balance between work and rest in the comments section below.

Is God “Enough” in Hard Circumstances?

Almost from the time I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, I have known what it is to live in hard circumstances. My husband and I had an automobile accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter and left me with numerous fractures. We have a special needs son (now an adult), who is completely bed bound and dependent upon others to meet all of his needs. For several years, my husband, adult daughter, and I were the main caregivers for my mother-in-law as Alzheimer’s gradually took her life. Now, my biggest struggle is with my own health, as I deal daily with a long list of chronic illnesses, including severe osteoarthritis of the knees and spine, lumbar and cervical spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, carpal and tarsal tunnel syndromes, plantar fasciitis in my feet, progressive polyneuropathy, and fibromyalgia.

I haven’t shared what I’ve been through to cause you to feel sorry for me. Rather, I want you to understand that I know what it is to face severe and on-going suffering. I’m not saying that I’ve always immediately turned to God when another painful situation arose. It’s been a growing process. But I can honestly say without God’s grace and strength, I wouldn’t have made it through all of these difficult situations without becoming a person filled with self-pity, anger, and bitterness. I can say that God is “enough” in hard circumstances, if we choose to allow Him be “enough.” And I can share some understandings and steps that have helped me to make this choice.

  1. Recognize that suffering is a result of the fall. We are not promised a life on this earth without suffering. Everyone faces times of suffering, and this will continue until we are in God’s physical presence, in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
  2. Know that God is not the cause of most of the suffering we face. Much of our suffering is a result of sin, either in our lives or in the lives of someone else. An example of this is the accident we had. It was caused by a driver who had been drinking and lost control of his car when he leaned down to pick up a cigarette.
  3. Understand that God allows suffering and works through it to accomplish His purposes in our lives. James addressed this in his letter. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV)
  4. Let go of the past, accept the present, and trust God with the future.  Learn to live one day at a time. Take your worriesI about the future to the Lord and leave them in His capable hands. ‬“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭ESV)
  5. Lean on God’s grace and strength, especially on the hard days. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when He chooses not to shield us, He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed, It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it. Our joy or our misery wil depend on that choice.”  Decide to live by the truth Paul learned by his “thorn in the flesh.”  “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 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 ‭12:8-10‬ ‭ESV)
  6. Take time daily to strengthen your spirit. Prayer, Bible study, worship and gratefulness are important disciplines for all believers in Christ, but even moreso for us as we deal with daily health struggles and challenges. Get to know God by spending time studying His names and character. Listen to worship music that reminds you of the truths you need to hold onto. Look for God’s blessings in the trials, and keep a gratefulness journal. Draw strength from His presence and His steadfast love.
  7. Finally, remember we are only in our present bodies for a short time.  Focus on what counts for eternity. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭ESV)‬


So, back to our original question: Is God “enough” in hard circumstances? Honestly, the answer depends upon you. He will be more than enough if you choose to allow Him to be. As Oswald Chambers said, “We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it’s not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person… The one who accepts the call of God in Jesus Christ.” My prayer is that we all will choose to be that – the latter – type of person.  Choose to be the kind of person James wrote about in the first chapter of his epistle:  “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” ‭(James‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬)