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?