Pain, Suffering, and Snake Oil


I came across two brilliant articles on Pain and the Christian this week.  The first focused on the subject, Is Pain Relief A Human Right? and the second, Does God Want Me to Suffer?

If you are a regular reader here, you know I explored my own issues on pain back in February.  The articles I read this week prompted me to consolidate those posts and post them here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you can make it to the end of this article.

The Grace of Pain

I live with a lot of pain–Ouch.  That hurt me just to write.  I don’t talk publicly about pain for a reason.   I don’t talk about it because I know that 1/2 the general public will offer me all kinds of hopes and remedies and diagnosis from their own experience and expertise. It irritates me so much that I keep my mouth shut.

I know I shouldn’t eat sugar.  I know I should exercise more.  I know what natural remedies are out there and that the prescriptions I have to take could cause blindness, obesity, weight loss, hyperactivity, tiredness, dismemberment, and death. (a bit of sarcasm).   I know that Jesus is the Great Physician, and He can heal. I know, I know, I know.

So, I get tight-lipped and angry when people offer their solutions.

But, I do think I’ve been selfish.

I’ve learned a lot from pain that I think is worth sharing.

So I’m gonna.  I won’t like it if you send me your Grandma’s snake oil, but I will respect and admire your need for fixing others.

As I open this topic of pain, a few questions always come to my mind:

Why are people in pain considered weak or emotionally unstable? Or, in Christian circles, when the subject of pain and sickness are brought up, why does it immediately become a “spiritual” subject?  Why do so many who live in daily pain hide it to appear strong?

Yesterday I explained some of my own reasons about why I really don’t talk about pain much.

Last summer when we were making plans to go to India, Rob asked Rajendran if it was possible for me to have a bed to sleep in each night because of my Rheumatoid Arthritis.  He said to Raj, “You won’t hear her complain, she’s a trooper, but she hurts a lot and a bed would be a necessity.”  Raj kindly wrote back something like this (I lost the original email)

In India, sickness and weakness are not considered a thing to be ashamed of.  If one is vomiting and there is no where to vomit, one would kindly open her sari or cloth to catch the vomit to help the person.  I do not understand why you Americans are ashamed of pain as weakness.  We use weakness to show our love and care for one another.  Tell her we will all be here to help her.

And they did.  It was never spoken of, but they cared for me and our family so much, that we feel they really became part of our family.  We miss them and can’t wait to see them again this summer.

What if one of the reasons God allows pain is to teach us to care for one another, and bear one another’s burdens, like our friends in India do with such grace? What if he allows pain to teach us to give and receive all at once?

Many people think pain is weakness and to be avoided at all costs.  I am plunging headlong into pain and learning all I can along the way while trying to feel better every day.

To set the record straight, I need to have full disclosure about my own personal process with pain.  I do have chronic pain, but not to the degree that most people who struggle with chronic pain do.  I have experienced enough to think about it a lot, learn a ton, and grow in some ways I would never be able to grow otherwise.

The things I have learned I would not trade to have a pain free-existence.  I have learned to look on others with compassion that I can only know from what it feels like to hurt.  To see others’ pain through my own is something to be treasured indeed.  Do I envy those who seem to bounce through life unaffiliated by nothing except regular stuff like the common cold? Yeah, I really do.  There are days I feel like calling “Uncle” to God, and saying “I’ve had enough, I get it”.  But then I remember

Mostly I know that dealing with pain has taught me to think less of myself.  Not in an unhealthy self esteem-ish way, but to lay aside pain when it gets in the way of caring for the needs of my family.  I might hurt, but my kids still have to eat.  I might be tired, but the laundry still needs to be folded.  I may just want to lay down and read a book, but Isabelle wanting to play Guess Who? is much more important than me reading at that moment.

Caring for myself is a priority, but putting my needs and wants above those around me isn’t an option.

The entitlement mentality when you are sick or in pain is a very dangerous thing indeed.  The “Me first” way of living begins to unravel quickly when you are married, have young kids, or have anyone depending on you for anything.

Having said all of that, do I put my needs above those of my family?  Yep.  Almost every day. I need to constantly keep myself in check, and with God’s help, keep my life and pain in perspective of His plan and purpose for me.  I’m not perfect, but I’m learning and growing every day.