Chronic Illness and Pain

Here’s an entry from some reflecting I did a couple of years back.


It can be profoundly holy. It’s excruciating. It steals joy. It tests our faith. It’s numbing at times. It places your dreams on a shelf so that you can see them but cannot access them. They are what could have been but never will be. Pain comes in many shapes and sizes: relational pain, spiritual pain, physical pain, psychological pain, emotional and mental pain. Oh… and each one of those kinds of pain affects and is affected by all the others. When you try to process it, your brain seems like it is a clump of 15 different colors of yarn all entangled together, and you can’t even find the ends so you can begin to untangle the crazy mess. Confusion. Yeah, that. What is God’s purpose in the pain? How does He plan to redeem the pain? How am I supposed to respond to the pain? Am I a loser if I just give in some days and lie around feeling completely lost? Am I obligated to push through no matter the intensity of the pain? What’s the balance of sacrificing my body to God’s purpose (Romans 12), and taking time to do regular self-care. One thing I know for sure: if you fail at self-care your mind and body will find something to ease the pain. And that “something” can cost you. Then there is the pain of other people… important people in your life. What is my responsibility to share their burdens (Galations)? What happens when I get too invested in “saving” someone from his/her pain to the degree that it becomes about me?

Pain beckons for validation. It wants someone else to understand (completely) and just be with you in that pain-filled place. No platitudes, no contrived verbiage… just a caring presence. Those kinds of people are few and far between. When people ask me, “How are you?” there’s this sense I have that they probably don’t want the real answer… They can’t handle the real answer. They’re not willing and/or equipped to pay the price to be with me in my affliction. Sometimes those conclusions are wrong, but they are more often right on the money.   I feel like I give a lot, but my own emotional/spiritual piggy bank doesn’t get many contributions.

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