It Is Well with My Soul: Finding Purpose in Chronic Pain

Flower-In-Asphalt

It’s three thirty in the morning, and I cannot sleep. The pain shoots down my legs and feet with the force of a cattle prod. The weight of the thin blanket brushing the tips of my toes and my lower legs and stirs me awake with waves of pain.

Falling asleep is always a race to beat my neuropathy pain. From the time I hit the bed, I have less than an hour before the shooting needles invade. The first twenty minutes I struggle to find a position where my legs and toes touch nothing—not each other or a blanket or the piles of pillows I stack beneath my knees and feet to pillow them from all possible sensation.

I have lived with chronic pain for years. But I am no different from my husband, who has the same neurological disorder I have; or my best friend, who suffers with multiple sclerosis; or 116 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain. A 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine refers to chronic pain as a “public health crisis.”

So how do we handle daily suffering? Wendy Wallace, author of Doing Well at Being Sick: Living with Chronic and Acute Illness (Discovery House 2010) states, “God often allows us to stew until we accept the fact that He has been in control all of the time. All along he has been much more interested in my spiritual grown than in my physical healing.”

In his book Why: The Question that Never Goes Away, Philip Yancy gives three answers to how we can face suffering. The first is that God is on the side of the sufferer. Dame Cecily Saunders, founder of the hospice movement, has said, “God does not prevent the hard things that happen in this free and dangerous world, but instead shares them with us all.” God chose to share in our suffering by sending his Son to take on human form. He is a God who knows my every need.

Yancy’s second answer is that God is in the church, his delegated presence. Comfort comes as we minister to one another. Yancy states, “If the church does its job, people don’t torment themselves wondering where God is. They know the answer.”

The third answer is that God is preparing a new home for us. I’m promised release from pain. God has a rescue plan for this broken planet and our broken bodies. While I’m here on earth, I live with hope and purpose because I can trust God to bring eternal glory from my pain.

In the meantime, I live in the tension of the now, committed to investing even my pain to encourage others and to reflect glory to God.

What about you? Do you or someone you love struggle with chronic pain or illness? Where do you find your hope?

6 thoughts on “It Is Well with My Soul: Finding Purpose in Chronic Pain

  1. I, too, struggle with chronic pain…and so relate to your struggles…but as you shared….it IS a great comfort to me when I sit quietly and remember that my God SEES my pain…He understands it, He is with me in it….and like many people who hurt all the time….I get more and more excited about my new heavenly body!!! Onward and upward!!!

  2. For years I have made 3:00 a.m. my time for doing daily devotions. When chronic pain became my alarm clock, the Bible became my route of escape. It’s a great way to start the day; takes my mind off me and puts my focus on the Lord. Lord bless your home.
    Kittye Sharron; Author (soon to be published,) “The Longest Letter: Incredible Hope.”

    • Kittye, thank you for sharing this wise suggestion with us. I know that I often turn to Scripture and devotional reading in the night as well. Looking forward to the release of your new book.

  3. Thank you for this piece. It has brought me some peace tonight. I spent today having neuropsychiatric testing that lasted eight hours, and the doctor announced that I have depression, which I simply do not have. I am sad about some things in my life, yes, but I have had depression in the past, and I know what it feels like. I have lived with autoimmune disease joint pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and peripheral and large fiber neuropathy for 16 years, and along with those things come the financial things, and my teenage son’s autism and depression. I have learned through my journey that God, His presence, His Love, is simply all the answer to prayer that I need. So many difficult things have happened in my life that older friends simply have stopped being there. It is hard to get close to people at church when I am often too sick to get there every week, let alone join ministries during the week. But the church is there, their love is there. My husband and children’s love stays with me, constantly, and serving them the best I can brings me joy, even if it’s not as much as I would like. But God is teaching me to just be. To be in His love, His mercy, His grace, to just be in the love of my family, and in the give and take of forgiveness needed there, to be in the moments when I do get to church, and the people I love who are there and truly want to know how I am, and I can truly ask how they are. And sometimes to just be in the feel of sunshine, the smell of the rain, the sight of a red tailed hawk soaring, the fall leaves blowing, and apple pie baking and the memories of my Gram’s kitchen, sharing a pot of tea or watching each of my children’s tiny hands filled with paint as they created art with me. Yes, the pain is always there, it is horrible, it gets so bad it is all I can think about and I forget to breathe and my stomach gets sick. I need a walker now sometimes, and I am having serious memory issues no one can explain. I have had psychotherapists ask me why I don’t get angry at God. They don’t understand the place that that this illness has brought me to with God. The pain is only one piece of a much huger puzzle, that all fits together, and it is a piece that without it, the rest of the picture makes no sense, because it is in that pain, not only the physical, but the emotional and spiritual, that God comes to be with me, and He stays while I rejoice in the wondrous good things each day brings as well. The pain just is. It is what it is. Others have their own pain, their own burdens. We need to be here for each other.

    • Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your pain with us so transparently. In the Psalms, we find that God welcomes our questions and even our anger. In our moments of honesty, we are closest to God’s heart. Philip Yancey has said that whatever hurts us hurts God more. We are blessed to be loved by a God who chose to enter our pain and take on human form on our behalf.

      Yes, we do need to be here for each other.

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